Forward Unto Dawn – Alpha EP

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Independent

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the MP3 version HERE

Halifax, Nova Scotias Forward Unto Dawn have given us their second release (We Won’t Die being their first) in the shape of their latest EP, Alpha, and it IS a corker!  They are a 5-piece ‘Progressive Metal’ outfit, and their personnel is as follows: Din Stonehouse (vocals), Dylan Wallace and Taran Murray (guitars), Devan Smith (bass) and Nick MacDonald (drums).  Normally this sort of fare is NOT my cuppa, but as it was an EP with a pretty cover I decided to give it a chance.  Doubtless you’ve heard me say this before, but these tunes are NOT for the faint of heart.  Nearly every track will pummel you into submission, both vocally and instrumentally.  I caught myself having to close my jaw more than once just trying to imagine the flogging these fellows’ axes were receiving…

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Opener Transcendency is a a track with one of those intros that I LOVE to gush over.  Lush strings/keyboards, a distant lonely guitar plucks out some innocent-enough sounding chords as the keys rise ominously in the background.  A wicked mix, with some solitary bass notes booming here and there.  At 1:30 things pick up speed with a massive kicking in of doors, walls, etc., as the instruments and the vocals floor you simultaneously.  One may as well refer to Din’s vocal capabilities as an instrument as well; it is more likely used in a weapons capacity, if you will.  They do the kicking in thing again at the 2:30 mark, and before we realize what has struck us so profoundly on the noggin, it’s over.  So sad.

The Collapse comes at us out of the gate with extreme intent, vocal chords shredding all the way as they drag us kicking and screaming into this new piece.  As I mentioned before, this sort of extremely thrashing ‘progressive metal‘ is not what I normally prefer; however, I found myself slightly enjoying this stuff.  At the 3:20 mark there is a shift into even HEAVIER territory, with Din (oh, those poor vocal chords) reaching from way down under (3:40) to deliver his guts to you on the proverbial metal platter.  Some VERY cool instrumentation going on in the mix, but the vocals are WAY out front on this number.  At 4:45 there is a brief guitar solo, with some phase-shifting FX and cool lead snippets at the close.  These 5-minute (or so) tracks I think are the best representation of FUD‘s skills, but of course that’s just my opinion.

Concord and Dissolution features ‘math-y’-style Progressive Metal riffs à la Meshuggah or Between the Buried and Me, and is another slammer both vocally and instrumentally.  There are also stop-start time chords in here – remember when our folks told us that stuff would damage us?  I stand damaged, but loving it all the same!  There are also some very ANGRY vocals (surprise!), but about half way in (3:00), the vocals actually lighten temporarily. I wondered if Din had momentarily lost direction, but I didn’t have to wonder long.  At 3:50 we have the inevitable instrumental slam, and at the five-minute mark things shifted into slightly Proggier territory.  At 5:30 you can hear Din clearing his throat — it’s pretty graphic, you may want to remove your young ones temporarily– it is becoming increasingly obvious where this guy picked up his moniker.  At six minutes in we get one more slam from everybody, and a (WOW!) holy crap intensity at the close.  I may have to check that one out again after I finish typing!

The Nature of Existence includes another of the cool little intros that I am always on about.  Well, every song has to start somewhere, doesn’t it?  Plaintive, simple chords/notes waft briefly in our brains, then thirty seconds in of course we are knocked sideways for a mentally metal loop as we see what’s left of our noggins waste away on the floor!  “Look how much you’ve grown!” bellows Din, and YES I can actually understand some of the lyrics.  We all worry about finding ourselves, and a “place to prosper and grow“, as Din tells us, but is the rap section necessary?  I admit these spoken word bits can be effective, but even a rap done metal style can get annoying if overdone.  Thankfully, here at least, it is not.  At 4:15 we get a lead guitar solo (brief) with some atmospheric leanings, then another one of those super-intense endings.

Synthrospect is basically a master class in how much cool stuff you can fit into a song in a minute and a half.  It begins life with a cool spacey guitar intro, sort of an interlude with Proggy tendencies.  Then (:35) the instruments kick in, providing us with a very nice bass and drum pocket.  Fifty seconds in we hear a brief guitar solo, then at 1:05 we are slammed yet AGAIN by the sheer force of the instrumentation.  Very nicely done, gentlemen.

State of Duality hammers mercilessly on our frontal lobes, coming out at us double time with shredding vocals and some serious drumming.  At 1:55, however, there are some Proggy Jazz Fusion moments.  This is only brief, of course, as we get slammed again at the two-minute mark.  Again there is some wicked guitar work at play here, with a brief lead guitar moment (3:00) and some more of that Math Metal style riffing (3:30-4:00) and some neat pieces of stabbing lead.  There is a seismic shift at the 4-minute mark, then a bit of spoken word (5:00) with some cool jamming going on behind the oratory.  Some pretty intense stuff here again.

At six minutes even, our closer for the day, A Premonition, is hopefully just that – something to indicate that a full-length mega-slammer is due to follow suit soon (PLEASE??).  The intro features sweet bursts of lead and hammering instrumental work plus shredding of the vocals and pounding riffs.  Some understandably impressive vocals, as always, and if it is beginning to sound like a pattern, so be it.  Some outfits abuse the sameness – some can be eclectic as hell.  In my opinion, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!  At 2:20 there is some shredding lead guitar work going on, and then at three minutes in all hell breaks loose!  At 3:30 there is a slight upshift in tempo (how do they DO that?), and at four minutes in there is a groove!!  We get another taste of some lead snippets – little bursts/stabs of energy that our dynamic duo seem to be very adept at, then there is a slightly mellow ending…it’s over.  Very sad.  Need more.  Long-player SOON, please?

****/5

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