I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the industrial side of heavier music. You’ll find plenty from the likes of Pain, Rammstein, and so on towards the top of my most played tracks list. But I just have never managed to get into, or even explore on a high level, the works of Dawn Of Ashes. Pitched as a fusion of black and industrial metals, this would seem to be a match made in heaven (even if combining those two genres seems aggressively ambitious). Regardless, even I find the fact that I’m only just now giving this band a chance curious. Well, while their latest effort in Theophany certainly isn’t perfect, there is plenty to appreciate through its upbeat, extreme personality.
Originally forming in 2000 in Hollywood, Dawn Of Ashes experimented with a more EBM version of metal early on. I mean, there’s a solid example of what I mean in “Angels” from 2007’s The Crypt Injection. After breaking up in 2014 and reforming only this year, with no less than four new members — only vocalist Kristof Bathory and Bahemoth on keys remain — their sound has evolved with more emphasis on extreme instrumentals. It is still heavy in its industrial personality, primarily so, but you can hear breakdowns and technicalities that were previously less prominent. To pull influences from other bands for the sake of reference, I would say Theophany lies somewhere at the crossroads of Stoneman, Rotting Christ, and Anaal Nathrakh. Confusing? Let’s take a closer look.
After the excessive introductory “Rise of the Ancient East”, which certainly doesn’t fail to introduce the electronic element of this sound, we dig into the meat of the album fairly quickly with “Tribe of Chemosh.” Cheesy? Of course. Fantastically epic ? Just as much so. The layered harsh vocals, the consistent underlying symphonic aura, and even the ferociously over produced instrumentals all come together to create a captivating atmosphere. It has all the catchiness that makes the aforementioned industrial bands entertaining but is more interesting, with more potential staying power, because of the black metal influences recognized through the leads and song structures. A unique combination, for sure. But one that grows on with each track.
No track is more of an earworm than their reimagination of 2007’s “Still Born Defect”. Basically club ready, the cadence and vocal barks (“When the silences takes control”) just won’t leave you alone. Maybe this sound is criticized for a perceived lack of seriousness, but if you’re willing to stay open-minded, the quality to this sonical environment is obvious. But as entertaining as tracks like this are, we are grateful that Theophany doesn’t stick to this formula throughout. “Fire of the Phoenix” features a bit of everything, especially on a percussional level where Levi Xul just goes insane with double kicks. Meanwhile, “Bleeding Perception” offers a very Pain-influenced introduction (“Same Old Song”, anyone?) before diving into passages littered with chugging riffage (see also: “Equilibrium”) alongside the near-isolated electronics of the chorus.
By the time we conclude with “Last” (not one of the stronger tracks, unfortunately), we have an understanding of what Dawn Of Ashes is after without really getting tired of it. Which speaks volumes for such an intersection of sounds. Although a good listen overall, there are moments that lose me. While offering rather well thought-out lyrics overall, there are random barks and shouts of “Motherfucker!” that are just too angsty for their own good. And then some of the passages in the verses or choruses are extended beyond an appropriate duration. The underlying synthetics in “Equilibrium” are fun early, but repeat on a too frequent basis. A similar story can be told on “Fire of the Phoenix” with its repetitive chanting. Finally, there were moments where I wish some of the commendably complex instrumentation was a bit more pronounced, rather than feeling layered behind the industrial side of this music. This type of music is susceptible to these critiques, but there could have been some adjustments.
But honestly, if you’re open-minded about what you’re getting into, Theophany is going to entertain you and fire you up. It is an interesting, catchy album that is quality in both production and musicianship. I can’t figure out exactly how serious Dawn Of Ashes should be taken, but I also don’t think it matters. It’s cheesy, sure, as we would expect from two of the bigger culprits of such a quality in industrial and black metal, but thanks to relatively diverse instrumentation supplementing the aggrotech base of this music (and a consistently dark, ominous feel overall), it’s a sound that is quick to stick in your head. Theophany certainly serves a purpose, even if just as a chance of pace. And for that, I definitely say it’s worth taking a chance on. You may find the need to repeat it as often as I have.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”