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Terrible As The Dawn - "A Shadow Circuit" | Album Review


by Ggregg Stull

Two-piece bands are often celebrations of simplicity—skeletal, hook-laden, focused on the basic ingredients necessary to make catchy music (Washer comes to mind). But occasionally duos—harnessing some combination of effects and sheer virtuosity—create a huge, intricate sound equivalent to that of a full band, leaving one a little stunned to realize it is only two people making the music. Terrible as the Dawn, a two-piece heavy band from Ann Arbor, Michigan, falls in the latter category. 

Terrible as the Dawn consists of Caroline (guitar, vocals) and Stephen (drums, vocals), who have been playing together for around two years. Their music is not easily binned—if forced to apply genres I would probably use words like “metal,” “hardcore,” and “shoegaze,” maybe with the prefix “post” or “black” used here and there. But clearly they draw from a huge range of influences—their songs combine frantic dissonance, metallic fuzz, crushingly heavy breakdowns, enveloping atmospheric guitar, and clean melodic passages, with both members contributing vocals (usually screams). Caroline and Stephen use these diverse elements to create hugely dynamic, expansive songs that are simultaneously complex and visceral. 

Terrible as the Dawn’s second EP, A Shadow Circuit, follows up their first EP, WEAK, from 2016. A similar range of styles is present on both EPs, but A Shadow Circuit feels more ambitious—the dynamic range is bigger, the ideas are more captivating, the songs are arranged and paced with clear intention. The four songs, reaching just over 27 minutes, contain no filler, but several parts of the album do stand out. The beginning of “Dull and Grey” would likely revive a coma patient—the guitar is frenzied and dissonant, the drums are staggering, and Caroline’s shrieks are hair raising. Following the frantic intro is a slight reprieve, but before long the song again builds to pummeling levels, with Stephen’s screams hovering above a punctuated sludgy riff, leading to a cathartic peak of atmospheric guitar and explosive drumming. “Life, Not Machines” is another highlight, particularly the hypnotic, sliding guitar riff starting at 1:09 (and appearing again at 2:17), coupled with effective vocal interplay between Caroline and Stephen. 

A Shadow Circuit deserves close, and repeated, listens.