Rottendawn – Occult (Saturnal Records)
Review by Milos Sebalj
All-star projects, at least in my book, are always a clear warning of mediocrity. Well, there are a few exceptions but these are mostly the cases where it is not so loudly publicized who is standing behind the new name. Rottendawn promo sheet simply screams with more or less familiar names. Thus, I was almost prepared to discard this album as another ‘good but far from great’ attempt. Plus the album title shows a serious lack of effort, even if it ‘sums up the core of the band’ as is mentioned in the description provided by the label. Oh, and just take a look at the cover art. Burzum anyone? Opeth maybe? Terribly uninspired!
The music is somewhat on the brighter side of the release. Well, not quite bright since we are dealing with Death/Doom Metal, but still much better than the rest of the elements. “Occult” is certainly more into the Doom waters, with Death Metal provided just to strengthen the sound further. Stoner influences are also obvious, especially in the second half of the record, where Rottendawn picks up the pace a bit. Mournful melodies in the mentioned part of the album resemble Sentenced a bit, but the old, good Sentenced. Not the romantic stuff the band created later in their career. The album gains on the creative side as it gets past the half-point. Much better guitar solutions, much more emotion behind the microphone and the mentioned tempo make the final three tracks definitely a more interesting part. Now, what seriously pissed me off is the track which separates the more traditional first and versatile second part is the song which separates them. Believe it or not, “Ode to Pjotr” is your regular Death/Punk beat down! What the hell is that!? Just as you get into the somber atmosphere surrounding the record, there is a short (under a minute) outburst of pure violence. Feels like another band stepped in and recorded a track without Rottendawn even noticing it. Keep it as a bonus track, or sell it to some other band which might have use of it, just don’t ruin a fairly decent album by placing an alien right in the middle.
Now, the album is decent. Nothing more, nothing less. The musicians behind Rottendawn (no career information here on purpose) have more than enough experience to create interesting songs, even if they last 7 minutes or more. It is a hard task creating Doom Metal tracks that have the versatility to keep the listener tied to the sounds emanating from the speakers. Well, this might be an overstatement, as this album does last for over an hour and I found myself a bit bored at times. That’s where the slight incoherence between the mentioned two parts of the album comes in handy. Don’t get me wrong, there is no too big of a difference between them. It’s more like a switch of priorities as the album draws to a close. “Occult” is nicely fitted together (except for that infinitely misplaced song). Also, the haunting atmosphere rules supreme within this hour of music. Ritualistic feeling sets the tone of the album and it is mostly provided by the ‘traditional’ Metal instruments. Subtle keyboards and organ serve only to underline it. The Finns seem to have done everything by the book which is not bad, but they have failed in making a step further from mediocrity.
“Occult” is certainly an album that will find its fan base. Having a couple of more notable names in the line-up will surely help with promotion. However, Rottendawn will not step into the big league of Doom Metal, at least not with this effort. It is a question if the band itself has a future, as these kinds of bands rarely do, but if there is a follow-up to “Occult” it needs to be a much stronger outing.