Dawn of Winter

The Peaceful Dead

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The Peaceful Dead is the second proper album recorded by German doom purveyors Dawn of Winter during a near-20-year career (!), and it follows a half-decade break during which its two principals -- vocalist Gerrit Philipp Mutz and guitarist Jörg Michael Knittel -- were busy jamming at the speed of light with a few different power metal bands. So the obvious question is whether they'd be able to pull the emergency brakes on their chosen style of metallic composition and, along with the returning rhythm section of Joachim Schmalzried (bass) and Dennis Schediwy (drums), revive the proper mind-frame of desolation and despair required of those who wilt doom. The answer is, "yes they can," though not without a few speed bumps (pun intended) along the way, and no, that doesn't merely allude to atypical bursts of energy like "Mourner" and "Burn Another Sinner." Rather, it sometimes feels like the band is struggling to fill their leaden boots, as evidenced by competent but largely surprise-free efforts ("The Lovelorn Traveller," "Holy Blood," and the nine-minute title cut) that just doom along too long, with no climax or resolution in sight -- other than perhaps their magnificent guitar solos courtesy of the talented Knittel. Mutz also has a curious tendency of stating the obvious with his lyrics, which might also be blamed on his power metal alter ego; whether stressing his depression on the self-explanatory "Anthem of Doom," or actually naming names like Saint Vitus, Pentagram, and Candlemass in the still rather excellent opening statement that is "The Music of Despair." (Heavy metal has a rich and amusing history of self-referential songs that eulogize the denim-and-leather faithful and their head-banging exploits, like Judas Priest's "Hell Bent for Leather" and Metallica's "Whiplash," but this may well be the first example ever committed to doom.) Otherwise, Mutz's vibrato-laden vocals perfectly complement the bands' slothful yet majestic and relatively clean aesthetic, eliciting positive comparisons to the aforementioned Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Solstice with additional standouts like "Throne of Isolation" and "All the Gods Your Worship." Having said that, even a slight deviation from form via gravelly death croaks helps to distinguish the absolutely brilliant "The Oath of the Witch" from their brethren. So there you have it: The Peaceful Dead unquestionably packs a little rust that built up over Dawn of Winter's many years of inactivity, but nevertheless boasts more than enough sonic depression for doom fans everywhere to wallow in, gleefully.

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