Tearing Back the Veil I: Ascension
5th December 2015 – Self-released
01. Tearing Back The Veil
03. Point of No Return (feat. Sithu Aye)
04. Decimator (feat. Plini)
05. Self Collapse
13. Edge of the Earth
Musical influences are like genes: the wider and deeper the available pool, the greater the possibility of them producing something genuinely remarkable. Lithium Dawn‘s debut release, 2012′s AION, turned enough heads for the band to run a relatively modest – but successful – crowdfunding campaign to fund a twin-album project – and we now have the first part of this project, Tearing Back The Veil I: Ascension, to digest.
The American quartet operate predominantly at the melodic end of the progressive metal spectrum. Cleanly sung vocals mingle equally with floaty atmospherics and crunchy riffing. This, certainly, is not particularly remarkable in this day and age – but never fear, Lithium Dawn have some rather more unusual elements to bring to the party. We’ll get to them in a minute.
The title track, which opens proceedings, neatly showcases Lithium Dawn’s core proposition. To sum this basic sonic recipe up in a single sentence, it is essentially TesseracT playing Ocean Machine songs through Monuments‘ equipment. It’s a pleasingly accessible combination of the ethereal, the technical, a big anthemic chorus and a somewhat brawnier, buzzsaw guitar tone than one might normally expect. These old ears also pick out a passing resemblance to early noughties British alt-metallers Liberty 37, surely a handy reference point for the dozen or so people left that may remember them. But I digress.
It’s in second track “Ascension” that Lithium Dawn’s broader palette of influence really starts to make its presence felt. What could easily have become just another gentle prog number is instead lifted by the sensitive application of techniques more readily associated with dub reggae. Leaning heavily on the reverbs and delays, with a big slinky bass line and one-drops in the percussion, seemingly out of nowhere we have one of most complete mergers of these most disparate genres this side of Skindred - but let’s be clear; Tearing Back The Veil is not a dub-metal album – it’s firmly a metal album, but the extra embellishments bring a great deal to the table, especially in helping Lithium Dawn to add variety, spice and distinction to their sound.
These dubby touches crop up throughout Tearing Back The Veil, with “Synchronicity” and the aptly titled “Labyrinthian” being conspicuous examples. Elsewhere, the band have pulled in a couple of well-known guitarists for some guest solos for additional flavour. Sithu Aye and Plini make their presences felt on “Point of No Return” and “Decimator” respectively. The latter bears slightly more than a passing resemblance to Devin Townsend’s “Regulator”, but it’s far from being a cheap imitation.
Whilst the band clearly play with extended range guitars, they’re not completely wedded to those low strings, “B’ak’tun” sees the band leaving the low registers well alone until the last sections of the song, and this restraint helps make the overall dynamics that much more dramatic.
This variety, and lightness of touch, almost masks the fact that there really is a great deal to take in across the thirteen tracks and nearly seventy minutes of Tearing Back the Veil. This, in turn, makes it even more remarkable to consider this is only the first half of what the band have planned. That point is underscored by final track “Edge of the Earth”, a short, ominously rumbling piece that has ‘To Be Continued….’ written all over it. Tantalising stuff.
Virtually out of nowhere, at least as far as we are concerned, Lithium Dawn have appeared late in the year and dropped one of the biggest and most pleasing surprises in prog-metal of the last twelve months. With evidence of a bit more thought and somewhat broader horizons than many of their peers, they’ve proved themselves to be strong songwriters that have struck upon a particularly compelling sonic recipe, and one that already has me anxious to hear the second part.