Caïnan Dawn’s current full-length album, the fourth in their discography, and their debut ‘Nibiru’ are separated by 11 years, while there is an abyss between these two releases from a musical point of view. Back then, the band started with Melodic Black Metal, fast and moderately aggressive, quite typical for the French black metal scene. Then, again like many of their compatriots, Caïnan Dawn went deep into the technical and emotional realms, making a mark on Avant-garde Black Metal or something like that. As a result they got, as can be easily guessed in application to French Black Metal, to something in the spirit of Post Black Metal. Beyond all doubt, ‘Lagu’ is very close to Post Black Metal.
Some Rock elements are clearly evident on the first piece ‘Myctophidae’, especially when an unusual lick enters – at first it even seems alien to the guitar riffs on which the song is built. An almost clean vocal part joins the similar element on ‘Okeanos’, – by the way, the band didn’t use clean vocals before if we remember rightly. ‘Septima’ is the same case, and at this stage, it becomes obvious that these Rock solos/licks come from another world/dimension, so you are almost not ready for them. The main problem is that Caïnan Dawn are trying to put elements of Rock into their black metal (more precisely, into what is left of Black Metal) too blatantly, too defiantly. Maybe it’s an artistic provocation, but to be honest, ‘Septima’ is the most awkward song on the album. They probably wanted to do something original here, but it turned out to be a meaningless heap. It often happens: when you want to say too much, you forget about the music itself.
Depressive Black Metal can now be attributed as well to the band. Although for old times’ sake Caïnan Dawn use blast beat sections in almost every song, these sections are very short, while the main body of the song is sustained in a slow or medium tempo. But that’s not the issue – despair seeps through every song: these people clearly complain that they are sick at their heart, and they want to share their feelings, or a message, or something personal with others. With listeners. But unlike Depressive Black Metal, there is no anger directed at the Universe (or at least at society) in the sounds of ‘Lagu’. So it’s more like post black metal. The term Depressive Black Metal just describes the atmosphere of the album, not the music itself.
The previous album ‘F.O.H.A.T.’ also had a lot of slow episodes, but those dissonant pieces were sustained in the tideway of avant-garde black metal, it was a kind of “soft Deathspell Omega” maybe. On the new album, if only ‘Apnea’ resembles the former manner, and now it’s a little different, it’s some, sorry, “melodic Deathspell Omega”. In addition, the song’s finale cancels this unexpected avant-garde, definitively these parts don’t match well. Well, this new totalitarian emotionality clearly falls short compared to the desperation of ‘F.O.H.A.T.’ There was a transcendent search on the previous album, an attempt to find a way out into another dimension. Now there is only longing and despair. ‘Lagu’ and ‘F.O.H.A.T.’ very different in atmosphere and mood, aha, looks like Caïnan Dawn found the most weird portal.
The definition of Atmospheric Black Metal also fits Caïnan Dawn when it comes down to it. Tremolo picking plays a leading role in the material as it should be for this genre – there are a great many piercing, dreary, sad, monotonous tremolo picking melodies on the album, and judging only by them, the music itself is very beautiful, well-composed. Despite the frequent change of melodic direction, the solidity of the narrative is not broken. Be perfectly honest, practically not broken: frequent stops and pauses (another Post Black Metal element) contradict the album’s atmosphere and solidity. Right, Atmospheric Black Metal embodies a significant part of the album, but it does not dominate at all. It’s just part of the experiment.
And what about a full-fledged experiment? Well, when at the very beginning of the album on ‘Myctophidae’ after a strange lick and before the long-awaited blast beat section, the fills and breaks are played, there is a hope that we will get some kind of unique experimental Black Metal. But alas, this is the only place on the album, this strange pattern emphasizes the depressive emotionality of the entire album rather than adds some variety to it.
Elements of electronic music were also used on ‘F.O.H.A.T.’, the title track ‘Fohat’ was a completely dark ambient piece. But basically “cosmic sounds” used to serve for atmospheric transitions between songs. On ‘Lagu’, starting with the Ambient intro ‘Nun’, electronica plays a much larger role, it already seeps into the body of the songs, which includes the use of electronic drums in addition to the acoustic ones. If we’re honest, it’s more like the Ambient pieces from ‘Filosofem’ served with Post Black Metal sauce – this is best seen at the beginning of ‘Profundum’. And sometimes it’s like some kind of “perverted” Enslaved of their Progressive Metal era, which was processed with synthesizer – check ‘Atlantis’. These are great finds for sound, by the way. The title song ‘Lagu’ starts in the style of EBM. Ah, it’s almost genius to make such a smooth and seamless transition from EBM to melancholy Atmospheric Black Metal – that’s how the song ends. Some way or other, electronica is now an important element of Caïnan Dawn’s music.
Summary: experiments in Avant-garde Black Metal sooner or later lead to the fact that musicians have to choose a new direction, because you can’t experiment endlessly in the same field. Caïnan Dawn have chosen the direction of Post Black Metal mixed with electronic music. Maybe it’s better for them, especially since there is a certain innovation on ‘Lagu’. But this is unlikely to appeal to everyone who appreciated their previous albums. It looks like they have to find a new audience for themselves.