Like so many bands in the Scandinavian extreme metal scene, Before the Dawn have had their share of lineup changes along the way. Founder Tuomas Saukkonen is the only one who remains from the 2003 release, My Darkness, which was Before the Dawn's first full-length album; Saukkonen started Before the Dawn in Finland in 1999 and was still leading the band 12 years later. And Saukkonen's leadership is no doubt the reason why Before the Dawn, despite those lineup changes, continue to sound focused on the absorbing, if imperfect, Deathstar Rising. The epic material on this 2011 release is best described as melodic death metal with elements of gothic metal and hints of Scandinavian folk; Before the Dawn aren't overtly folk-drenched the way that their countrymen Finntroll are overtly folk-drenched, but the folk elements are there nonetheless. And throughout this album, there is a genuine desire to blend heaviness, intensity, and aggression with melody and nuance. Melody isn't a mere afterthought on "The Wake," "Remembrance," "Winter Within," or "Sanctuary"; it is an integral part of what Before the Dawn do. The extreme vocals/clean vocals contrast that is so common among melodic death metal bands (as well as among symphonic black metal bands) is all over Deathstar Rising; Saukkonen provides the extreme vocals, while bassist Lars Eikind (a Norwegian musician in a predominantly Finnish band) provides the clean vocals. Eikind is the more understandable of the two, and unfortunately, Saukkonen's extreme vocals (which are somewhere between a guttural, death metal, Cookie Monster growl and metalcore/hardcore screaming) make some of the lyrics difficult to understand (a common complaint in death metal). Regardless, Before the Dawn have a highly attractive sound, and the writing on this album is nothing to complain about. It would have been nice if Saukkonen were consistently understandable, but all things considered, Deathstar Rising is an exciting demonstration of what these Nordic melodeath providers have to offer.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson