Dawnbringer_Night of the HammerOne of the biggest disappointments this year was Profound Lore’s inexplicable failure to get us a copy of the new Dawnbringer promo, Night of the Hammer. Due to said failure, it was we who might have missed one of the best albums of the year. I’ve been a major supporter of Chris Black’s (High Spirits, Pharaoh, ex-Nachtmystium) weird proto-metal project ever since their outre Nucleus platter, and I was equally bowled over by 2012’s Into the Lair of the Sun God. Maintaining the band’s upward trajectory once again, Night of the Hammer takes the Dawnbringer sound even further backward into metal’s past, coming across like a hybrid of Manilla Road and Blue Oyster Cult, with the occasional nods to Cirith Ungol and Trouble. What results is one of the best and most listenable albums of the year and like his rocking High Spirits release from earlier in 2014, it’s another triumph for Mr. Black.

If you need two words to describe NotH, those words should be “stripped down.” This is an austere, sparse album, that somehow manages to open up more and more with repeat spins. The guitar riffs and melodies are often immediate and memorable, but the songs themselves grow impressively if the listener lets them marinate for a spell. Tracks like “Alien” and “The Burning of Rome” are simple and direct, but the combination of winning riffs and Black’s increasingly interesting vocals make them immediate winners. Then there are the bigger, more epic numbers like “Xiphias,” which sounds like Led Zeppelin‘s “Achilles Last Stand” filtered through a Blue Oyster Cult weirdness strainer to arrive at something like a heavier, more grandiose version of “Astronomy.”

The show stopper is “One-Eyed Sister,” which has enthralled several AMG staff members in unhealthy and nonproductive ways. It’s like morose folk rock that drifts into introspective doom and back out again to find itself rooted in rock once again. The simplistic beauty of the guitar melodies slay me and Black outdoes himself with a slobberknocker vocal performance. Moody and addictive stuff and a strong contender for Song o’ the Year.

Dawnbringer_2014

There are even a few surprises, like the sudden lurch into Mercyful Fate territory on “Funeral Child” where Black (or someone else) does an uncanny King Diamond impersonation. This one is a bit out-of-place with the rest of the album and feels jarring, but it’s still fun. There’s also a return to the Darkthrone-esque black thrash last heard on Nucleus during “Not Your Night.”

As a whole, NotH plays amazingly well and like the two previous Dawnbringer albums, there’s something very arcane and addictive about it that keeps drawing me back. It’s almost entirely based around a plodding, mid-tempo rumble, but the guitar harmonies make it feel far more lively than it is. There are so many tasty, old school riffs from the  late 70s  and early 80s, it’s actually a bit mind-blowing. Making things all the better are Black’s newly diverse and listenable vocals, and where they were somewhat of a liability in the past, they now remind me of something off a Hammers of Misfortune platter and make the material even more captivating and quirky.

Three albums in a row and Dawnbringer seems to keep getting better even as their sound shifts into new and unusual places. If you haven’t checked these guys out yet, you’re missing one of America’s best metal bands, and Night of the Hammer is another laurel for them to rest on. Good thing for us Chris Black never seems to rest. And did I mention that awesome cover art? It’s obviously hammer time.

Tracks to Check: “One-Eyed Sister,” “Xiphias” and “Alien”

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  • El_Cuervo

    Alien and One-Eyed Sister are sooo good. It nearly killed me to not put this on my year-end list. It might have made it with a bit more time, but it is an EXCELLENT album this.

  • Andy_0

    I just couldn’t get into this one. I was so used to Dawnbringer albums being cohesive, and this just seemed like a random mish-mash of his influences. The songs aren’t bad, they just feel like they don’t belong on the same album.

    • Into the Lair of the Sun God was pretty uniform, but I never really thought of Dawnbringer as a “cohesive” band. Nucleus is all over the damn map, but it still worked somehow.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Man, I love this album cover.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I like the second picture better: “My parents went to Nibelheim and all they brought me back was this crummy hammer”.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I miss the vocal work heard on their earlier releases. I think that’s what made songs like “V” hit me at such a deep level. Chris Black is one of my favourite vocalists regardless of genre. It’s an interesting change of place. Looking forward to repeat listens of NOTH.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Indeed we have missed a marvel this year!! Some amazing songwork in here!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    At the risk of being boo’d at, I found ‘Into the Lair…’ in all regards way too samey… Pleased to hear he’s bring something new here…
    Listening to ‘One Eyed Sister’ now…hot damn it’s a good song alright.

