Early Demise: Exhuming A Half-Dozen Of This Decade’s Outfits Who Died Too Soon

December 21, 2016, a month ago

Mark Gromen

feature heavy metal black trip vanderbuyst in solitude the dagger dark the suns before the dawn

Early Demise: Exhuming A Half-Dozen Of This Decade’s Outfits Who Died Too Soon

Whether it's the decrease in physical sales, which now requires hitting the road to make a living playing music (further necessitating a stash of money most fledgling bands don't possess) or the demise of labels willing to foster the career of baby bands, far too many good bands are dying an early death. All the reunions and countless re-issues also help to squeeze new talent out of the picture. That's not even mentioning pitfalls like bad management, substance abuse, egos and personality clashes that splinter bands, once they've recorded an album or two. Although metalheads harp about the lack of new talent, there's tons of stuff coming out each day (more than anyone can keep up with: just look at how many metal albums are uploaded to torrent sites on a daily basis). With digital technology, it's easier than ever to sample sounds without actually buying, but once you find something you like, make sure to $upport the band, least this list grows longer than it needs to be.

Of course within each sub-genre there are many such cases, but here are a few exciting acts that, while sadly no longer with us, are still worthy of investigation, regardless of niche interests. Hopefully compelled to investigate deeper, suggested listening material is included. Remember, music is immortal!

BLACK TRIP - While most of the members will continue under a new moniker (V.O.J.D.), the Swedes released a pair of hard driving gems that often recalled traditional, NWOBHM metal, especially Thin Lizzy. Singer Joseph Tholl moonlights as Enforcer guitarist, which certainly puts a strain on outside commitments. Others are ex-members of Entombed, Dismember, Nefeheim and Necrophobic, although this music doesn't reflect the fact: no searing guitar, but plenty of hooks and memorable melodies. From the short (34 minute) Goin' Under debut, listen to "Voodoo Queen", "Radar", "No Tomorrow" or the title cut. Off the sophomore effort, Shadowline, check out "Die With Me", "Danger", "Coming Home" and title track.

VANDERBUYST- This Dutch trio seemed poised for great things, after 2010 self-titled debut and In Dutch follow-up, a year later. However, by their third album, the infectious, fun-loving traditional metal rhythms had been overtaken by a stab at more commercial sounding rock. At The Crack Of Dawn, the death knell, was completely out of character and should be avoided. A mix of old sounds and 70s hard rock, clean vocals and guitars at the fore, vintage tones that people under 21 might never have heard! Standouts on debut include "Tracy Lords", upbeat "Tiger"and the live rendition of UFO's "Rock Bottom", while In Dutch highlights are the bouncy "String Of Beads", a speedy "KGB" and old-school "Anarchistic Storm".

IN SOLITUDE - Of all the names here, the one that made the most inroads, the Swedes being one of the early adopters of the latest occult craze and part of high profile tours/festivals, including a North American run alongside Behemoth and Watain. While not as extreme as either of the aforementioned black metallers, the first two full-lengths saw a strong Mercyful Fate vibe running through their ghastly melodies. Third, and final release, Sister, smoothed the rough edges, similar to territory now occupied by countrymen Tribulation. On the raw, self-titled In Solitude, recommend "Temple Of The Unknown" and "The Monolith". It's tough to go wrong with anything from the superior successor, The World, The Flesh, The Devil, but definitely try the charging, twin leads of "We Were Never Here", "Demons" and the catchy stranglehold of "Dance Of The Adversary".

THE DAGGER - With just the eponymous disc to their name, The Dagger was a 70s inspired hard rock project by former Dismember drummer Fred Estby, along with one-time members of Swedish metal luminaries like Dismember and Grave. Completely far afield of their collective past, The Dagger take a stab at England, circa '78, influenced by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Riot (while American, definitely bigger overseas) and the emerging NWOBHM. Lead track “Ahead Of You All” owes a debt to atmospheric Iron Maiden (down to the gong crash), before setting the Way-Back Machine for a decade earlier. Recalling the vinyl era, the ten tracks run 44:22, enough to squeeze on one side of a 90 minute cassette. Gives some insight into their mindset. “Skygazer” appears to be a dedication to Ronnie James Dio's days in Rainbow, while the cowbell accented “Nocturnal Triumph” has a Godz feel to it. The proto-heavy metal of “Inside The Monolithic Dome” isn't too far afield of countrymen Grand Magus.

DARK THE SUNS - Somber and hauntingly depressive, the best qualities of Finland, home to Dark The Suns (not to be confused with German progsters Dark Suns). Three albums before calling it quits (the youngsters throwing themselves into college and other non-musical avenues). The debut and follow-up marry obscure countrymen Decoryah to 3rd & The Mortal piano driven melancholy, plus the infectious rhythms of classic Tiamat, circa Clouds/Wildhoney. Playing with dynamics, minimalist  piano, and symphonic strings, wrapped around variations of dual sex vocals, be it whispered voiceover or aggro gruffness. In Darkness Comes Beauty showcases "Reflections" and "The Sleep Beauty". Should also hear more uptempo "Gone", "Rimed With Frost", "Unbroken Silence" and "The Dead End" from All Ends In Silence. Off their Sleepwalking In A Nightmare swansong, try "Walking With An Angel" or "Lake Of A Thousand Tears". 

BEFORE THE DAWN - The most prolific of these bands, the Finns released seven albums between 2003 and 2012, for three different labels. By the second/final album for Nuclear Blast (Rise Of The Phoenix), had opted exclusively for death metal vocals. Disc #3, The Ghost, is build around bouncy riffing, a more conventional atmospheric death platter, while experimenting with ideas that would be fully implemented on the follow-up. It wasn't until 2007's Deadlight that they produced a melodic death metal demi-god (with a touch of Goth/New Wave), offering both clean and gruff vocalists, imbued with catchy riffs and sing-along melodies, especially the stellar "Deadsong" which reached #2 and stayed in the national radio charts for four months. It flips the script, predominately normal voice and growls, come the chorus. There's even a pair of guest female vocal tracks. The aggro "Fear Me" is the kind of stuff Soilwork used to write, circa A Predator's Portrait. Ditto "Reign Of Fire". Soundscape Of Silence, while failing to re-create the "Deadsong" phenomenon, replicated the predominance of cleaner (even on the gruff vox) singing. Try "Exile", "Dead Reflection" and groove of "Savior". Mastermind/guitarist Tuomas Saukkonen is also responsible for Black Sun Aeon and his current outfit, Wolfheart.

Hopefully there's something in this postmortem to warrant (re-)examining the carcasses. Disturb the peaceful slumber!

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