Review Summary: „You’re not crazy / Just insane / Lying to the lunatic / Who lives inside your brain.”
Dawnbringer is a band from the US that has been around since 1995 and has been putting out records since then but they never hit mainstream success nor did they surpass their status as an underground band, despite having almost constantly released albums that seemed to appeal to fans of the genre and critics alike. It’s pretty much the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Chris Black, who’s also playing in other bands like High Spirits, Pharaoh and Superchrist. He also played guitars and keyboards on Nachtmystium’s “Eulogy IV” EP. This album is my first contact with the band.
I read a lot of descriptions online that try to describe the sound of Dawnbringer in many different ways and try to put them into a specific subgenre, but each of them fail to really capture the essence of their sound. You can’t blame them for that, because what this band plays is Heavy Metal in its foundation but it utilizes influences from many other different subgenres e.g. Black Metal, Doom Metal, Thrash Metal etc. and pours them into the mix, creating a very remarkable and immediately recognizable breed of Metal with a very old school vibe to it. The band uses a great bandwidth of stylistic devices, ranging from Sabbath-esque doom riffs to sludgy noise attacks to epicness reminiscent of Manilla Road, it’s all in there. You realize that this band has been around for some time when you notice that even though you can clearly hear certain influences, they somehow manage to create their very own beast, they never lose themselves in merely copying the things that they put in their sound, which I think is great.
Something that Dawnbringer manage to nail perfectly is the atmosphere. In a sector that’s plagued with young bands claiming to play music in the vein of their old idols while never really getting the spirit or the feeling that these old albums delivered, Dawnbringer provide a refreshing change of pace, as they manage to pack the atmosphere that made early doom releases and also the likes of Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa” so fascinating into their 2010 release, without ever sounding dated or uninteresting. The production itself is good, keeping that muffled sound reminiscent of earlier releases, while successfully giving each instrument enough space, the bass is clearly audible, the lead guitars play their melodies in a way that’s very pleasing for one’s eardrums and the rhythm guitars relentlessly crunch their way forward. With that being said, the vocals and the drums often sound a bit muffled, giving away some potential.
This leads me to a major problem that this record has (at least in my opinion): The vocals. It’s not that they are terrible, they’re just nothing stellar. Chris Black gets the job done but without ever being able to create magical moments or really captivating the listener, his vocals are quite forgettable, whereas I am much more please by his basslines. After all not every band has someone like Scott Weinrich behind the mic. I need to mention though that the production and the songwriting itself clearly show that the emphasis in Dawnbringer’s music is not on the vocals, many songs do not have many lines of text and none of the songs contains a chorus. The lyrics are nothing fancy, but they never seem forced or made up and they never get too cheesy (“You Know Me” being a possible exception for some of the listeners.)
As for the song material itself, I think it’s very good. Dawnbringer have a great sense of pace, always constantly playing in midtempo, while never becoming boring or uninteresting, due to great song material. There’s no filler on the album, every song is clearly different than all the others, every song contains something that the others don’t and thus the whole album makes for a fun, enjoyable listen that stays interesting throughout the whole ride. “Old Wizard” is pure old-school doom, “The Devil” sometimes breaks out in almost chaotic noise attacks, “Swing Hard” has almost hymnic parts, “Cataract” is a very beautiful slower, balladic track and “Pendulum” ends the album with beautiful contributions from the acoustic guitars, climaxing in a murky, dissonant part. The fact that the band uses four guitars also helps them to paint their own picture, being able to greatly vary their sound throughout the whole thing. The lead guitars take on many different forms, being able to play everything Maiden-ish lead melodies to crushing doom riffage, whilst always keeping the melodies very prominent in the overall picture.
Conclusively I can say that I found this album to be a very good, very proficient and atmospheric release that should appeal to every fan of good Metal and especially to people with a huge liking for old-school metal, I can’t wait to get my filthy fingers on another release of theirs. Thoroughly underrated band, I encourage everyone to check them out.
Dawnbringer on this album (2010) was:
- Chris Black (Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Vocals)
- Scott Haskitt (Acoustic Guitars)
- Bill Palko (Lead Guitars)
- Matt Johnsen (Lead Guitars)
-Scott Hoffman (Rhythm Guitars)