All For the King – “Darkest Before Dawn”


I got this album in my inbox on the day before the release date which happened to be Good Friday. On Good Friday, my church was doing an all night vigil where folks could sign up for an hour to read the psalms through the night of Good Friday into Holy Saturday morning. I signed up for the 4-5am slot. It takes me about 20-25 minutes to get to the church from my house, so I decided to pack this album for a listen along the way to keep me awake to and from church.

Man, does this album hit the mark on so many levels. Driving in the early morning with this Sabbath inspired doom/heavy metal was very atmospheric. The music has a darker quality to it, but gives witness to the light. It is bold praise to God and inspired by the scriptures, setting me up well for my vigil by keeping me awake and my mind on the things of God. After my hour of psalms, I drove back finishing up the album which dovetailed beautifully with the words of the psalms I had been praying, especially parts about playing instruments and singing a new song to the Lord. Given that the album title is “Darkest Before Dawn” and I was driving back in the dark of the early morning made the experience all the more profound.

Although tempting to just call it a 10 and be done based on this experience, I owe it to the readers to give more narrative. A little background first: All for the King is a Christian metal/hard rock band from Sweden that channel the Black Sabbath sound of yesteryear with dark and plodding riffs and haunting vocal melodies. They were formed in 2016 and released their debut album, “All for the King” in 2017 to critical acclaim. The second album “Let there be Light” was released in 2021. Leading up to “Darkest Before Dawn” they released the first single “Seventh Seal” back in 2022, showing that writing has been in the works for a while for the band.

Upon first listen, I can hear a lot of the similarities with Sabbath. There is a dark tendency in their sound, driven by hypnotic riffs that are juxtaposed with uplifting praise and scriptural lyrics. Ricard’s vocals are really good and atmospheric, commanding a great vocal range. The melody keep these songs in my head for a long while, but it isn’t all plodding doom metal. The album has a pretty good diverse group of songs that relate well to each other and keep the interest high.

The album is a little on the shorter side, clocking in at 34 minutes. One reason is a streamlined song writing that is both challenging and refreshing to listen to. AFTK often will dispose of common song structures like a pre-chorus or bridge giving a no frills feel to the song. There is a level of musical confidence to do something like that considering all the other bands are using them. The songs “Stay Awake,” “Blind Leading the Blind,” and “Surrender” end after the solo break, cutting short what I expected to be a longer track. I am often left craving more on these songs. So what do I do? I spin it again!

Their wheelhouse is classic doom metal and it shows. The first song after the atmospheric opening track is “The Seventh Seal” with riffage that is very reminiscent of 70s Sabbath. Ulf Christiansson guests as the vocalist on this track and is a good song to start of the album. “Light in the Dark” is a cool juxtaposition of these dark heavy riffs and bright lyrics of light amid the darkness and “Fearless” is the long lost brother of the Black Sabbath song “Electric Funeral.” Ricard’s vocals double with the riff making for a cool effect, reminding me of the early years of metal.

But AFTK does more than just doom. My favorite track on the album is “Praise for the King,” an upbeat, high energy heavy metal praise song. The chorus is catchy and there is a nice instrumental break with a very engaging guitar solo. “Stay Awake” has a softer edge to it, but not quite a ballad in my opinion. The chorus is simply “Stay Awake” with a harmonizing backing choir. “Surrender” is a short and sweet ballad that makes use of piano in the mix. Each of the songs are so unique but string together so nicely.

The last thing I want to point out is the enjoyable lead guitar and solo work. The solos are crafted to fit in well with the song with a focus on elevating the band’s sound rather than spotlighting technical prowess.

If you can’t tell by now, I think that this is a cool album. There is a lot of good writing, good performances, and melodies to keep you company throughout your day. It is truly a soundtrack for us as we walk towards the light in dark times. The only rather minimal drawback is that I felt some of the songs could be developed a little more which would have helped in the shorter length of the album. That said, the songs are great as they are, praising Jesus and keeping the truth in our ears.

Rating: 9.0/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – Darkest Before Dawn
2 – The Seventh Seal
3 – Light in the Dark
4 – Stay Awake
5 – Fearless
6 – Blind Leading the Blind
7 – You Are My King
8 – Welcome
9 – Surrender
10 – Mind Pollution

All For The King is:
Ricard Hulteke – vocals
Erik Tilling – guitars
Andreas Alov – bass
Anders Kollerfors – drums

Ulf Christiansson (Jerusalem) – vocals on “The Seventh Seal”

Release Date: March 29, 2024

Record Label: Roxx Records

All For the King (2017)
Let There Be Light (2021)
Darkest Before Dawn (2024)

Social Media: Facebook | Spotify

Video for ‘The Seventh Seal’

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