Album Review – At Dawn’s Edge / Through Glass Eyes (2017)

An excellent debut album by a Canadian trinity that loves to experiment with several aspects from distinct music styles, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into their core Melodic Metal.

Hailing from Mississauga, a city of around 800,000 people that’s part of the culturally diverse Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, here comes Melodic Metal trinity At Dawn’s Edge, a band that, albeit being rooted in the more aggressive qualities of metal, especially the core elements found in Melodic, Symphonic and Groove Metal, loves to explore new grounds and experiment with several aspects from distinct styles such as Flamenco, Electronic and Middle-Eastern sounds, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into one cohesive piece of music. That amalgamation of metal and non-metal genres culminated now in 2017 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled Through Glass Eyes, highly recommended for fans of the music by bands like Epica, Evanescence and Nightwish, among many others.

The trio comprised of newcomer Tamara Filipovic as the band’s frontwoman and founding members Alexandru Oprea and Matt Ozzy on guitars were joined in Through Glass Eyes by a respectful group of guest musicians, with Spencer Creaghan taking care of the orchestral arrangements found throughout the entire album, Chris McConnell making a passionate vocal duo with Tamara on “Amorina”, and James Hayes adding an extra touch of delicacy to the songs “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle” with his incredible violin solos, not to mention the talented drummer Marcus Sisk, who has been supporting the band during their live performances. In addition, three tracks in Through Glass Eyes (those being “Venus’s Rapture,” “Utter” and “From the Ashes”) were part of the band’s 2015 EP named First Contact, still with vocalist Ashavari Anna Joshi, but completely re-recorded with Tamara on vocals and boosted by a sharper and more thunderous production.

Where Do I Begin? Well, that’s the question proposed by the band in this instrumental intro led by potent bass sounds blended with electronic elements, building the stage for the groovy and melodic riffs by Alex and Matt in If Ghosts Were Men, with Tamara bringing epicness to the music with her mesmerizing voice, inviting the listener to the world of passion, adventure and high-end Heavy Metal brought forth by At Dawn’s Edge. In Sightless, rumbling sounds keep flowing from guitars and bass while Tamara keeps thriving on vocals, with the song’s pounding drums fusing perfectly with all orchestrations and electronic vibes. Moreover, it’s quite impressive how At Dawn’s Edge can sound extremely metallic but also commercially approachable at the same time, which is also the case in Venus’s Rapture, where the band speeds up their pace considerably, reminding me of the melodic sonority by Epica and Nightwish but presenting the band’s own twist and groove. In other words, this is a perfect choice for their live setlists, setting the crowd on fire with the exciting contrast between Alex and Matt’s slashing riffs with Tamara’s gentle voice.

Dangerous Excuses brings a hybrid of Progressive and Melodic Metal, as if Epica went Dream Theater, a more traditional approach to modern music by At Dawn’s Edge (despite losing its grip after a while) where guitars and orchestral elements take turns in leading the musicality; followed by Cálida Brisa (Interlude), an interesting instrumental bridge featuring elements from Mother Nature blended with hints of Flamenco, topped off with a beautiful violin solo by James, and Amorina, a song that presents elements from Folk Metal blended with Middle-Eastern nuances, flowing smoothly form start to finish while Tamara and Chris have their “beauty and the beast” moments. Then showcasing their most metallic vein we have Nightmare Reality, one of the heaviest and most intricate of all songs, bringing elements from Alternative Metal the likes of Evanescence fused together with the more symphonic sounds from Epica, with the strings by both Alex and Matt sounding sharper than ever.

Utter is another elegant display of modern and vibrant Symphonic Metal infused with hints of several other metal and non-metal styles as well as some orchestrations, also offering more of the band’s solid guitar solos and again featuring a classy violin solo by James, whereas in From The Ashes we’re treated to an epic vibe with tons of modernity and progressiveness thanks to the amazing job done by Matt and Alex on guitars, setting the tone for Tamara to steal the spotlight with her stunning vocals once again. And there’s still a lot more to go in Through Glass Eyes, starting with Evil Flamingo, one of the darkest compositions of the album where Tamara sets fire to the musicality with her powerful performance, enhanced by the crisp solos by Matt and Alex and a puissant wall of sounds created by both bass and drums. In Forgotten Isle, James’ violin strikes again in another feast of symphonic, progressive and groovy tones and reverberations, before the bonus track Dead Ashore We Lay concludes the album by offering the listener almost 9 minutes of the band’s sophisticated music, exhaling inventiveness, romance and electricity.

In a nutshell, as previously mentioned it’s simply amazing how At Dawn’s Edge were capable of drawing influences from so many distinct types of music, putting all of them together and creating fresh and captivating metal in Through Glass Eyes without sounding cheesy, convoluted or over the top. Hence, you can get more details on the band, their music and why and how their creative process works so well by following them on Facebook, listening to their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing Through Glass Eyes through their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. I believe the band’s next steps will be to spread their music all over the world, touring as much as possible not only in the Greater Toronto Area but also in the rest of Canada, in the US and even overseas, and Through Glass Eyes is certainly the right type of fuel they need to reach all those places and succeed in their career, having what it takes to please all types of fans of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: If Ghosts Were Men, Venus’s Rapture, Nightmare Reality and Evil Flamingo.