    • BOO-urns!!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        i deserved that :)

  • Wilhelm

    This is my disappointment of the year, Sun God was brilliant, as is the High Spirits stuff, this one lacks any kind of direction, contains bland songwriting, bad production, no vision or any kind of connection between the songs…not to mention that silly King Diamond rip off song (where he rips off the beginning drum fill of Welcome Home) The first couple of tracks are alright but the rest is like a Dawnbringer parody, very very average.

    • Yeah I agree, Sun God’s cohesion was part of what made it so excellent start to finish. I found myself distractedly bouncing around songs on Night of the Hammer and hurriedly switching tracks whenever “Funeral Child” came on —- I love the King but woah, this was rough to listen to. A bummer, I feel like both Black’s releases in 2014 failed to impress me and I so wanted them to.

      • Wilhelm

        Well the High Spirits disc grew on me, but I’m kind of losing faith in his choice of production. Both albums were raw (which I like) but have a muddy sound, as though he didn’t put them through a proper mastering process. I’m also disappointed in his abandonment of rough vocals on the new Dawnbringer which makes some parts kind of sound like High Spirits. Black needs time to focus again.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    I think I’m calling this one as album of the year for myself. Sorry, Yob and Pallbearer.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    This music was great. It hit me so hard. It makes a point to let the listener know it’s just too much. If you can’t move (or be moved) to/by this, you’re probably dead. I hope Black keeps making records like this, when others are making ones like it and they just don’t hit. But why would he ever stop doing this? It’s hammer, promo pic hammer, Night of the Hammer, cover hammer, and the rest can go and play. Until it arrives in the post, I can’t touch this.

    • Oh no you didn’t!

    • Grymm

      That last sentence…

      *slow-but-building applause*

  • I’ve listened to the High Spirits stuff and love it! Some how Dawnbringer got by me. And….I had no idea that this and High Spirits were from the same dude. That off-kilter vocal style is what pulled me in when first sampling High Spirits. Anyway…with all the praise….these albums are for sure on my list.

  • Innit Bartender

    Yes! Knowing the love AMG and I share for Dawnbringer, I was really upset that this review hadn’t seen the light of day yet.
    I was even going paranoid, thinking that maybe you hated it and now weren’t pushing it in spite and revenge.
    One-eyed sister has the very same effect on me. Song of the year!
    But if you had to give it a vote, what would that be?

  • Oberon

    I’m listening to this now, it sounds a lot like the Sword to me. Maybe it’s because I cannot keep up with all the influences and references you make to other bands

  • Cirith Ungol. Cirith Ungol. Cirith Ungol. Cirith Ungol.

  • Carniverous Ruminant

    I keep bouncing off this (One-Eyed Sister notwithstanding – great tune), which is disappointing because I love Professor Black in each and every incarnation. It could just be my predilection towards NWOBHM/vest metal, but NotH just hasn’t grabbed me yet. Still, another thanks to you guys for turning me on to Dawnbringer. Sun God is my favorite album of the last 5 years, and I will forever associate it as a bright spot in a really crappy time in my life.

  • Osama Bhatti

    Dawnbringer released something this year?!?!? Gaaaahhhhhhhhhddddammmnnnittttt!!!!!! I did miss this in 2014.

  • Berit Dogg

    If you want to buy this as a digital download on Bandcamp, don’t go look for Dawnbringer’s page (where you’ll find only physical formats, and under the ‘merch’ section, not the ‘music’ section). The digital versions of the latest three albums are on Profound Lore’s Bandcamp page. Which in turn you won’t find by searching on Bandcamp for “Profound Lore” or “Dawnbringer”… you’ll have to google “bandcamp profound lore”. These guys will keep their underground status a bit longer I predict.