GODSEND – As The Shadows Fall

GODSEND – As The Shadows Fall

  • Rating: 4.5 / 6

When do legends take their form? Could you have predicted that Charles Michael Schuldiner would grow into a songwriting, lyrical, and guitar giant just judging by the decent but spotty Death’s debut "Scream Bloody Gore", with insightful lyrics about sacrificing female most private body parts to stave off the zombie apocalypse? What about Pantera, 3 albums of substandard occasionally, probably accidentally metalized glam rock of four heavily made-up boys hanging tough like New Kids On The Block, could you have foreseen that they would create a new genre that prevails in the songwriting of thrash, death, hardcore and even progressive metal to this day? Genius is born quietly, to borrow from the New Testament, "it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Corinthians 15:43).

So it was with Sweden’s Dan Erland Swäno (Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale, Bloodbath, Witherscape, etc.) especially with respect to the former (Schuldiner’s) example. Although he had been death metalling since 1989 (Edge Of Sanity) there were few signs he wanted to take a more progressive direction. Before he revolutionized progressive death metal along with Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Swäno had been sailing gothic doom waters which had precious little to do with death metal and the Norwegian project Godsend was the boat while the debut album had likely inspired a stylistic change for Edge Of Sanity and the phenomenal "Crimson" recorded just a mere year later. Yet, In all actuality, Dan was more of a helping hand or a contributor (vocals, synths) to Gunder Audun Dragsten’s (guitars, bass) solo project which was Godsend at the time, which may or not explain the debut album’s lack of aggression, if not power, which is especially strange when you look back at the two preceding Holy Records releases: "Demo 1992" and Promo (1993) as if it was then that he decided to actually SING on a metal album, with aggression taking a back seat. Not that the production was rubbish, far from it (Swäno produced it), but the material sounds more focused on sing-songey direction than doom to say nothing of death metal which is practically AWOL (military jargon: absent without leave). The few moments we do get a semblance of doom (the title track, Beyond The Mist Of Memories, Silence Of Time) or doom/death (My Lost Love) are what makes this album, the remaining tracks more of a gothic/progressive constitution. But these songs sometimes end abruptly as if Dan got tired or bored or both which gets a little ridiculous on "Walking The Roads Of The Unbeheld", admittedly a pretty if a brutally short song.

Vocally, while he wasn’t yet as brilliant as later on "Crimson", Dan showcased his Nicholas "Nick" John Arthur Holmes (Slaydream, Spiritual Loneliness) meets David "Dave Gahan" Callcott (With The Wind Comes The Rain) clean pop-like vocalizations possibly inspiring future Åkerfeldt, especially given their incredible similarity in the more acoustic/folkish moments (Autumn Leaves, Beyond…, My Lost…) As for growls, there are moments (Autumn Leaves) but he alternates the cleans for Aaron Stainthorpeian (My Dying Bride) melodeclamations and, not surprisingly, the tracks end up sounding a lot like My Dying Bride at their most desolate (the title track), alternatively Type O’Negative (Beyond…) which makes a lot of sense when you consider the similarity in tone to Life Of Agony’s "Ugly" (the only problem being that it would come out 2 years AFTER Godsend’s debut!) but there is no mistaking those riffs (Slaydream, Spiritual Loneliness), so, most likely explanation is that Type O’Negative had inspired both acts even though Dan sounds just a tad like Petrus Thomas "Peter Steele" Ratajczyk.

Favorites include the title track, the "Morningrise" Opethian foreshadowing "My Lost Love" and the incredible closer "Silence Of Time" which, in turn, foreshadows Paul August Kuhr, III and his Novembers Doom (although the band had existed already for 4 years it would not release their debut for 2 more years) as well as the immediately following gargantuan over 10 minute long "Starfall", which, since it comes after the album proper and from the included "Promo 1992" (2nd CD) on this re-release (being thus one of the first songs Godsend created) has actual genuine growls akin to the "legion" demonic possession-like Hypocritical Alf Peter Tägtgren’s from "Abducted" as well as traits of true doom/death, although, somehow, it seems to be the offspring of the conclusion of "Autumn Leaves". Last but not least, let’s not forget Dragsten’s marvellous leads and solos recalling Gregory John Mackintosh of Paradise Lost fame, most notably on "My Lost Love".

Godsend’s debut was/is not exactly earth-shaking, per se, and it is incredibly spotty but it does show Dan Swäno at his more progressive form, possibly for the first time, whereby he would grow into a legendary guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and a signature sought out producer he is today with more projects on his belt than Donald John Trump’s sexual affairs (including the consensual ones). If for no other reason, check it out to see where the legend took its form and this 2 CD remastered re-release is an excellent occasion for it.