Sadauk - A New Dawn - (8/10)
Published on March 6, 2019
For some unknown reason 2017 was a year of comebacks, some of them by bands that had not been heard from for a decade or more. Though some of these sudden renewed visions of older ways could be somewhat explained by a number of extenuating circumstances, the Swedish symphonic Gothic metal act that is Sadauk is arguably the most auspicious case of a convergence of happenstance. Having been formed in the mid-90s during the height of the beauty and the beast Gothic metal craze that was kicked off by Theater Of Tragedy, and largely existed as a Norwegian export when considering said band, the soon after formation of The Sins Of Thy Beloved, Tristania and its equally prolific offshoot Sirenia, the odds seemed stacked against them as frequent lineup changes and a lack of output save a demo in 1997 relegated them to obscure status. But with a seemingly stable lineup formed that includes the guitar and keyboard work of former power metal revival icon band Morifade guitarist Jesper Johansson, things are coming together for this band after 20 years of studio silence.
Sadauk’s debut effort A New Dawn is aptly named, if for no other reason than that it breathes a new sense of life into a style that has largely been stagnant save for the regular output of Sirenia, whom this band resembles a fair bit. There is a sense of freshness and vitality at work here that is largely informed by an elaborate approach to composition and arrangement that runs along similar lines to recent trends in symphonic power metal circles, namely upping the production value for a greater degree of impact, yet also maintaining that melancholy melodic aesthetic and denser atmosphere that keeps this style distinct from the likes of Fairyland and Wind Rose. There is a fair degree of renaissance tinged, folksy elements that filter in and out, often accomplished via flute, violin or music box sounds alongside the larger symphonic backdrop. The combination of pristine soprano vocals and a harsh masculine foil also deviate a slight bit from the cliche approach, with the male voice being more of a mid-ranged gruff sound rather than a deep guttural groan or whispered shriek, while Therése Thomsson’s vocals sound less angelic and more amazonian.
From a purely structural sense, this album proves to be a bit more of a grower than a shower, as it mirrors the epic style common to power metal albums yet takes a more measured and nuanced approach to developing itself. The bombastic orchestral prelude “Overture: Ancient Lithdor” definitely lays on the lofty imagery and film score brilliance Game Of Thrones style, and the three act song cycle that follows has a few strong points, but flows in more of a mid-paced, doom-leaning kind of fashion typical to territory that Tristania would hang around when at their fastest. However, they work in some more frequent guitar solo usage and a greater level of animated drum work to avoid the hypnotic droning that generally lingers around this style. Following a few more instrumental interludes and a handful of mid-paced marches through sorrowful territory like “Posterity: Eleannas Prophecy”, things get a bit of a shot in the arm with the more upbeat and adventurous “As They Sleep Behind The Horizon”. Things really hit a zenith and almost morph into an outright Nightwish-brand power metal fest at the tail end in “Who Is King In Paradise”, “Hourglass” and “Sage And Jester”, each one a speed ride the close things out in brilliant fashion.
Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of this album is that while it is definitely well rooted in the Gothic metal practices of the mid-90s, it doesn’t listen so completely like a throwback to said era that it can appeal to a wider array of metal fans. This is something that a power metal enthusiast of the more symphonic variety could definitely appreciate, particularly those who don’t mind a slightly sadder shade on the concept that Epica has been purveying throughout their 15 year career. It has this sort of Shakespearean flavor to its lyrical content that is a bit of a change of pace from the usual Tolkien vibe of fantastical storytelling, but the delivery is about as compelling as a typical Blind Guardian album, despite that other elements being radically different. It will be interesting to see what sort of path this band will take in the coming years, but with Tristania having been silent for the past several years, and many of the other old guard prime movers now being defunct or taking divergent musical paths, there is little in the way of competition for them.