France has been a hotbed for excellent black metal for a few years now, yielding such notable acts as Peste Noire, Deathspell Omega, Anorexia Nervosa, and Blut Aus Nord. One trademark of the French black metal scene that I’ve noticed is an emphasis on atmosphere; there are bands in the scene that are symphonic, some that are more raw and primal in their approach, even some that dive into the realm of avante-garde, but all of them love creating music with a lot of mood.
Caïnan Dawn are a fairly new band to the French black metal scene, with Thavmial being only their second full length release, and their third release overall. There are a lot of tracks here that utilize ambient washes of sound in the background, as well as a lot of sound clips dispersed throughout, creating a moody atmosphere. Caïnan Dawn certainly know how to give you chills; in addition to the sound clips, Heruforod’s vocals go from a guttural growl, to high pitched shrieking, and even a droning, monk-like chanting style as heard on “The Brood.” It’s always good to see a vocalist willing to change the sound and pitch up, as harsh vocals can get a bit monotonous otherwise, and Heruforod, like his bandmates, has a great sense of dynamics that prevents that. While the addition of ambient passages at the beginning, end, and sometimes middle of the songs would normally be a little irritating, in Caïnan Dawn’s case, they help the flow of the album and enhance the overall mood.
The guitar work is handled by Heruforod and Avgruun, and the interplay between the two is nothing short of awe-inspiring; their riffs compliment each other and provide counter-melodies, coiling around like twin serpents. It’s all here: super-fast tremolo picking, eerie minor chords galore, heavy thrash fests, and break-neck time changes. All of this is accented by Hljodr’s excellent drumming, as he knows when to blast it out, when to cut the time in half, and when to just sit back and let the atmosphere permeate the music.
Thavmial is such a solid offering, that it’s truly hard to pick out any “stand-out” tracks on it, as it’s the kind of album that is best listened to as a whole. Some listeners might find that to be a bit tedious but, trust me on this, if you listen to the album from start to finish, you’ll see what I mean. The interim ambient bits and sound clips blend the songs together so well that they’re almost more like “movements” than separate tracks.
Amazingly enough, the shortest track (aside from “Keter,” which is more of an intro than anything), “Legionem Daemonicus,” clocks in at a whopping 7 minutes; despite this, however, due to the excellent production, the perfectly placed soundscapes between songs, and the ebb and flow of the music, time actually flew when listening to this record. The only issue I have with the production is the same that I have with a lot black metal albums: You just can’t hear the bass in the mix, as it’s buried under everything else. Still, the rest of the music more than makes up for it, and it’s really only a minor annoyance.
Fans of early Satyricon, Nehëmah (whom Hljodr drummed for previously), and fellow French black metal outfits such as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, will find a lot to like here. There’s a great balance of old school sounds with new school production and song craft, and Caïnan Dawn are as kvlt as they come. Raise a chalice, light some candles, and play Thavmial as high as your stereo (and neighbors) can take it for the best possible listening experience.