Dawnwalker – House Of Sand: Album Review

Draw the curtains and lock all the doors as Dawnwalker shift the goalposts in a malaise-riddled journey into the world of ‘not what it seems’.

Release Date: 19th August 2022

Label: Room 132 (self release)

Format: digital / CD

Led by songwriter Mark Norgate, Dawnwalker is a collective of musicians based in London, whose music blends heavy rock and metal with more experimental styles. No two of their records sound quite the same, House Of Sand a case in point, but always feature a revolving cast of musicians who join forces to create a variety that combines the heavy, the atmospheric and the enigmatic.

They were last on our radar with Ages where working the longer form of experimental Metal paid dividends. On their new set, House Of Sand, there’s a significant shift of MO towards what Mark calls: “a kind of eccentric blend of British indie and prog, mixed with modern alt metal.”

The album tells a story of spiritual malaise and the types of evil that lurk in daylight, set against the backdrop of the seemingly idyllic British countryside where, as they say, all is not as it seems. Check out the seemingly ‘normal’ album art. The notion that House Of Sand represents something musically akin to “the lovechild of Opeth and Kate Bush” is an intriguing one. Certainly, that cover is reminiscent of Opeth’s mysterious building on the In Cauda Venenum; the idea of ‘something’ lurking within. The thirteen songs in forty-four minutes is also an indication that the songs aren’t going to hang around and in particular several vignettes between the one and two-minute mark, pepper the playing sequence.

That spiritual malaise at the core of the concept manifests itself in a musically ominous framework. The oppressive mood is conveyed through a dense mix, rustic and organic you may call it, which forsakes clarity for an authentic experience. We’re never too far away from the signature heavyiness but with enough twists and turns to make House Of Sand an unpredictable listen, where turning the musical corner could lead anywhere.

The first of those depth charges of monolithic proportions kick in after a mere five seconds as R.I.P. lumbers in to set the melancholic mood. The tone is set with a softer interlude, the clash of harsh vocals and a deadly silent run out. It’s a formula that recurrs with an emphasis on creating an evocative atmosphere; something enhanced by the use of spoken word interludes that commence in The Witness. The latter passes into The Prisoner and The Master as all manner of hidden depths begin to appear as the layers are peeled away, revealing little delicacies such as the title track which exhudes an Englishness, a Ray Davies-ness quality, while those dramatic Opeth qualities are fully explored in Coming Forth By Day. A dense riff, devillishy fierce vocals and a grand arrangement all add to the theatrical qualities as the story proceeds.

The languid Standing Stones and the return to the title track in a second part leads to the Post Rock tropes of loud/quiet where the dynamics creep up and the threat of being overpowered cut suddenly short. All that’s left is a classical coda in Mildew.

An album that can’t be devoured in one casual sitting. House Of Sand is built on those old school values which require an investment and result in a deeper experience.

Here’s R.I.P. from the album:

Dawnwalker online: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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