So who wants some doom? Stop, before you answer, the question has certain conditions. The doom is not the funeral, the death hybrid, anything from the Gulf Coast, or even the THC-associated. This is goddamn doom metal, in its most traditional sense, as played by the masters: Saint Vitus, Trouble, Pentagram, etc. Still hungry? Good, because Dawn of Winter provide for you some excellent doom in honor of their heroes. Although the band formed way back in 1990, The Peaceful Dead is only their second full length album (the other dropped back in 1998). If this pack of Germans can stick together and keep writing music of this quality, they’re sure to gain a permanent spot on the radar of old school doomsters.
To emphasize their status as a throwback band (and an excellent one at that), “The Music of Despair” opens the album with an ode to doom metal itself. The riffage is slow and thick, the drums foreboding, and the lyrics name drop just about all of the originators (and just about everyone else as well). Anything less than 100% heartfelt would go over like processed cheese, but Dawn of Winter means it, and the end result sets the perfect mood for the rest of The Peaceful Dead. The album’s ten songs range from the highly emotional (“A Lovelorn Traveller”, “Mourner”), to rockin’ headbangers (“The Oath of the Witch” and particularly “Burn Another Sinner”). Only “Holy Blood” feels forced, as if the band felt obligated to write a religious-skeptic song as part of their doom tribute. It’s not bad, but other songs set the bar higher.
If the lyrical themes suggested by the song titles seem unoriginal, fear not, Gerrit Phillipp Mutz possesses the melody and tone to handle the mourners and the rockers, overcoming small technical limitations with an emotional and honest croon (besides, not everyone needs to be Messiah Marcolin, re-read those band names above). Mutz is featured throughout, but his true showcase is the album-ending title track, which brings to mind Warning’s penchant for prolonged sorrow with only the most essential songwriting. A chilling finale.
Also featured prominently (and wisely) is guitarist Jörg Michael Knittel. Never one to shred or make himself the focus, Knittel’s solos stretch the moods of the songs, making use of the lower register, eerie half dissonances, and long-sustained chords. His work, being so outright and uniquely doom in its approach, helps Dawn of Winter to create a freshness all their own, while still staying firmly within the frame set by their idols. Knittel’s massive rhythm tone (also to be commended, that pure glorious amp…) rounds out the excellent production job. The band recognizes that atmosphere in doom doesn’t have to come from fancy effects and an overabundance of reverb, but from the space in between the sounds.
For fans of the style, The Peaceful Dead is a no-brainer. The reasons we love doom are all available in spades: impassioned vocals, elephantine riffs, top notch but restrained drumming, exceptional solos, and most of all the tunes themselves. If the old masters move you, Dawn of Winter will as well. Put this on your short list.