Friday 26 September 2014

Dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/10/2014
Label: Profound Lore

‘Night of the Hammer’  CD/DD track listing:

1). Alien
2). The Burning Of Home
3). Nobody There
4). Xiphias
5). Hands Of Death
6). One-Eyed Sister
7). Damn You
8). Not Your Night
9). Funeral Child
10). Crawling Off To Die


Known as one of America’s most cult underground heavy metal bands, DAWNBRINGER have always been one of the hidden gem ambassadors of true American metal, led by none other than acclaimed heavy metal musician/multi-instrumentalist visionary Chris Black. Lurking within the metal underground for almost 20 years now, Black (who also masterminds the rocking metal outfit High Spirits) has created a vision with DAWNBRINGER unlike any other band in American heavy metal today. Well-respected metal blog Invisible Oranges have even recently christened Black as “heavy metal’s last singer-songwriter.”

The new DAWNBRINGER album “Night Of The Hammer” is the perfect example of this. Comprised of ten stripped down singer-songwriter heavy metal odes trending even more towards rock territory, the songs from “Night Of The Hammer” display themselves as more mid-paced/slower-like melodic wonders that sway through beautiful guitar harmonics, with mostly straightforward time-signatures, and Black’s unique and glorious vocals we’ve always known for him to deliver. Musically “Night Of The Hammer” goes even more traditional and straightforward than any previous DAWNBRINGER album, with its classic metal vibe inherent throughout, the new album also incorporates a classic ‘70s vibe with even more of a doomier vibe as well at times. “Night Of The Hammer” could also very well be the most unique DAWNBRINGER offering, in vibe and structure, right behind/alongside 2006’s “In Sickness And In Dreams”.

Another chapter in the DAWNBRINGER legacy nonetheless is at hand and once again DAWNBRINGER are here to claim heavy metal as the law

The Band:

Chris Black | Bass, drums, keyboards, Vocals (lead)
Bill Palko | Guitars
Matt Johnsen | Guitars (Lead)
Scott Hoffman | Guitars (Rhythm)


Dawnbringer are a very unique band to write about if you’re someone like me, who is so used to only exercising certain descriptive muscles. I’ve focused almost solely on developing new ways to capture in words the pervasive darkness, anger, despair, hatred, etc.  Going on in the vast majority of the metal world. So, when faced with a Dawnbringer album that is often inspiring, or in the case of “Xiphias”, downright happy at times, I find myself wondering if I even have the words at my disposal to do it justice. Self-indulgent horseshit aside, is the album any good? Fuck yes, it is!
First and foremost, Chris Black’s vocals have improved immensely. He sounds so much more natural using his voice as he does on ‘Night of the Hammer’ as compared to ‘Into the Lair of the Sun God’. He also uses vocal harmonies frequently and to great effect. Even on the vocally out-of-character “Funeral Child”, where he clearly pays tribute to King Diamond in both range and in arrangement, he seems more comfortable and confident than ever before.

Musically, ‘Night of the Hammer’ is every bit as good as ‘Into the Lair of the Sun God’ and in some ways even better. The thing that Dawnbringer does better than almost anyone is keep things simple without sacrificing enthusiasm or its ability to keep the listener invested. It’s quite the magic trick, for the few that can truly make it happen. On the whole, it’s a bit more reserved than ‘Into the Lair’ tempo-wise, though a good reference point for its overall sound would be the second half of ‘Into the Lair’.

There are numerous highlights, but the best moments on the album usually spring from vocal hooks or brilliant, simple guitar melodies. Subdued almost choir like vocals behind a riff that recalls, of all things, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” opens the blissful “The Burning of Home”. It leads into the fist-poundingly good verse where Black’s self harmonization is at its best on the album. The song sounds familiar, but whatever variants of this musical theme exist otherwise; they’re never this powerful.

“One-Eyed Sister” begins with guitar strumming I can only describe as medieval, but the main riff is what’s important. My god, this riff! It’s so infectious, so brilliantly-crafted and loaded with palpable emotion you don’t care or even really notice that it goes on for two and a half minutes of a four and a half minute song. Aided by some delicious, strategically-placed guitar leads, the riff never gets tired. “Not Your Night” makes for a pretty satisfying, albeit brief black metal diversion even while completely at odds with the remainder of the album musically. It doesn’t hurt the flow of the album or dip the album’s quality at all, so no harm done.

What puts Dawnbringer as a band and “Night of the Hammer” as an album in an elite class of metal bands in 2014 is getting everything possible out of an idea. It’s never beaten to death or laborious, but they deeply explore, as much as I can imagine, virtually every section of every song. It’s possible that I’m idealising their creative process, but it just feels like they’ve made it a personal goal to say “You think these riffs are used up, old or too simple for metal in 2014? Let us show you how wrong you are!” I don’t know if we’ll ever see another band do more with material this easy to grasp. Either way, this album is absolutely mandatory listening.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a copy from 24/10/2014 here