Awaiting the Dawn by Various Artists (Review)

Much of the music on here is pretty challenging, but fortunately for the listener, it almost always delivers.

I first learned of Flaming Fish during my freshmen year of college. I was known to frequent ​“”, and was looking for information on a few bands that I’d heard of, like the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus. I came across a link to Flaming Fish’s site, long before they ever became a purveyor of industrial music. Now, they’re quickly becoming a rising star in the underground music scene. Longtime proponents of industrial music, they teamed up with Velvet Empire, a fledgling goth/​darkwave label, to release Awaiting The Dawn, the first Christian darkwave compilation.

For those of you unfamiliar with darkwave music, it’s like the mellower, ambient side of gothic music. Eventually growing out of the post-punk music of groups like The Cure, and drawing influence from such luminaries as The Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance, as well as the burgeoning European scene, darkwave has slowly grown to become one of the most interesting musical movements in recent memory. Honestly, I find it much more interesting than gothic music, which often seems too concerned with painting its face and polishing its nails, rather than releasing good music. With darkwave, the emphasis is on atmosphere, creating music that is seductive and menacing, relaxing and introspective, without losing the artistic, dramatic edge.

Awaiting The Dawn falls into all of those categories. Featuring some well known names (Caul, Steve Scott), as well as some relative newcomers, Awaiting The Dawn serves as a good introduction to darkwave music. The solemn, haunting ​“Silver Shining, Brightly Gleaming” quickly sets the mood, and is the first of two Caul tracks on the album. If you’ve never heard Caul, you’re in for a treat, because this guy has released several albums of amazing cinematic ambience. This track is probably one of his gentlest songs, reminding me of Soul Whirling Somewhere’s Eating The Sea. Firmament’s heavenly ​“Forgiven Frost” launches Gregorian chants directly into the stratosphere, whereas the sounds of EnGrave’s ​“Deep Cavern Unit” echo out and fade away beneath bubbling, subterranean noises and drones.

The only two major disappointments on the album are the tracks by Cradle->Grave and The Reclusive Cypher. Cradle->Grave’s track consists of random notes played over an uninteresting synth melody. The Reclusive Cypher’s track features more of the same: washes of sound and faint drones that don’t go anywhere, eventually coalescing into a beat-driven piece that ends just when it could’ve gotten interesting. The next track, however, is one of the album’s highlights.

I believe ​“This Pain” has appeared on a Velvet Blue Music comp, but that’s alright, because this song by In A Lonely Place is incredible. A melody of what sounds like plucked synthetic strings slowly floats over a windswept soundscape. The slowly building song conjures up images of flying over the grey North Atlantic during a storm, coming up to barren, rocky cliffs. I’m reminded of the Blade Runner soundtrack, but sadder and more satisfying. The Steve Scott track is slightly more disorienting and obtuse than his previous work, the ethnic/​world influences on his previous releases are absent here. His spoken delivery seems less natural, played through various effects and looped at times. But a new Steve Scott track is always a treat, so I’m not complaining. Cult Of Jester’s ​“John Carpenter” sample heavily from The X-Files, slowly reducing itself to a throbbing metallic pulse that builds until it sounds like your speakers are about to be ripped apart.

Aside from the aforementioned unspectacular tracks, the only major complaint I have is that the album tends to veer more into the experimental side of things. Those looking for the dreamy pop of bands like Cocteau Twins, or the baroque opulence of Black Tape For A Blue Girl will probably be disappointed. Much of the music on here is pretty challenging, but fortunately for the listener, it almost always delivers.