According to Anders Biazzi, the guitarist for Blood Mortized, an early member of Amon Amarth, and the creator of the music in Just Before Dawn’s debut release Precis innan gryningen, the album’s concept is “WAR” — all caps. He calls the music “Swedish Steamroller Death Metal”. And believe me, that’s no lie.
This is one of the best old-school, Swedish-style death metal albums you’ll hear this year, and there are three ingredients that make it so. The first is the songwriting. Every song includes lethally infectious riffs and grim melodies that give it a distinctive and memorable personality. Pulling off that achievement while at the same time inflicting devastating sonic carnage is a neat trick.
The album as a whole is also well-constructed, with the songs generally alternating between up-tempo marauders that chug and grind (such as the title track and “Under Wheels of Death”) and mid-paced or slow crushers with a morbid death-doom vibe (like “Pulverised” and “Raped Soil”, the latter being a fine example of the skill with which Biazzi infiltrates a kind of sorrowful beauty into the brute destructiveness of the song as a whole).
On the subject of songwriting, there’s also an effective synchronization of the lyrics and the music. The concept of the album is indeed WAR — in the air, on land, and in the sea — but the lyrics aren’t patriotic flag-wavers or celebrations of valor under fire. They’re vivid descriptions of devastation, bloodshed, and horror. The music captures those ideas just as vividly.
For example, the lyrics in “As Death Breaks the Surface” speak of “submerged tons of steel”, “running deep in the sea / hunting for its prey”, “sinking its torpedo teeth into steel / tearing the ships into shreds” — and you hear the ping of sonar and the kind of crawling, crushing music that makes it easy to imagine the underwater realm of submarine warfare. As another example, “The World Burning” describes the aftermath of conflict, with “countries set ablaze, one by one laid to waste” and “contaminated soil, useless forever more / slowly heaving in sickness, drowning in the blood of mother earth” — and you hear massive groaning riffs and guitar chords that sound like the tolling of bells in mourning for the earth’s destruction.
The second ingredient in the album’s success is the guitar tone and the production quality. That distinctive, highly distorted, chainsaw-on-steroids sound that bands like Carnage, Entombed, and Dismember employed to light a fire in the death metal scene decades ago is reproduced with affectionate faithfulness. And the sound of the album is just fuckin’ massive. When the guitars hit a chugging riff, it’s like a locomotive from hell. When they pound and smash, it’s a spine-shivering effect. When Biazzi blazes away in a tremolo-picked riff, it’s like a smoking bone-saw in overdrive.
And the third ingredient? The vocals.
When this project began, Rogga Johansson was to be the vocalist and lyricist, but he and Biazzi decided to recruit others as well. In the end, seven vocalists with serious death metal cred contributed their talents to the album. I’ll list them here, along with the names of the tracks to which they contributed their horrifying roars. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another death metal album this year that equals this one in the raw, gruesome bestiality of the vocals; these dudes hold nothing back. Listening to the variations in the sound of their voices from song to song is also a kick.
Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Bone Gnawer, Putrevore, Humanity Delete) — “Precis innan gryningen”
Jonas Lindblood (Puteraeon) — “Under Wheels of Death”, “Raped Soil”
Mr. Hitchcock (Zombiefication) — “Ten Megaton War Machine”
Gustav Myrin (Blood Mortized) — “Pulverised”
Dennis Johansson (Plästerd, Headstoned) — “Slagfält efter slagfält”
Ralf Hauber (Revel in Flesh) — “As Death Breaks the Surface”
Tony Freed (Godhate) — “The World Burning”
You put these three ingredients together, and you have an album that no fan of old-school death metal should be without.
The album was mixed and mastered by Benny Moberg of Malfeitor (an outstanding band in its own right), and he also designed the booklet that comes with the digipak version of the album. The cover art was created by Daniel Devilish.
The album will be released on CD by Chaos Records on May 20 and can be pre-ordered here. It can be downloaded right now via the Bandcamp link below. Stream — and be steamrolled by — all the songs after the links.