Dawnrider: “The Third Crusade” CD
Five years after their stripped back second album, the Portuguese ranks have swollen considerably to include a second guitarist and keyboardist. The impact on the sound is colossal. The energy and intensity tangible. Of course, FJ Dias’ distinctive voice remains the gnarly centre of all comings and goings. No turning back! “Demons” enter in waves, each stronger than the last. But the flow is not lost in that surge. Axemen exchange leads, time and again, whilst the gravitational groove heralds a heads down Reverend Bizarre stomp. This is oddly nuanced by the chorus echoing the Finns’ song of the same name albeit with a classic rather than schizophrenic flavour. It’s not incomprehensible that the demons had the upper hand when those ’70s synths detonate. But with the final volley of guitars thereafter they have been dispelled. Just. “Falling” and “Esperança” reinforce the classic sensibilities with some stonking fretwork. The former is eerily phased. The latter again leans towards their Finnish cousins although the native language filter makes a welcome return in a concerted bid to stand apart. The creepy “Cry of the Vampire” is dominated by synth sounds, howling vocals and coloured further by the keyboard solo towards the end. As a horror hymn, it’s simple and effective without being particularly Italian in spirit. But very few have ample command of shovels to exhume the murky atmosphere of Death SS and Paul Chain. “Iron Freebird” takes an alternative approach to film as the instrumental is punctuated with vintage sampled script. Tapping into biker outlaw lore, the mood matches the gritty music. Still going strong. Then ironically enough, “Absolute Power” becomes the weak link and would probably not be much missed. Vaguely reminiscent of a metallic Black Widow with ritualistic drums, the chorus sticks whilst the song itself takes way too long to reach the cool lead breaks at its close. Less would definitely have been more. The final leg of “The Third Crusade” takes the form of a blatant homage to Voivod. It’s upfront and energetic if guilty of being self-conscious and again a little excessive. But the agonised vocal delivery and slow brooding guitar in the latter half are memorable. The finale too is classic guitar gold. By and large, the album works and Dawnrider should be commended for the labouring hard. They have always been underdogs and will surely grow on you if given repeated attention. But with so many loud voices in the band, it will be important to strike that balance between flamboyant and unbridled next time around. Bet they are a blast as live though!