Progressive death metal is a crowded genre to be starting a band in – it’s a brave decision from Denmark’s Sunless Dawn to step into the ring, though there’s a lot going for them. Having played with prog metal royalty Obscura and Katatonia in their career to date has imparted necessary wisdom, which has clearly rubbed off on them in the creation of their début Timeweaver, even if the music is worlds apart. The question is, will they also avoid the pitfalls that plague many prog death débuts? In a genre categorised by artists who show impressive musical range, striking a balance between showcasing this range yet displaying a consistent and characterful sound is a mighty challenge for a band releasing their first album.
To make matters confusing, Timeweaver kicks off sounding more like the symphonic black metal of Death Cult Armageddon-era Dimmu Borgir than the progressive death metal that was promised. Progressing from opener “Apeiron” into “Aether” indicates that this trend is unlikely to change, which is an early disappointment – these first two tracks’ riffs are intended to be powerful, but instead they come across more as over-simplistic and unengaging. Thankfully, Timeweaver does proceed down a more progressive path as it continues, and by the time it launches into the album’s keystone three-parter “Biomorph”, the compositions Sunless Dawn present finally live up to the billing.
Stream the band’s song “Biomorph II: Collide into Being” here.
Moving from a carefully crafted acoustic beginning into the savage “Collide Into Being”, it’s in this trilogy of tracks — the most ambitious part – that Timeweaver takes a sharp turn for the better. From this point on, the album maintains its momentum and delivers some of the most original progressive metal this year. Make sure to check out “Grand Inquisitor” for the prime embodiment of what Sunless Dawn can offer: it blends headbanging riffs and complex rhythms, though not without displaying some of the record’s defects – especially note progressions that grate more than they intrigue. The one constant throughout the album are the crushing vocals of Henrik Munch; achieving depth combined with a diction found all too infrequently in the genre, they, along with the flashes of instrumental brilliance, are what hint most at a promising future for the band.
Not all of what Sunless Dawn try works; and yet, for a debut effort there’s a significant slab of the album where the band deliver a piece of work that showcases their collective voice and gives hope for a bright future. Album number two will need to tackle Timeweaver’s inconsistencies and flaws, but if the next few years enable Sunless Dawn to grow and tackle their weaker elements, there’s nothing to stop their sophomore being a future prog-metal classic.
Watch this dope little live studio session for “Aether”.
Timeweaver Track Listing:
03. The Arbiter
04. Biomorph I: Polarity Portrayed
05. Biomorph II: Collide Into Being
06. Biomorph III: Between Meadow And Mire
07. Grand Inquisitor
08. Endringens Evighed
Run Time: 60:06
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Record Label: Prime Collective