Review: Dawnbringer — Night of the Hammer

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Chris Black (known by people who prefer to use weird monikers such as “Professor Black”) stands at the helm of Dawnbringer, one of his numerous musical vehicles and doubtlessly his most venerated.

There’s no shortage of good reasons for the relatively heavy praise heaped upon the project. With it, he’s managed to stake a claim for a small slice of uncharted land on the map of metal. Land that, while clearly adjacent to the frustratingly overpopulated People’s Republic of Faceless Retro Bands Circle-jerking onto Proto-metal’s Titular Acts (or PRFRBCPTA), exists wholly apart. Proof of that ran deep through Into the Lair of the Sun God‘s fresh and (for lack of a better, less overused word) epic take on NWOBHM and more. While the lion’s share of throwback bands inevitably fall to the thrall of “Do you remember the good old days? LET ME REMIND YOU EXACTLY,” Dawnbringer approaches heavy metal antiquity with a cool, collected confidence; comfortable in its own skin and secure enough to let its own identity bleed through the schema.

Dawnbringer’s fixation on the airy, ethereal texture so prominent in all of its offerings accounts for a significant portion of their integrity. Their unique application of atmosphere and aura, which is achieved through the liberal use of open space rather than endlessly layering this upon that, allows them to draw from established genres while staying unmistakably Dawnbringeresque. In one striking example, the cyclical guitar leads that wind through the chorus of “Nobody There” perfectly exemplify the sort of otherwordly haze they’ve become experts at producing. Though similar moments abound, much of the credit for the ambiance belongs to the production. Sure, it’s plainly inspired by the days of analog, but it’s more than that. The guitars are uniquely crisp, the low-end is nice and rich, and reverb is masterfully implemented. It feels distant — not spatially, but elementally — and almost dreamlike. Realize that its ambiance doesn’t equate to extraneous frill. Dawnbringer’s music has always been stripped-down and straightforward, something that actually ends up augmenting the air of the remote and solitary.

Chris Black’s vocals, which have always been the most polarizing element of Dawnbringer as a whole, will polarize even further in Night of the Hammer. In Into the Lair of the Sun God, his singing was to some extent lost in the wash. Here, his voiced is placed at the forefront of it all. He’s improved over the past two years. You’ll hear him sing melodies full of higher notes more clearly and more consistently. In “Funeral Night” he even crosses into Mercyful Fate territory, albeit briefly. His forthright tone, which seems to be the preemenent obstacle for most, is here to stay. I happen to be a big fan of his singing. It’s honest and effortless, and it really adds to the esoteric mood of the music, especially when he harmonizes with himself. Look to “Alien” for a chilling example of that.

Dawnbringer2

Even at its fastest and most-headbangingest Dawnbringer has always had a moody undercurrent. In past albums it could be heard in nuance, nestled beneath the Iron Maiden-isms and Slough Feg-isms (my personal favorite type of –isms). Here, that moodiness dominates. The upbeat, fast-paced, NWOBHM-inspired riffing and soloing is all but gone, though you may detect its vestigial tail in “The Burning of Home.” In its stead? Slow-burning to mid-paced doom. Night of the Hammer is more prone to Sabbath comparisons than Maiden comparisons, and that’s probably a first for Dawnbringer. Consequently, the record is far darker than anything you’ve come to expect from the band. “One-Eyed Sister” is an ominously haunting piece, and the recurring dissonant chords echoing behind the riff at the end of “Funeral Child” sound downright malevolent in their hypnosis, in spiteful opposition of the groovy drive they’re backing. When it all comes down to it, “Damn You” is the darkest song I’ve heard all year (and there’s been some dark shit floating around in this toilet as of late).

Keep in mind that dark doesn’t always have to mean un-fun. “Hands of Death” doesn’t take long to get going like a Thin Lizzy classic, and the central riff in “Xiphias” is bouncy enough to be a good time even with its foreboding accents.

My one complaint is a minor one: “Not Your Night.” I’ll admit that, within the context of the narrative and the album’s structure, it makes a fair amount of sense. It’s the story’s climax, the event alluded to by all that brooding and foreboding. That being said, it still feels slightly ill-fitted. The blast beats and harsh vocals catch you off guard. It’s not enough to derail the album, but it’s enough to be jarring. Then again, maybe that was the intent and I’m reading it all wrong.

Night of the Hammer is Dawnbringer delivered in a different (specifically, less vibrant) light. At 40 minutes flat, it’s as succinct as it is unvarnished, which I appreciate. It’s moody as all get-out and uncharacteristically dark. Most importantly, they retain their identity, which is their very own.

NO FLUSH

Night of the Hammer is out on October 28 via Profound Lore. Pre-order it here.
Oh, and go like Dawnbringer on Facebook.

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  • Edward Meehan

    srs inquiry: is Dawnbringer power metal?

