Album Review: Taking Dawn – Time to Burn

Taking Dawn, from Las Vegas, NV, is one of the new Roadrunner Record artists making their debut over the next few weeks.   Time to Burn was released earlier this week.  Thanks again to Roadrunner for sending me an early digital copy.  (Illness prevented me from putting this up sooner.)

As soon as I hit play, I knew Taking Dawn was going to give forty minutes of old fashioned, raucous  music.  Reminiscent of rock acts from the late 80s and early 90s, pre-grunge, Taking Dawn takes you back to the days when Skid Row, Tesla, and Def Leppard were kings of the rock world.  Since many of the members were just born when Guns ‘N Roses were entering the scene, the band educated themselves well to write music in a similar style.

Overall, Taking Dawn has a solid sound; nothing out of the ordinary, just straight up good in-your-face rock ‘n roll.  Leaving death growl singing behind, Chris Babbitt has a solid, clean voice.  His band mates, Mikey Cross (guitars), Andrew Cushing (Bass) and Alan Doucette (Drums), complete the ensemble.  What made the biggest impression on me is the group’s ability to harmonize vocals, which is done throughout Time to Burn. Vocal harmonies are stylistically closer to Def Leppard, but with a musical vibe similar to Skid Row.

Make no mistake, the band may have influences from classic rock/metal groups, but the energy and arrangements make for a solid debut.  With many modern acts leaning towards the joys of screaming, it is refreshing to have excellent singing return in full force.

The album begins with the title track, which is a rock anthem that succeeds in setting the mood for the album.  This song delivers a statement about  rocking hard and heavy without being seduced by the “establishment.”  The band doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  Their music is a bold proclamation that you don’t need to be another rock musician statistic who succumbs to addictive vices in order to rock.   According to the band’s bio, it was also this song that caught the attention of Roadrunner Records.   Many of the songs have an anthem-like quality.

“Take Me Away” is the first song that really caught my attention and stuck with me.  The music starts off with an intro followed by a nice guitar lick.  The song’s theme is about “the lady of the night,” with the title suggesting that she wants her Prince Charming of the night to take her away and show her a good time.  Or, perhaps she wants Prince Charming to take her away from the night life?  Either way, the song shows another side of the band.

“Close Your Eyes” is a ballad that reminds me of Tesla ballads, but with a Shinedown edge.  The song has a nice chorus.  The song tackles the common rock ballad theme of lost love and the broken heart.  The lyrics plead  for a release from a vision of lost love, even when eyes are closed.

“Rock Fighter” has an edgier vibe.  The main riff has a “Kickstart My Heart” from Motley Crüe vibe to it, but keeps the music style of the band.  This song kicks some serious ass.   It is a track that will get stuck in your head, at least it was stuck in mine.

Viola wanted to contribute to the review, and here is what she had to say:

When Contrapuntist and I used to be able to stay up late enough to watch Headbanger’s Ball (we’re too old to stay up until one in the morning now), we always wished that there were more metal bands who played more melody than noise. Don’t get me wrong, we like listening to bands like Damageplan and Opeth, but sometimes it’s nice to have some fun choruses and melodies to sing along to. Taking Dawn is the kind of band we’ve been looking for. They have great vocal harmonies, blistering guitar solos, catchy choruses, and old-school heavy metal fun. Vocalist Chris Babbitt’s voice is reminiscent of a mix between Joe Elliott and Sebastian Bach. The best way to sum up this band is a description from their website, which says that they want to “merge classic rock and modern metal sounds into their own unique blend.”

If I have any criticism, it’s that the band needs to continue developing their sound so that their influences are a little less obvious. Also, although I love their Def Leppardesque vocal harmonies, sometimes they get little too thick for me. If they used them more judiciously, they might be even more effective.

The three tracks which really grab me from this album are “Save Me”, “Never Enough”, and “Endlessly”. “Save Me” has an irresistible chorus which makes the listener want to sing along. There is a great guitar solo about halfway through the song. “Never Enough” is the most unique-sounding track on the album, and I’d love to hear more songs like this one in the future. It has some great time meter changes and interesting textures. The vocal harmonies aren’t quite as thick as in other songs, and you get to hear a variety of voice/instrument combinations – guitar solos, voice/drums/bass etc. “Endlessly” has a vibe reminiscent of Journey’s “Someday Love Will Find You” on heavy metal steroids.

The album closes with a cover of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.  Taking Dawn successfully added their musical touch, while retaining the feel for the original.  A great cover of a great song.

Taking Dawn’s debut is a fine addition to any rock music library.  With some musical maturity, Taking Dawn has the potential to go from good to great.  Babbitt wants to write songs that sound like Randy Rhoads meets Marty Friedman, merging the classic rock and modern metal sounds into their own unique blend.  He admits, “We’re not trying to write other people’s songs. We’re trying to write songs that kick your fucking ass but have a vintage feel.”

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