DIGGING STUFF UP: Beyond Dawn - 'Revelry'
Out-Swaning the Swans, 25 years ago.
The excuse to feature this record on our ancient excavations feature is that it turns 25 years old this month (released on March 30th 1998 originally), but it’s such an amazing brain-fryer that any other reason, or no reason at all, would have been perfectly fine to remember it at any time. Even today, with the advent of services that allow you to listen to every piece of music ever done within three seconds of thinking about it, Beyond Dawn still feel like a sort of hidden secret, even within an underground that they should have, in a just and beautiful world that never existed, ruled supremely by force of their boldness, creativity and wild imagination. I mean, that album cover alone is worth the price of admission, right? Much has been written about 90s/00s underground music in Norway for all kinds of wrong and right reasons, but the fact is that bubbling beneath the traditional black metal and suchlike that everyone knows, there was an explosion of unconventionality and envelope-pushing that never really got its dues. Even with Ulver, for example, having become a huge band nowadays, people like Bogus Blimp, Frantic Bleep or our strangely sharply dressed friends here remain elusive even to a lot of those that celebrate the Ved Buens Ende-ness of it all. Which is, incidentally, not a random reference at all, as not only their adventurous spirit connects them, but Beyond Dawn’s drummer Einar Sjursø even had a brief passage through Ved Buens Ende only for a few rehearsals in 2006. He would end up drumming for the equally fantastic Virus for almost two decades, sharing that line-up with Carl-Michael Eide, aka Czral, aka Aggressor, aka… Ved Buens Ende’s original drummer. He’s in fact the only link to the Norwegian scene that can be traced from the Beyond Dawn line-up, in terms of having participated in any other projects, since Petter Haavik, Tore Gjedrem and Espen Ingierd, at least to my knowledge, never had any other musical activity (the exception being the wonderful Two Trains album, which consists of Ingierd and Sjursø) apart from this remarkable band that drifted away from activity some time after their last album, ‘We’re Down With Species Of Any Kind’, in 2005.
EDIT: I was today years old when I discovered Petter and Tore are currently in Ost & Kjex, an electronic duo.
Depending on your tastes, this might be or not be the highlight of the band’s career - to me, it’s a tie between this one and its more doomy predecessor ‘Pity Love’, whose title is actually evoked here in the song ‘Chains’ -, since they weaved in and out of genres throughout their entire career like passing ghosts. Even the first demo releases already show an otherworldly take on doom/death that sounded like literally no one else. One listen to their fantastic 1994 EP ‘Longing For Scarlet Days’, for instance, and bands that have gone through a Floyd-gone-doom phase like Tiamat or Anathema might have just given up altogether. Even by ‘Pity Love’, released in 1995, with its haunting trombone-led passages, Swans, Portishead, Bauhaus or Dead Can Dance were names you could perfectly throw at them rather than the usual influences of even the most forward-thinking avant-metal bands of the time. ’Revelry’ is basically all that, taken to a logical extreme. Not only Espen Ingierd’s flat baritone still remains the most fascinating sonic dead ringer for Michael Gira himself, but the moroseness and despondency of his delivery - as well as those feelings inspired by the music itself - would sit comfortably at home in any part of ‘The Burning World’. Even their brilliant use of repetition (“tie me up and let the dogs in”, almost atonally repeated over and over during ‘Breathing The Jackal’, is one of the most terrifyingly ominous things you’ll hear on a record) hints at this affinity.
However, despite the similarities, there’s also enough personality here so things don’t become uncomfortably close. There’s a very European dark folk tinge to it all, and when the organic-sounding electronics (I know what that sounds like, but you’ll know what I mean once you listen to it) swirl around the trombone lines and the almost bored-of-living little guitar chords - like during the devastating eight minutes of ‘Stuck’ - ring out in their very own groove, the effect is positively hypnotic, launching you into a haunted slumber from which you might never want to come back. It’s a revelry, indeed, but not a particularly happy one.
The centerpiece of the record is also its most catchy song - opening with a creepy female voice (which belongs, in fact, to renowned Norwegian composer and singer Kate Havnevik) whispering over and over “I’m clean, trust me”, ‘Three Steps For The Chameleon (How To Seduce Modesty)’ is a true epic for the downcast, a feverish hymn for the broken, a howling poem for those who can’t wait to be done with the poetry of it all.
Beyond Dawn would have a few more brilliant moments as they became further entrenched in weird electro-pop, but ‘Revelry’ remains their most sombre, tragically fascinating moment. If you’ve ever felt like going to mope somewhere in the woods, while quietly laughing to yourself at how ridiculous your self-pity seems, here is your quarter of a century-old soundtrack.
01. Love’s (Only) True Defender
05. Three Steps For The Chameleon (How To Seduce Modesty)
06. I Am A Drug
07. Breathe The Jackal
08. Life’s Sweetest Reward
10. Phase To Phase
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Fantastic piece. This, and Pity Love, are stellar.