Dawn of a Dark Age - _The Six Elements, vol. 3: Fire_
by: Dan Lake (
This is the Dawn of a Dark Age album I've been waiting for since I first heard about the project over a year ago. If you haven't kept up with our coverage (or anyone else's) of the band's progress over the past eighteen months here's some background:Multi-instrumentalist Vittorio Sabelli, hailing from Agnone, Italy, set out to write six albums (interrelated through the theme of classical elements) each consisting of six songs that average out to about six minutes each that would be released every six months from June 2014 to January 2017. Such an ambitious approach is bound to draw skepticism about realistic expectations and quality control, but Sabelli has nailed every self-imposed deadline for the cycle's first half and the most recent installment, _Fire_, is the strongest offering so far. _Fire_ also boasts an inflated lineup of musicians and a new vocalist, which may mark a turn for the project as a whole.Whereas past efforts _Earth_ and _Water_ often felt passionate but disjointed, as if each could have benefitted from more time and attention prior to release, _Fire_ brings all of the elements that make "Dawn of a Dark Age" special and blends them into an exciting set of well paced and extremely enjoyable songs. In keeping with the pattern established on earlier entries, _Fire_ opens with an introductory piece, this time made up of somber acoustic picking that uses a blackened screech to introduce a chorus of woodwinds. As odd as that sounds, it's an extraordinary combination that inexplicably works. "Enonga's Bells 1566 A.D." immediately hoists the metal flag, but leaves space for the colorful presence of pensive clean guitars, keys and those characteristic wind instruments. Raato's rasped vocals fit the musical style perfectly, but rather than overuse them, Sabelli occasionally participates on growls or gives the mike to a female conspirator who adds her Diamanda Galas-like alto to the proceedings. Within individual songs, the music grows from lumbering behemoth to spastic black metal workout, often swirling around threads of piano, saxophone, clarinet or bowed string melodies. Those instruments are clear participants in the conversation, not simply the histrionic accents of your average symphonic metal act.Overall, _Fire_ is served well by its less frenetic pace and the way the non-metal instruments share space in the mix equitably with the atavistic distortion and raging blasts. The album feels more cohesive than its elder siblings, as if Sabelli and his assembled cast settled on a single powerful story that needed telling. Dawn of a Dark Age has become more exciting as it progresses. We can look forward to the shapes it will take over the next eighteen months.
(article published 8/7/2015)
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