    • Xan

      No. They play heavy metal mixed with black metal.

      • Stockhausen

        Stay heavymetalmixedwithblackmetal.

        • Death

          This thing is getting out of controll soon.

          • Edward Meehan

            #stayinterarma

          • Death

            I’m gonna hide in the bomb shelter. I’m not dying when the “stay something” apocalypse is unleashed in its full power.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            #staysafefromapocalypse
            #stayintheshelter

          • Death

            It has begun!

          • #keepcalmandworshipheavymetalmixedwithblackmetal

          • Death

            And things just got worse.

          • Antonius Block, A knight

            #keepcalmwhilethingsgetworseandcontinuetohateverything.

          • David Vincent’s Spandex Shirt

            #keepcalmandstaymorbid

          • chive on, ann

          • Trust me, a large part of my soul died while typing that. And the rest escaped when I hit post.

          • #keepcalmandarchspire

          • W.
      • Edward Meehan

        I checked out Into the Lair of the Sun God some time back. I didn’t pick up the black metal elements in that one but I have not heard most of his / their music. I’m also not a black metal pvrist. Lol.

        • Xan

          Nor I. I don’t like pure black metal. It is a genre that really mixes well with other genres. The metal encyclopedia describes it as heavy metal with black metal influences. I still haven’t listened to two of their albums because I cannot find them anywhere.

          • Antonius Block, A knight

            Are Cryosphere and ICS Vortex’s solo familiar to you

          • Xan

            No. I have never heard of them.

          • Antonius Block, A Knight

            Try. And enjoy.

  • Xan

    I’ve been blown away with Dawnbringer’s content. I can’t wait to listen to this.

  • Stockhausen

    Is this our first no flush review?

    • Blunt Ass Nord was the first no flush review. We’re actually making some changes to the review format though. Rather than dick around with shades of gray, records will either be Flush or No Flush.

      • Edward Meehan

        That makes it easy, lol.

      • This system also adheres more strictly to the blueprint of RiotAct666’s Prime Flush, which we hold most sacred.

        • David Vincent’s Spandex Shirt

          The Gold Standard. With which all contenders are judged.

          • Jöhnny Crünch™

            First day buyer was also another standard

      • Death

        Blunt Ass Nord deserved it.

      • Stockhausen

        Oh yeah, the shiny diamond toilet. I was thinking of the 9.5/10 byahs.

  • the three songs they have on bandcamp are incredibly unremarkable.

  • Antonius Block, A knight

    I am won’t to say this but I liked “Hands of Death”. Less clammy than the ones I’m used to.

    Nor did these try to cheat me of my life

    • Death

      Could you just get over it? You can’t complain that it isn’t fun dancing here.

      • Antonius Block, A knight

        “Dancing in the moonlight, it’s caught me in it’s spotlight.”

        It only took me about 20 minutes to get going like Thin Lizzy. The Masterlord knows that which he speaks of.

  • Elite Extremophile

    God damn I needed this. The guy in the dorm next to mine got a fucking drum kit yesterday and I swear to god he only plays Bohemian Rhapsody at four in the morning.

    • Contact Joe. He’s looking for people to kill in fulfillment of his name-destiny.

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        How did he prove the rightness of the “Joe”- part?

    • @death loves loves loves bohemian rhapsody.

      • Cock ov Steele

        Is this the real life?

      • Elite Extremophile

        So I’ve heard.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    I may have to check their older material. But I’m mostly not feeling this.

  • The Satan Ov Hell

    I’ll be sure to pick it up

    • Hail! You won’t regret it. I hope.

      • The Satan Ov Hell

        I only regret paying money for the flushknot spooky scary skeleton chapter.

  • NefariousDude

    I am excited

  • I’ll definitely check this record out. I have Nucleus on vinyl and Into the Lair of the Sun God was really good.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    the bringing of the dawn– worldwide eternal valhalla

    the blackness as the ultimate edge of perception—where shadows await to be unveiled

    thunder—-for the true
    —–
    watch the 1st vid–full vol
    2nd vid –muted–
    3rd vid—100%vol

    http://youtu.be/CzzZkkiJMv8

    http://youtu.be/iP7yFm9Vub8

    http://youtu.be/1UETogHM8bc

  • I’m very much like a disease, and I spread . . . like a disease. Especially at night, when I have nothing better to do. And this album is going to be great. Another in the long line of releases from the Profound Lore camp you can say that about this year.

  • Further Down the Metal Hole

    Bookmarked for later listening (hopefully not dis)pleasure.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Professor Black was bad ass back in the Metal Maniacs days. Met Chis last momth

    • W.

      I think I have one of the last issues they ran. That was a good magazine.

  • anesthesiac

    They’ve got several tracks up on bandcamp. Literally could not stop listening to “one-eyed sister”.