“Honestly, I’ve missed this so much…” – these were the first words I wrote down as I began to pour my feelings into words as Tuomas Saukkonen yet again took me on an emotional and gloomy journey with the new DAWN OF SOLACE album, “Waves.”
As one of the biggest surprises of 2019 in metal – at least for me – Tuomas Saukkonen (WOLFHEART) announced the return of one of his deserted and almost forgotten projects, DAWN OF SOLACE. The band was formed in 2005 as a side project for vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Saukkonen‘s main band BEFORE THE DAWN because he felt many of the songs he had written at the time didn’t fit their sound. Thus, “The Darkness” was released in 2006 with Saukkonen singing screams and guttural vocals and playing all the instruments, with fellow BEFORE THE DAWN vocalist/bass guitarist Lars Eikind singing clean vocals. The project was going to be continued with a second album in 2008, but that eventually failed due to a bad contract and messy conflicts between the band and the record label, Dead Air, which ultimately caused Saukkonen to lose his band and its name. He then formed another side project with a similar purpose, BLACK SUN AEON with Mikko Heikkilä delivering the clean vocals.
Dead Air eventually went bankrupt. The rights to the band returned to Tuomas Saukkonen, and soon after, he made a brand new album: after a whopping 14 years the follow-up titled “Waves” was finally released on January 24th, 2020, via the German record label, Noble Demon.
Ever since Tuomas Saukkonen announced that he’s going to discontinue all his projects – even his main band, BEFORE THE DAWN – I can’t help but feel I’ve lost a part of his music. It’s not like WOLFHEART is weak in any sense, but it delivered only half of what I love so much about his songwriting. For example, the aspect that was embodied by clean vocals in BEFORE THE DAWN and BLACK SUN AEON was not there anymore. Honestly, I missed this side of Tuomas’ songs so much. The way his trademark melodies blend with Heikkilä’s vocals is something I’ve been looking forward to hearing ever since the final days of BEFORE THE DAWN and BLACK SUN AEON.
The biggest surprise is obviously the mere existence of this album but there is something else unexpected here: the absence of Tuomas Saukkonen’s vocals, since the lead vocals have been completely taken over by Mikko Heikkilä with some additional input by Lars Eikind, which makes “Waves” completely different from anything we’ve heard in Saukkonen’s career. However, it’s a familiar world we’re wandering in, it’s undoubtedly and well-recognizably his music and his melodies.“Waves” leans much more into gothic and doom metal than BEFORE THE DAWN or WOLFHEART, most of the songs are mid-tempo and follow a similar structure with melancholic, yet somehow bittersweet melodies. The overall atmosphere of the whole album tells the listener that despite this rueful spirit, there is something beautiful in getting lost in this sad yet hopeful piece of art. It’s a trait that all songs share and which makes all of them sound undoubtedly like part of the same album, making it a coherent record made for a certain mood that is required from the listener to be able to take it in as a whole.
That being said, it doesn’t mean the album is monotonous and that all the songs are the same. On the contrary, the eight tracks are quite diverse. “Lead Wings” starts with a catchy melody and easily-remembered refrain. It’s no wonder that this song was the first one to ultimately spark the creative process that made this album. The fifth song, “Tuli” also somewhat stands out from the rest as it’s the only one in Finnish, and also features some backing vocals/growls by Tuomas. It doesn’t have a lot of vocals throughout (the 40-ish second verse starts at 3:20 into the 5:36-long song) but the rest is filled with beautiful piano and guitar melodies. “Choice” is a BEFORE THE DAWN song that got lost in time as it opens with a familiar riff and melody. This song is probably as much BEFORE THE DAWN as we are ever going to get, which makes me appreciate it even more – truly something to be very happy about. With only Heikkilä’s poignant voice and Saukkonen’s piano accompaniment, “Ghost” closes the album as the only non-metal track due to its minimalism.
“Lead Wings,” “Ashes,” “Hiding,” and “Numb” all feature quite a decent guitar solo, and as apparently Jukka Salovaara (SOLE REMEDY) has also returned to play at least some of them (like on the first album). His presence along with Lars Eikind and Mikko Heikkilä nicely completes the circle with “The Darkness.” Some people might miss Tuomas Saukkonen’s voice on this album and I can’t say I wouldn’t like to hear some more variation in the vocals, but this record is fine as it is. It certainly wasn’t made for just any mood, but it’s an album I’m surely going to play on the coming rainier days. It’s Finnish melancholy at its best – a beautiful album and a beautiful piece of art. Many more, please!
- Lead Wings
Tuomas Saukkonen – guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, backing vocals
Mikko Heikkilä – lead vocals
Lars Eikind – additional vocals (track 7)
Jukka Salovaara – guitar solos