Interesting release we have right here folks. For those unaware, Dawnbringer is a project band of sorts for Chris Black (Pharaoh, Nachtmystium, Superchrist) and his guitar playing buddies and together they create something like a mix of NWOBHM, straight up American metal, black metal, thrash and doom (there’s even moments of quasi-southern rock). Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing, I dare you! Nucleus is their fourth full-length and yep, it’s one humdinger of a rickety metal contraption. At times sounding like a weird mash-up of Iron Maiden, Slough Feg, Motorhead and Black Sabbath, this thing rumbles and rambles all over the place and always seems ready to come unhinged but it just screams METAL! From the production, riffs and vocals, there’s an ever present rough and tough vibe and despite the myriad of styles and influences Dawnbringer tries to squish together, they somehow managed to craft some great metal songs that will stick in your head for a long time.
Opening track “So Much for Sleep” gets the ball rolling with a huge and memorable riff borrowed right from the Pharaoh/Maiden playbook and the guitars of Scott Hoffman, Matt Johnsen (also from Pharaoh) and Bill Palko never let go from there. This is a very guitar driven album and with the styles these gents bring to the party, you couldn’t ask for anything more. There’s one tooth rattling riff after another along with outstanding lead work and this makes Nucleus flow along seamlessly despite Dawnbringer’s tendency to leap between doom, thrash and rock in the blink of an eye. I really can’t say enough about the pure metallic coolness of the guitar work on display here. However, all that cool guitar wouldn’t mean a damn thing if it wasn’t done in the service of good songs (see most Yngwie albums for Exhibit A) but thankfully, Dawnbringer shines in this department too. Nucleus is loaded with well thought out, catchy and cool-as-all-hell metal songs with memorable choruses. From the Maiden-styled attack on “So Much for Sleep” to the near black metal onslaught of “The Devil,” the doom of “Like an Earthquake” and “Old Wizard” and the soundtrack to a mass shooting “All I See, ” Nucleus rocks hard and rides free.
While Nucleus is fraught with great songs and guitar bad-assery aplenty, it does at times get held back a little by the minimalist vocals of Chris Black. Not that his performance is bad (it actually fits the music well), it’s just a very simple, gruff shout/sing style that could be compared to King Fowley on the October 31 albums, Bob Mayo of Wargasm or maybe a young Lemmy. While he won’t remind anyone of Bruce Dickinson, the music doesn’t call for an air raid siren type of singer. Still, I imagine some could be turned off by his delivery. Another slight downside is a raw production which, while fine in and of itself, results in a slightly crappy drum sound. No, it isn’t St. Anger bad, but it does sound clunky.
These criticisms aside, I haven’t stopped listening to Nucleus in days, it’s got more legs than a mutant tarantula and definitely has a charm all it’s own. This should have ended up on my Top Ten(ish) list for the year but I got around to reviewing it too damn late and for that I feel shame, remorse, regret and some ennui. This is metal as Hell and more fun than a barrel full of Japanese sex robots! Repeat after me: NucleYES!