A sophomore album from Switzerland's Dawn, 'Darker' sits firmly within the musical stylings of old school prog rock. And the band seemingly have no qualms about that as "prog" even features as part of the URL for their website. It's what some would call regressive, particularly within the context of a thriving prog scene since the turn of the century that has seen a whole load of bands attempt to actually progress music beyond its generic stylings (Leprous; Between the Buried and Me; Solefald; Burst; The Ocean; Ephel Duath... to name but a few). So let's get real, Dawn are not progressive in a genuine sense; they're way more aligned with progressive in a derivative, generic understanding of the "prog" label. And, seemingly, there's still a market for that, where people favour the "tried and tested" sounds of an erstwhile aesthetic.
It's ironic then, in one sense, that the thematic thread running through 'Darker' concerns "Man in the 21st century: his fears, his conception of life, his reaction to technology, nuclear power, and the planet's suffocation." So-called contemporary issues posited within the context of a regressive prog pastiche. There's a paradox right there, just as much as having a genre called "progressive" is a paradox. But, hey, far be it from me to criticise something for what it has no pretensions to be. This is unashamedly old school and 'Darker' provides a pretty good listen, despite its generic foundations. Most of the tracks even succumb to the prog cliché of elongated tracks, with three clocking in at around the ten minute mark and '8945' hitting nineteen minutes. But at least they use those lengthy durations to let songs' motif's breathe and develop in a laid-back manner. As such, 'Darker' reveals its essence gradually, rather than with a punchy immediacy.
Vintage sounding keyboards are a prominent feature of Dawn's sound, as are the plethora of warm, analogue sounding lead guitar parts; both creating serenely alluring melodies along the way. René Degoumois' vocals are also nicely integrated into Dawn's overall sound; clean, smooth-toned and almost folky in essence, he articulates melodically driven moods that complement the music well. However, taken as a whole, 'Darker' plays it a little too 'safe' throughout which, I guess, is a corollary of its regressive predominance. It's still worth a listen but just approach with no greater expectation than that of derivatively formed seventies' prog and you won't be disappointed.
The Laser's Edge
Review by Mark Holmes
1st June 2014
1) Yesterday's Sorrow
4) Lullabies for Gutterflies
6) Out of Control
7) Lost Anger
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...'Darker' plays it a little too 'safe' throughout which, I guess, is a corollary of its regressive predominance."