The galaxy-size musical scope of Day Without Dawn’s debut, Understanding Consequences, would be impressive from any band, let alone one that existed for just over a year, between 2006 and 2007. In a way, though, the album was more than ten years in the making. Day Without Dawn formed after the breakup of the Postman Syndrome, a progressive metalcore band from New Jersey that released a single album (2002’s Terraforming) before label woes and a departing member signaled the need for a fresh start for the four remaining bandmates.
While Understanding Consequences isn’t a radical departure from Terraforming, it still sounds dramatically ahead of the curve. This is the record that Cave-In’s Jupiter (2000) could have been, the kind of album that Dredg and Deftones don’t have the balls or chops to make — laced with emotive singing and heroic space-rock guitar, but also densely compacted with heavy riffs, textured arrangements, coiled time signatures, some tasteful growling and pleasantly mangled expectations.
Day Without Dawn feels like less a band than an electric-chamber quintet on “After the Banquet” and “The Second-to-Last Page,” with instruments and vocals winding together in baroque ivy braids, uniting only for the occasional crushing metallic passage. In just two minutes, “The Deeper Wells” coalesces pools of ambient guitar picking into a snaky King Crimson groove, then rides its ascending vocal harmonies to prog-rock nirvana.
The constant mode-shifting would sound scattershot if the band weren’t so good at developing melodic themes and exploiting the full range of dynamics. Understanding Consequences moves fluidly through the expanse between quiet and loud, thick and thin, gossamer and brittle.
The only complaint is the uniformity of its downcast, contemplative tone. But even at their most doleful, Day Without Dawn put so much thought and variety into this album that it’s a joy to listen to all the way through. Perhaps it’s destiny that a band of such well-balanced parts can’t keep a steady lineup — founding member Jim Stang left right before the album was finished, and the rest of Day Without Dawn now plays in the equally great Biclops. Understanding Consequences is a terrific epitaph.