It has been a rocky few years for the South African metal scene. There was a stage where the metal scene was bursting at its seams with bands, venues, and more shows than you could possibly choose from. Nobody knows what happened – perhaps the return of performing in a scene that was never incredibly rewarding due its lack of popularity got to a lot of bands – but the metal scene went awkwardly quiet for several years. It has only been in the past year or two that the metal scene has started to rise gracefully, like a phoenix, from the ashes of what it used to be. Along with that arises a unique situation that has allowed the metal scene to develop in anything but a linear fashion.
This situation is best described as there being no defined genre that each band follows. South Africa has, for better or for worse, been bombarded with influences from all over the world in terms of what metal should sound like. It is why that when attending a local metal gig – thrash and death metal bands would easily opening for melodic metalcore bands, or post-hardcore bands would open for black metal bands. There is no stringent definition of what metal should sound like, and the sub-genres have no split into separate scenes. It is this situation that has allowed bands to thoroughly experiment with their sound, and combine the various metal genres in spectacular ways.
This experimentation gave way to a band that has been nurturing their sound since 2011 and has become a staple group in the live metal scene. After three years, With Dawn has finally decided to release their debut album, and it is something that is brutal yet intricately beautiful. If you took all the best elements of metalcore, post-hardcore, progressive metal, and nu-metal and put it into a song – you would come nowhere close to the beauty that is With Dawn on their debut album Infinity.
This is a nonchalant sense of swagger to With Dawn’s music – as if they know that their music is absolutely brilliant. It inspires as sense of patriotism in me as the studio where the album was produced is in the town I live in, and the recording and production quality is world class. 7 String Studios really captured the intense nature of the heavy aspects of With Dawn’s sound and combined them with delicate pieces that remind me of how some of Limp Bizkit’s softer songs sounded like – except these parts are juxtaposed to thick, groovy bass riffs, snarling guitars, crashing drums, and Kevin Rule’s uncanny ability to annihilate his lungs and throat as he so easily shifts from guttural unclean vocals to soaring high-pitched clean vocals.
Infinity is a musical journey of gargantuan proportions. The album clocks in at 74 minutes in length, which averages out to over 6 minutes per song. This is usually incredibly off-putting to me, a listener, and as a music reviewer as I often don’t have that much time to sit down and listen to an album. Especially when it is one that demands several listens to fully comprehend the sheer greatness of the album. The harshness of the album is so beautifully contrasted by the soaring melody and the spine-chilling clean vocal parts that you almost forget about the sheer length of the album. You’re left swimming in a deep pool of emotions as With Dawn jumps between guttural uncleans and distorted guitar riffs to softer melody driven pieces that draw influence on nu-metal such as the case in the progressive nature of “Driftwood: The Calm” and “Driftwood: The Storm”. “Came The Gulls” demonstrates the brutal, and heavy, nature of their sound as Rule plays around with deep guttural growls, screams and clean vocals. The album closes on “Fin”, a song that makes me think of “Behind Blue Eyes” in terms of the soaring melody and strong contrast to the rest of the music.
It could be biased of me, but With Dawn are of the same standard, if not better, than most international metal bands. It is a shame that based on their location – they will never be noticed for the brilliant band that they are, and few people will be exposed to their mind-boggling technical skill. They make me proud to be South African.