Before the Dawn comes back to life.
When it went on hiatus in 2013, the Finnish band founded in 1999 by Tuomas Saukkonen (vocals/guitar/drums, Wolfheart, Dawn of Solace…) had offered us seven albums and three EPs. In 2021, the musician recalls Juho Räihä (guitar, Gloria Morti, Swallow the Sun) then Pyry Hanski (bass, …And Oceans, Gloria Morti, Red Moon Architect, ex-Aeonian Sorrow…), and finally hires Paavo Laapotti (vocals) to complete Stormbringers, his eighth album.
The Dawn, the opening track, slowly leads us into a melodious, melancholic sound, which the band explodes with Destroyer, a composition that is both rhythmic and incredibly heady. Leads give way to pure yet intense clean vocals, sometimes complemented by screamed backing vocals, before returning to carry us away in this vortex of soaring sonorities that only ceases to let Reveries hypnotize us in its turn. The quite heavy track also relies on a solid rhythm section to welcome the two voices in turn, joining forces again on the chorus in the company of jerky guitars, before keyboards are highlighted on Downhearted and its misty introduction, which the rhythm section energizes. Clean vocals’ strength can be once again heard, perfectly fitting into every moment of this heavy composition, before Chains reveals much softer tones, still supported by a driving rhythmic basis where vocals and leads come to life. The vocal alternation is very natural and perfectly managed, as is the gradual return of darker elements on Divided and its acoustic introduction, quickly overwhelmed by heavy, suffocating sounds combined with the omnipresence of massive screams. The sound eventually fades out to let The Dark take its place with heady, almost playful leads, contrasting with clean vocals and riffs’ oppressive approach, but the band eventually brings them together in a wave of haunting sounds before the motivating Chaos Star kicks in, letting once again more joyful tones integrate the slow march. The bass won’t fail to stand out in the rhythmic, offering the track some dynamic, which will be adopted by more relentless clean vocals before Weight, the final composition, sinks us one last time into this torrent of haunting torpor from which only voices seem to be able to rise.
Before the Dawn once again asserts its strong identity with an intense, chilling album, marking its comeback. Stormbringers will unleash all its power on you and leave a lasting impression.
Few questions to Tuomas Saukkonen, creator and drummer for the Finnish band Before the Dawn.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Before the Dawn without using the usual Metal labels such as “Melodic Doom Death”?
Tuomas Saukkonen (drums/songwriting): I am Tuomas and the founder, songwriter and nowadays the drummer of BTD and BTD is pretty much the embodiment of Finnish autumn melancholy and gloom with a flavour of heaviness and darkness of the nordic winter.
How do you link the name Before the Dawn to the band’s music identity?
Tuomas: I mostly do all song writing during the night so the band title is tied to the artistic process and also to the tranquility and beauty of the night while the whole world sleeps and one is just surrounded by the silence
Stormbringers, your eighth and comeback album, will be out soon, how do you feel about it? Do you already have some feedback?
Tuomas: After 11 years of sleep it feels amazing to have a new album out and having the band back in business. Also the feedback has been really good but the best feedback has been from the live shows where we have played several new songs and seeing the audience enjoy those like all the old songs without hearing some of the new ones ever before.
How would you sum Stormbringers up in only three words?
Tuomas: Melodic, melancholic, dark
How did the composition process happen for Stormbringers? How do you feel composing for Before the Dawn after such a break?
Tuomas: The system was the same as before and I write and arrange the basics for each instrument and then each guy takes it up a notch with their touch. I work the same with my other bands Wolfheart and Dawn of Solace so nothing new with BTD song writing. To me it felt like riding a bike. Once you learn it you always have it so writing for BTD even after the break felt really natural.
What were the guidelines for the artwork, and how do they fit with the music you created?
Tuomas: I wanted to have the strength of nature included to the artwork so storm clouds and majestic mountain with our logo on top fits really well for the music and also to the current energy in the band.
Where do you find inspiration to create music?
Tuomas: This is hard to explain and analyse since I write all the time. To me it is an ongoing non stop self reflecting method. Like writing if not daily, then weekly mental diary in the form of music.
As always for the band, music unveils a perfect balance between heady leads and weighing rhythmic, how do you manage to keep it natural?
Tuomas: I love building big contrast into music and to me music is like a wave that goes up and down and my songwriting pretty automatically follows that pattern.
I also noticed some songs are more contrasted, for example Chaos Star and The Dark, where leads sound more joyful. Do you also feel this?
Tuomas: I fully agree and a lot of the positive energy and pure happiness of being back together got trapped into the music and melodies. This might be the most “positive” album I have ever written but would not call it happy.
How do you manage to choose which type of vocals to use on a song?
Tuomas: I let the new vocalist Paavo take the main lead with vocals and the balance between clean and growling vocals so his vision played a big role here. Vocals are another tool to build the contrast so where heaviness is needed the growling comes to play.
Maybe you have a favorite song on this album? Or maybe the hardest one to achieve for the album?
Tuomas: All songs came very easy and at this point it is hard to choose a few favourites. I can name 3. Destroyer, Reveries and Downhearted. Two of those we have already played live and both are one of my fav live songs at the moment to play too.
Do you think you are still improving yourself as a musician and songwriter?
Tuomas: I am and I have been. I need to find new ways/tools/patterns/inspirations etc for future releases for sure. And improve my skill as a musician to be able to open new doors for songwriting so it is an endless process.
I know that Covid fucked everything up in 2020 and 2021, but did it play any role in the band’s comeback, or the creation of Stormbringers?
Tuomas: BTD comeback is one of the rare good things that came out from the pandemic. I am pretty sure that without the pandemic this comeback would have never happened and I would have been fully booked with Wolfheart and Juho, our guitarist same with Swallow The Sun.
Before the Dawn also came back to stage in 2022 for two Finnish festivals, how does it feel to play this music in front of an audience again?
Tuomas: Amazing. And weird in a good way since I have only played a few gigs as a drummer the past 12 years. It feels unreal to get to play so many songs again that I felt I lost after the burial of the band. And also amazing to see that the fans and audience still loving the music and supporting the band.
The band also announced a few shows in Finland, then a full European tour with Wolfheart and Hinayana in November, how do you feel about being on the road again? How do you get prepared for those shows?
Tuomas: Super happy being on the road. Wolfheart already did one Euro and one North American tour so I am back to the touring routine but the November tour will be a bit extreme since I play 2 gigs every night and there is no day off. So I am training already to be as fit as I can to do a good job both as drummer and guitarist/vocalist 50 times in 25 days 🙂
There is one show in Paris, France, where you only played once before (back in 2009 Amorphis and Amoral), what do you expect of the French audience?
Tuomas: It feels great to be back in Paris. That show 2009 was special in many ways and since then I have played there several times with Wolfheart and Paris has always been great city to play and visit!
Are there any musicians or artists you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, or maybe more.
Tuomas: Hmm….James Hetfield! Would love to write a song for him to do vocals!
If you had to organize a concert for Stormbringers’ release show, with which bands would you love to play with? I let you create a poster with Before the Dawn headlining and three other bands!
Tuomas: …..all the bands that I love I also respect so highly that it would feel wrong if they would support us. I would invite 3 local bands, hopefully be able to give them the biggest gig of their career so far and give some boost and motivation to reach further and higher.
Funny and last question: which dish would you compare Before the Dawn’s music with?
Tuomas: hahah….that is a good one…Karelian Pie (you need to taste it to understand). Very Finnish dish / pastry.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Tuomas: Hope to see all of you in Paris !