Sun Worship made a grand, and quite unexpected, appearance in the black metal scene with their debut full-length, Elder Giants. The album was supposed to be released just in digital format and on a limited tape release, but, the quality of this work saw an additional CD release coming later on through Translation Loss Records. The band's grasp on the black metal sound was astonishing, while their point of view seemed to encompass many diverse aspects of the genre. From the melodic elements to the brutal outbreaks, with an earthy, rural sense and then a cosmic perspective, Elder Giants managed to find a balance between all these motifs. The return today with Pale Dawn, their sophomore full-length, finds the band appearing with a mixture of their mystical sound and their accessible approach.
The aggression of the album is astonishing, with the band appearing relentless across every drum hit, every guitar strum, never stopping their unforgiving rampage. “Lichtenberg Figures” appears as a war-like anthem, completely bitter in its progression, unleashing a terrible assault. The dissonant elements spawn through the record, and Sun Worship masterfully navigate through their various capabilities. The riffs of “Naiad” appear completely all-devouring, filling up the space with their grim presence, managing to conjure at the same time an element of melancholy with its inharmonicity.
Through the record there are various instances where the guitar playing points towards the more chaotic side of the '90s black metal scene. In containing the cold spirit of the genre, the band further enhances it with the volatile riffing of Snorre Ruch, bringing to mind not just his contributions on Mayhem's iconic De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but also his work with Thorns. The structure of their tracks points towards that direction in a stunning way, managing to also conjure a mutated old-school spirit, most apparent in the dense assault that occurs in “Perihelion.”
Despite the overwhelming aggression and hostile attitude of the foundation where Sun Worship built upon, they still find some room where additional elements can flourish. The most apparent of these is their sense of melody. And that in no way is just some out of place phrases, simply added for variation. The extremity and the melodic side merge in this record, leading to a merge between the dark and the light sides of the band. Take the opening track for instance, where Sun Worship combine their bitter melodies, follow a fairly traditional black metal progression, but combine it with a great clean vocal performance and stunning lead work, and it reaches new heights. The feral sense of “Lichtenberg Figures” is similarly enhanced with the addition of such lines, with the whole progression at some point even reaching a black metal/depressive rock tone with the inclusion of more groove.
There is also an underlying epic feeling that radiates through the tracks of Pale Dawn. If you think about it, the band is stepping on some diverse concepts, on one hand the cosmic aspect, “Lichtenberg Figures” and “Perihelion,” and on the other a mythological leaning with “Pale Dawn” and “Naiad.” The second aspect is filled with towering moments of epic scenery, resulting from an almost -esque element that comes into view. The final couple of minutes in the title track, and the first part of “Naiad” are such examples, with the band showcasing their versatility in black metal.
Pale Dawn is a great follow-up to Sun Worship's debut. Building on their work in Elder Giants, the band is able to carry on with their combination of an extreme, slightly off-kilter black metal approach, and at the same time prove that their sound is still quite accessible, containing melodic elements and some epic leanings.
8.1 / 10
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