Dawn of Solace

Tuomas Saukkonen is one goddamn busy dude.

Since beginning his professional music career 20 years ago, the guy has been a part of, if not directly responsible for 23 different record releases, spread between 7 different bands – all this while still having enough time to hit the gym and maintain his status as one of metal’s most swole musicians. Heavy metal, indeed!

Now, 14 years after the band’s first and only release, The Darkness, Saukkonen circles back to one of his more obscure projects Dawn of Solace – providing all instrumentals to the record while singer Mikko Heikkila of Kaunis Kuolematon and Black Sun Aeon handles vocal duties.

To anyone more acquainted with Tuomas’ Wolfheart or earlier work with Before the Dawn, Waves might come as a bit of a surprise, offering up a gothic-tinged, doomier sound more akin to My Dying Bride or Katatonia than the more melodeath stylings of those previous projects. But anyone familiar with Saukkonen will certainly recognize his signature melodic guitar work here.  After a light, lengthy intro on album opener “Lead Wings,” Saukkonen launches into a familiar mix – combining a thick, hefty guitar backbone with soaring, emotive melodies that carry a definitively Finnish feeling of melancholy. Things round off with an impressive solo that is, again, thoroughly Saukkonen-ian… en…

Another Finnish/Saukkonen-ian trademark is thoroughly abundant on this record – it’s fucking catchy. Weather it’s the legendary Sentenced or Amorphis, or more contemporary examples like Ghost Brigade or Insomnium, the Finns have unmatched knack for making the bleak and desolate sound so damn inviting. This album is chuck full of hooks and melodies that will undoubtedly worm their way into your brain for some time – “Hiding” and the triumphant “Choice” serving as prime examples. Moodier tracks like “Ashes” and “Numb” manage to convey a feeling of particular dread while still maintaining a certain confidence that suggest finding strength amongst all the doom and gloom.

If the album contains any missteps, they’re pretty minor. Mikko Heikkila delivers a competent, if unremarkable vocal performance. It lends itself just fine with Tuomas’ musical efforts, but doesn’t really do much to heighten any of the album’s emotional waves (pun absolutely intended). Album closer “Ghost” is a beautifully somber number, featuring Heikkila’s vocals over a lone piano, but may have been better served to break up the album somewhere in the middle of it’s run, rather than seeing it out.

Tuomas Saukkonen may not be as widely regarded or recognized as the Devin Townsends or Peter Tagtgrens of the metal world, but for 20 years he has quietly built himself a career as prolific as any musician you could think of; Waves being yet another quality notch in his lifting belt, one filled the kinds of hooks that will keep you coming back to this one for some time. Another fine effort from metal’s busiest strongman.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
April 1st, 2020


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