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Before the Dawn - The First Chapter DVD Review

by Dan Upton

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Before the Dawn originated as one of many solo/studio projects of Finnish multi-instrumentalist Tuomas Saukkonen, although after finding local session musicians to play live gigs with he decided to make it a full-blown band. In addition to this DVD, they have out two CDs in the US and have recorded at least one more EP. And now you know about as much about this band as I did before popping the DVD into my player. A technical side note--if you decide to pick this up, make sure to check the region code unless you have a region-free player. Several people selling it on eBay claim that it's region 1, but the copy I have will only play on my new PC that doesn't have a region code set yet.

Musically, I would put this band pretty firmly in the goth-metal category; my first impression after the opening song "Unbreakable" was a comparison along the lines of Amorphis. Heavy guitars, melody lines and solos, keyboards in the background, death vocals. In an interview with AbrasiveRock, Tuomas said he felt that they're heavier and more varied than most goth-metal and would rather categorize BTD as "dark metal." The sound levels are mixed well on this DVD; in my experience, sometimes the lead guitar in particular can be mixed too low and be hard to hear, but on this release all of the elements are balanced and audible. It would have been nice if they had normalized the volume levels between the different shows on this disc, however. A lot of the songs have the same heavy, mid-tempo, plodding feel, but there's enough differentiation in the sound to keep that from being a big detractor. My only complaint about the music in general is the awful clean vocals. Tuomas covers the death vocals while the second guitarist does the clean singing, and most of the clean singing ranges from slightly to incredibly off-key wailing. This is particularly true of the first song or two on each set that has them, but even after he's had time to warm up they're not particularly good.

Now, for the actual content of the DVD. Included are two full shows, "Night of the Arts in Laithi" from 2003 and "Tuska Open Air Afterparty" from 2004. In addition, one menu option is listed as "Rehearsal Room Jamming," but actually just looks like some leftover footage from another club show... unless of course they practice in a club in front of a few hundred people. On top of that, there's "The Journey to Hamburg," which would probably be entertaining if I understood the language or it had subtitles, and a slide show of still photos with music in the background. In short, this DVD is packed.

Unfortunately, only the first show has chapter stops and titles for each song; the second show starts with 8 minutes of backstage nonsense and a glimpse at the set list, but that's about it. Like the sound, the video is fairly well done, although there are some poor choices of shots--on one song, the guitarist is cranking out a solo and the camera is checking out the keyboardist who is doing...nothing.

If goth-metal--excuse me, "dark metal"--is your thing, this is a decent introduction to the band. Just consider yourself forewarned about the vocals, as they are by far the worst thing about this package as a whole.


CD Info and Links

Before the Dawn - The First Chapter DVD

Label:Locomotive Records
Rating:

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