Wicked Saint or Righteous Sinner is the sophomore album from the Swedish Dawn of Silence. The band formed around the turn of the century and spat out a bunch of demos before arriving at their debut Moment of Weakness in 2006, which was an average and inoffensive offering at best. But four years and a lot of hard work later, the band have made some huge improvements to their sound, which is a hybrid of classic heavy metal and more intense European power metal with siren-like vocals and a ballsy tone. The bands I am most reminded of would be fellow Swedes like HammerFall, Nocturnal Rites or the goofy Dream Evil, but Dawn of Silence have a style that might also appeal to fans of Sonata Arctica, Mystic Prophecy, Iron Fire, or really...anyone that likes their power metal modern and crushing with a huge depth of sound, if not the most intense compositions.
Patrik Johansson has a set of pipes on him which might sound like the frontmen of any of the aforementioned bands mixed together, or squarely between a Joacim Cans and Tobias Sammet of Edguy. When this man gets going, you can easily forgive the music being rather standard power fare since he will definitely have you banging your fists and screaming like a harpy. In fact, if Edguy were still writing good records instead of channeling party rock garbage like Poison and Skid Row, they might sound quite like this band does today.
Wicked Saints or Righteous Sinners consists of 10 tracks, all of which are anthems spring-coiled with big guitar hooks ready to strike out at you with their thick chords and massive chugging tone. That's right, there are no distinct ballads here. Even "In Quest for Life", which opens with clean guitars, picks up to a harmonious mid-paced metal charge, with one of the more distinct choruses on the album to boot. Other tracks that immediately caught me were "Away from Heaven", which Johansson heralds with a life affirming siren scream. The guitars are pumping here, if hardly ambitious, and I like the soaring of the backing vox during the pre-chorus. "Release Me (From Myself)" opens with a little melodic bounce not unlike In Flames, and then a largely chugged out momentum ala Dream Evil or HammerFall's heavier tunes. "Crucifire" has one of those standard, mean, power metal paces ala Judas Priest or Accept, and some great vocals as well.
The lyrics here are the sort you'd expect, larger than life and cut and dry expressions of life, love, sin, punishment, and redemption, but to their credit, while un-ambitious, they don't completely suck like so many other bands in the genre. Dawn of Silence does not fuck around like a Dream Evil, they do attempt to illicit some real emotion from the listener. The positive thrust of the band plus the fantastic production values will probably appeal to a lot of younger listeners who are fans of no-frills melodic heavy metal, especially the Swedish bands who take the retro intentions and place them in the modern mold. If you fit into that caste, then Dawn of Silence will probably not disappoint you. This isn't the sort of album I'd ever listen to with much frequency, but a safe bet to crank in your car if you want to bang your head and impress that friend you have who only likes 80s metal with the 'good' singing.
Highlights: In Quest for Life, Away from Heaven, Crucifire
Verdict: Win [7/10] (if there's a chance to escape)