Worst moments of the album: Dangerous Excuses.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Where Do I Begin? (Intro) 0:51
2. If Ghosts Were Men 4:43
3. Sightless 3:36
4. Venus’s Rapture 3:35
5. Dangerous Excuses 6:17
6. Cálida Brisa (Interlude) 2:37
7. Amorina 4:17
8. Nightmare Reality 3:51
9. Utter 5:55
10. From The Ashes 6:25
11. Evil Flamingo 5:13
12. Forgotten Isle 6:25

Bonus track
13. Dead Ashore We Lay 8:49

Band members
Tamara Filipovic – vocals
Alexandru Oprea – guitars
Matt Ozzy – guitars

Guest musicians
Spencer Creaghan – orchestral arrangements
Chris McConnell – male vocals on “Amorina”
James Hayes – violin solo on “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle”
Marcus Sisk – drums (live)

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Album Review – Hammerhands / Largo Forte (2016)

The soundtrack to your darkest days is here, courtesy of a talented Canadian band and their sluggish, heavy and rowdy music.

Rating4

hh-largo-forte-coverFew subgenres of heavy music can be so disturbingly awesome as Sludge and Doom Metal thanks to those low-tuned sounds, wicked screams and sluggish beats that penetrate our hearts and souls every single time we listen to them, making our lives a little more miserable just the way we like it. Hailing from the city of Mississauga, Ontario (extremely close to our “headquarters”), here comes Canadian Sludge Metal quartet Hammerhands offering their moodiness, blasphemy and grudge in their brand new album, entitled Largo Forte, a solid display of atmospheric and doomed heavy music that will accompany your misery during those dark and rainy days.

Formed in the year of 2012, Hammerhands released their debut album, Glaciers, one year later in 2013, also releasing that same year a special covers EP named 1995 containing their versions for two of their biggest influences in music (“X.Y.U.” by The Smashing Pumpkins, and “To Bring You My Love” by PJ Harvey). It might have taken three years for the band to release new original material, but based on the music found in Largo Forte it was definitely worth the wait. Featuring a dark and pensive artwork by their own bassist Justin Hunt, Largo Forte brings forward the band’s trademark Atmospheric Sludge and Doom Metal blended with Alternative Metal and other subgenres of heavy music, generating a metallic ambience tailored for fans of sheer heaviness.

The rumbling bass by Justin kicks off the groovy Eighteen, a sluggish composition that becomes a dark feast of modern and crude Sludge Metal when the inebriate and desperate vocals by NJ Borreta join the musicality, with its anguish ending only increasing its impact even more; followed by THUNDERCHUNK, a dense Stoner Metal chant emanating pure anger from its lyrics (“You are a brave man, / some father’s son. / Hammer your hard head, / against the ground. / You’re going to flex your muscles, / and bare your teeth. / Break everything around you, / you know I’ll hold my god damn stance.”). Guitarist Collin Young does a superb job with his wicked noises while drummer Jon Galletly delivers those slow and extremely heavy beats we love in this type of music, with yet another ending transpiring hopelessness and anguish.

hammerhandsHigh Plains is just perfect for an eerie strip-tease done by a mischievous and devilish woman, an obscure Sludge and Doom Metal tune led by the thunderous bass by Justin and the slow and steady beats by Jon, not to mention the spot-on vocals by Collin throughout the entire song. And the title-track Largo Forte begins as obscure as its predecessor, with the bass lines kicking you in the face while Collin fires some Sabbath-inspired riffs in the background. Moreover, the music is kept low and dark almost in its entirety, suddenly exploding into pure hatred through the desperate screams by NJ. Mezzo Grave, displaying some wicked noises and screeches, works as a bridge to If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem, showcasing downright distortion and an endless dosage of aggressiveness. The thunderous sounds blasted by bass and drums will pierce your mind, whereas NJ continues delivering his anguished lines until the song’s chaotic and heavy ending.

With a start lot lighter than all previous tunes, Where We Go brings forward more melodious and melancholic sounds thanks to the guitar lines by Collin. Albeit being a good composition, it’s slightly below the rest of the album in terms of quality and creativity, but fortunately that doesn’t last long as we’re treated to the almost pure Doom Metal tune Darkerness with its low-tuned sonority and slow, heavy pace. This song presents a tormented intro that goes on for over two minutes, warning the listener that darkness is upon us, which is only confirmed through its macabre lyrics (“We’ll gut them, / and bleed them dry. / They’ll scream for hope, / but die inside. / Now that they plunge, / there is no right. / This place, / no light.”). Furthermore, as already happened in previous songs, its ending is a noisy and deranged chaos. In The Hardest Thing we have one final blast of distress, with Collin declaiming the lyrics through his somber and funereal vocals while the rest of the band plays some sort of Tarantino-inspired noisy Blues, an interesting way to close such a substantial album.

There’s a nice way to enjoy the whole album on YouTube in the 49-minute official video crafted by the band, displaying deserted landscapes, predatory reptiles, burning lava, among other beautiful scenes from Mother Nature, and you can also visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel to know more about their music and future projects. Obviously, you can purchase Largo Forte at Hammerhands’ BandCamp page to show your true support to these talented Mississaugans whose job is to provide us fans of Sludge metal exactly the type of music needed on our gloomiest days.

Best moments of the album: THUNDERCHUNK, High Plains and If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem.

Worst moments of the album: Where We Go.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Eighteen 4:58
2. THUNDERCHUNK 7:11
3. High Plains 4:57
4. Largo Forte 6:44
5. Mezzo Grave 2:34
6. If You’re Not Part of the Party, You’re Part of the Problem 3:39
7. Where We Go 5:50
8. Darkerness 7:58
9. The Hardest Thing 5:25

Band members
NJ Borreta – vocals, guitar
Collin Young – guitar, vocals on “High Plains”, “Where We Go” and “The Hardest Thing”
Justin Hunt – bass, backing vocals
Jon Galletly – drums, backing vocals

Guest musician
Andrew Couto – saxophone on “Darkerness”