Throes Of Dawn: The Great Fleet of Echoes
From the very moment I read the title of The Great Fleet of Echoes, I was intrigued as to whether the songs contained in this album would meet up to the vivid imagery conjured up by those words. I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed.
Forming in 1994 Throes Of Dawn were initially a heavy uncompromising bunch of death and black metallers who were as likely to cleave your head off as look at you, in fact any of their first three albums released between 1997 and 2000 are recommended for those of you who yearn for the dark deep aggression of death metal with gothic undertones. With 2005's Quicksilver Clouds and after more than one or two reshuffles of membership, ToD returned with a sound that was far less death and far more gothic. For the most part, gone was the craving to cause bodily harm through their music and in its place grew a soothing, deep melancholy that still utilised some smart guitar work alongside a far more prevalent use of synths and piano to create a desolation of a completely different breed.
Now a further five years down the line that transformation is complete, vocalist Henri Koivula still utilises some distorted vocals, however the main themes on this album stem from his rich vocal melodies that blend seamlessly with densely atmospheric synths and bold guitar strokes. The album actually begins with two minutes that strongly remind of Pink Floyd or Marillion as the gently soaring keyboards counterpoint a singing yet restrained guitar motif and by the time the vocal joins this strangely uplifting melancholy you are completely immersed in the beauty of the whole thing. As with much of what follows "Entropy" then ebbs and flows its way from these thick slabs of unhappy joy through stinging guitar breaks and back again. "Ignition of the Grey Sky" comes over like the melodic aspects of Fear Factory intertwining with Paradise Lost after they've invited Frost*/It Bites man John Mitchell to play the guitar solo and "Velvet Sky" repeats the trick, only with the keyboards given more room to flourish.
"Soft Whispers of the Chemical Sun" then moves us into an altogether more ambient mood and for those of you who watched Steven King's "Kingdom Hospital" on TV, the overall feel is like a slicker version of "Worry About You" by Ivy, which was the show's theme music and in fact the best reason for tuning in. The mixture of drum loops, dark synth and a soothing vocal is mesmeric and creates a song that keeps gently whispering for you to play it again and again. "Chloroform", "We Have Ways To Hurt You" and especially "Slow Motion" continue this beguilingly accessible, yet deliciously dark seduction before "Lethe" brings the intensity down with the sparsest arrangement that allows the acoustic guitar and piano to seep into your mind and Koivula to ooze into your consciousness with his wonderful vocal delivery. Things toughen up a little for the title track with Juha Ylikoski's guitars and bassist Harri Huhtala brought forward in the mix and the most growled vocal on the album. This creates a wonderful contrast with the soaring melody of closing track "Blue Dead Skies" with its hugely effective drum loops that compliment the live drumming of Jani Martikkala, once more it is the synth that comes to the fore to complete the journey that it began at the album's birth and with another excellently imparted vocal it is a fitting close to the disc.
For some the deep despair contained within the majority of The Great Fleet of Echoes may be too much to bear, however I found it to be unusually uplifting from start to finish and as one single piece of music these songs knit together extremely seamlessly.
2. Ignition of the Grey Sky
3. Velvet Chokehold
4. Soft Whispers of the Chemical Sun
6. Slow Motion
7. We Have Ways to Hurt You
9. The Great Fleet of Echoes
10. Blue Dead Skies
Added: April 18th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band's Web Site
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