Dawnwalker are an experimental metal band from London, England, featuring a revolving cast of players and led by songwriter Mark Norgate. Their music blends the modern progressive metal of Opeth and Tool with the melodic folk and progressive rock influences of 1970s heroes King Crimson and Comus, not to mention more recent prog bands like Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief. Fans of Steven Wilson will not be disappointed, nor should anyone else!
While the world is stuck indoors in self-isolation, all plans for gigs and recordings have been cancelled or significantly delayed. Dawnwalker therefore decided to create something new by whatever means they had available. A cast of collaborators was assembled across the UK – featuring members of Sacred Son, Pijn, Metasoma and Gold Baby – sending their parts back and forth via the internet to create this Crestfallen EP. And they’ve done a very fine job, as the “Official Isolation Video” below illustrates!
Crestfallen contains six tracks of fresh, sometimes bombastic post-metal, sometimes gentle pastoral melodies, that were recorded in various home studios which ranged from the makeshift to the professional – and even included recordings made on an iPhone’s inbuilt microphone. The various pieces were then masterfully reassembled and mixed by Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse studios in East London, UK. The resulting EP is a fresh blast of progressive metal, perhaps inspired by the new growth of spring, that blows the cobwebs away while still belting out some great tunes!
The EP kicks off with the title track, driven by a monster of a riff but counter-balanced by shoegazer vocals akin to Ride. Its simultaneously heavy and gentle. Pollen Cloud is very redolent of Porcupine Tree / Pink Floyd, layers of synth and percussion creating a dreamlike quality before crashing into Towpath. Like Porcupine Tree, Dawnwalker have a compositional skill in moving between pastoral and heavy, although Towpath has an unusual soft-scream vocal – its the only way I can describe it, short of picturing Gollum having a rant!! (Someone in the group will hate me for that, my apologies, the vocals are really good!) The track then jumps effortlessly back into pastoral for its conclusion, and then builds into The Way Home, a symphonic prog track still underpinned by a rumbling riff. I’m loving this counter-balance of musical styles, it’s all put together with impeccable musical craftmanship, it’s hard to believe the isolationist manner in which this EP has been created.
Lost Wisdom is different again, it’s a cover of a Mount Eerie song and features vocals by I think Sian Alex, in an almost Eurythmics style of melody and percussive dynamics. The last track is an acoustic version of Pagan Plains, a favourite track off the previous album Human Ruins. On this, Sian contributes a flute, and the track as a whole reveals the softer, almost folkier side of the band as nicely highlighted by this second video
I’ve read elsewhere a description of this band as creating “the finest, and possibly the only, combination of shoe-gaze folk and a sprinkling of black metal” – a nice summation of an intriguing group of very talented musicians who offer something for everyone. Truly excellent from start to finish. Suffice to say, I’d never heard of Dawnwalker before but went straight out (ish!) after doing this review and bought Human Ruin – this band are addictive!