There’s something to be said about going back to what brought you to the dance in the first place. Sometimes, there is a reason why the time-tested approaches work. Such is the case with Dawn of Ashes, a blackened industrial metal act that evolved from the early 2000s terror EBM wave of harsh electronic music. Much of their material in the last few years has leaned more on the metal side of things, but on their newest release, The Antinomian, the band calls upon their roots to power their gritty, grimy brand of heaviness. There’s not a weak track to be found on this record, only those that stand on the shoulders of their previous, more electronics-based work, more than others, though that’s far from a slight against what’s on display here.
The opening track and first single “Pawns of the Wretched” wastes no time with a punishing backbeat and simplistic synth line, before the guitar doubles the synth and vocalist Kristof Bathory unleashes profane statements such as “your values are dead, and you’re dead to the world.” It is an omen, a sign of things to come, and maybe the best way the album could have been kicked off. Sampled screams of agony ring in “Sleep Paralysis,” which favors a more industrial style while sacrificing precisely none of the gruesomeness. It takes a classic harsh electro sound and polishes it up just enough, sounding respectable without losing any of the throwback feel it works so hard to cultivate.
The metallic backbone is reinstalled for “Blood of the Titans,” with clicking, pounding kicks and a bevy of triplets to nestle this one firmly in extreme metal territory. It’s gloomy, gravelly, and a great time to be had. “Dried Up” is, and this is directly from my notes on the first listen-through, “methodical murder.” This is not hype music, this is hardly workout music. No, “Dried Up” is “I am about to fucking rip something in half because I can” music. The palm-muted guitars, the calculated drumming, it’s all violent in a way that any black metal or blackened music should be. I know the term “heavy” is a throwaway term anymore in regards to metal music, but it fits like a glove here.
After the urgent interlude “Anatomy of the Soul” ramps up the tension, “Scum of the Earth” creeps on with cacophonous percussion. “Follow the Pain” sees reverberating bass with plenty of metal sensibility, particularly in the drum work. It ping-pongs back and forth between industrial and metal until roughly the two-minute mark, where the two sides throw down their arms and work together to create another gutbuster of a number. “Mind Prison” feels like blackened coldwave, if such a hybrid exists. Where the previous song might be the most prog-heavy of the album, this one takes a minimalistic approach in its structure, and it works. The disc’s doom-laden closing “The War Within” features an uncomfortable, eerie outro, in case any of the samples or other content in the previous tracks had you shaken or disturbed up until now.
At the close of last year, I had considered making a best of list for music, specifically separate lists for metal and industrial records. Albums like The Antinomian are why I could never do that justice and feel confident in my choices. This record exists perfectly between the two genres, blending them so well, it feels insulting to split hairs about what genre it belongs to. As bleak as the subject material on display is here, I can’t help but feel hopeful about Dawn of Ashes, and the state of heavy music as a whole, and I have The Antinomian to thank for that.