Progressive Baroque Gothic Power Metal. How's that for a new genre name? Golden Dawn's album Masquerade has forced me to create that monstrous moniker due to its unique blend of premium grade sounds. Apparently, Golden Dawn's debut album The Art Of Dreaming was quite popular (and is now also being remastered and reissued by Napalm Records) when it was released seven long years ago. My press sheet reports that its followup has been 'long awaited by hundreds of thousands of metal fans worldwide'. I missed out on the band's first tour of duty, but if Masquerade is any indicator, that fluffy bit of PR may be less hyperbolic than it seems at a glance.
Masquerade features a dazzling array of deft guitar play, burbling synthy leads, swirling atmospheres, harpsichords, and engaging vocals. Everything revolves around dark or melancholic themes but never lacks energy. Golden Dawn's unique signature is scrawled across every track on the album. They graft stylistic bits from many eras and genres into a musical Frankenstein. This is appropriate, since much of 'Masquerade' sounds like a Halloween romp through a haunted house. If you can imagine (or indeed would dare to try imagining) the result of a fusion of Bach, Children of Bodom, and Fintroll... well, your head might explode, but you'd get an idea of what Golden Dawn has going on.
Not all of the album is pure creepshow-metal. A sort of bouncy power-metal stride pervades most of the tracks, which zips the listener along before they can catch their breath. Occasionally, however, the band opts for a mid tempo goth-rock approach. Further, a number of tracks are suffused with neo-classicism, usually in the form of intricate guitar arrangements or harpsichord madness. These passages show how technically skilled the musicians are, and rest assured, they are quite capable. The compositions are all dense with interweaving layers of sound (and happily, crisp, clear production). They will impress and delight listeners who appreciate a well-crafted song.
Several singers participated in the recording of Masquerade. Curiously, they are largely unheralded, with only Stefan Traunmüller receiving a vocal credit. The rest are simply referred to en masse on the press release, which mentions that the band employed '... the talents of several session singers.' Rather an inglorious way to treat contributors to your album, unless releasing their names is forbidden under some sort of contractual clause. Whatever the case, these 'session singers' provide a fitting (if sometimes unspectacular) assortment of dramatic clean vocals, black metal raspy growls, and on the last two tracks of the album, delicate and emotional female leads.
Masquerade is a fine album that should find an eager audience in many camps. Power metal fans will appreciate the energetic and upbeat riffing and fantasy-horror laced thematic content. More adventurous fans of symphonic black metal may like the dense layers of sound and aggressive guitars coupled often with traditional rasping (Children of Bodom is a good guidepost here... if you enjoy them, this is likely right up your dark, dangerous alley). Even fans of prog-metal have something to look forward to in the complex arrangements, prominent use of synths, and excellent instrumental performances in general. Golden Dawn's sun is certainly rising over the metal world, and seems poised to shine as a beacon of quality for some time to come.
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