QAALM arrived seemingly from nowhere in 2022, a quintet who kicked up its share of interest with debut Resilience & Despair. Now trimmed to a three-piece (Family Size to Snack Size…maybe I’m just hungry…), drummer Dave Ferrara and guitarist/vocalist Henry Derek join forces with guitarist Minsu Dylan Kim to “usher in” what purports to be “a new era” for the band.

A droning intro, populated by sparse fingerings and even more spacious bass, QAALM never in the greatest rush to get anywhere. This can harm some bands more than help, as a good many just don’t know how to give space the room to breathe and yet make that breath vibrant and alive as opposed to just unfocused wanderings. Shades of Ashes Against The Grain-era AGALLOCH are reference points once the title track begins its journey, and us alongside. Sprinkle a bit of post-Draconian Times PARADISE LOST here and there, and you’ve a good idea of where ‘First Light Of The Last Dawn’ fits sonically. The tornado from 3:10-4:51, then the eye of the storm until 5:02 only clears a path for the devastation that follows, the remainder of the whirlwind more powerful, something I believe the trio had to work up to…and did.

‘Ward 81’ is more ambient exercise than standard song, acoustics lending an air of the FLOYDian, in that the images more from melancholy to harrowing, that all-encompassing sense of “alone” that Messers Gilmour, Mason and Wright have always been able to evoke.

And now, the icing on a very filling cake for those who will lay down the ducats for the physical release…’Heaven & Hell’ by BLACK SABBATH as filtered through the lens of an adventurous collective spirit. Half guitar showpiece, the duo clearly enjoying playing off one another and – against all that I would’ve thought possible – lending elements to the original while always forever being faithful to the vibe of one of hard rock/metals most high pinnacles, Ferrara’s drums not only playing along but playing with, and pushing the band up the mountain. I can say without reservation, QAALM’s take on this track is my favorite ever, barring the original.

First Light Of The Last Dawn is a document of a band taking a first yet confident step into this true new era, and leaves these ears awaiting what’s to come.
Review By: Lord Randall

First Light Of The Last Dawn [EP]
Hypaethral Records