Like An Earthquake

feature image

The ever busy and resolutely dedicated warrior of Heavy Metal Chris Black is a talented songwriter and versatile musician, as one can hear with clarity in his work with bands like Superchrist, Dawnbringer, High Spirits, and Pharaoh. He’s also one hell of a nice guy and a true supporter of Metal on multiple levels, not the least of which includes his past work as journalist Professor Black for the [now defunct] Metal Maniacs and as owner/operator of Planet Metal Records. But the primary topic at hand warranting exploration and selective dissection concerns Dawnbringer and new Profound Lore album Into the Lair of the Sun God, the follow up to the equally spectacular Nucleus. As pigeonholing is for the birds, we’ll just call the Dawnbringer style well written, heartfelt, and dynamic Heavy Metal. This time around Black took on the ambitious task of writing a bona fide concept album into which we shall delve in short order. We’ll also be shedding some light on the new Superchrist album, which is titled Holy Shit and can be obtained for a paltry sum via Hells Headbangers Records. It is a grand example of no frills, catchy Metal, which deserves some virtual ink and your hard earned trinkets. Dawnbringer headlined this year’s Alehorn of Power Fest VI at Reggie’s in Chicago and as I can attest personally, the faces melted were many and the reverberations from the decibels dealt can still be felt. Incidentally, this interview was conducted the week prior to the show, as you’ll soon realize. In any case, allow us to bring it so that you may consider it brought upon completion of this full meal of the written word.

Let’s talk about Chicago’s Alehorn of Power Fest a bit before we forge ahead. You’re the headliner this year.

We rehearsed today and we’ve been hitting it pretty hard for the last two weeks, but we’ve been kind of warming up for it quite a bit longer than that. It’s going well. We decided we wanted to do a pretty different set list compared to last time just because we assume it’s going to be a lot of the same people; we don’t want to give them the same show. I mean there is some stuff that we’re playing that we played two years ago also, but I’d say overall the set is about 50 percent different. We’re playing some stuff from the new album and we had a lot of other stuff that we didn’t do then.

Enlighten those otherwise unfamiliar with Alehorn of Power.

Every year it’s been different. This is the sixth one. It’s usually at a different venue, although there are certain ones it’s been at two or three times. The venue is never a given nor is the direction the lineup is going to go. The lineup last year was kind of all over the place. You had Orange Goblin and Nachtmystium and Zuul; it was really going in a lot of different directions musically last year. The place was packed and they did it at the Double Door. Other years have been a little more low-key, like the one that Superchrist played. Bible of the Devil is of course a constant; it’s their drummer Greg that puts it on. As a credit to Greg, it always runs smoothly and there is never any bullshit. It’s always kinda cool and there is always a band or two that you might not otherwise find yourself watching. For example, one year they had Argus and I think a lot people know the band now because they made that second record, which was really big for them. But back then there probably weren’t a lot of people in Chicago who knew about the band and were there to see the other bands. Then they see Argus and people were totally psyched about them after that show. Greg does a good job of putting bands that he likes in front of crowds and giving them a shot. It’s always a quality show and it’s always worth checking out.

What players are in the live version of Dawnbringer?

The live band is a little bit different from the studio band. The drummer is Ian [“Viper” Sugierski] who is sort of my left hand man of drummers; he’s in Superchrist and High Spirits. Scott Hoffman is playing guitar and he’s also in the High Spirits band, so there is always an overlap in the family of musicians that are working together. The other guitar is played by a guy named Matt Altieri who is a long-time friend of mine; we have a lot of mutual friends too. He was in Deceased for a while as their touring guitarist for two or three years. He was in the Deceased lineup that toured with Superchrist in 2010. I was watching him play the Deceased sets night after night and I knew he had the chops and thought that he might have the interest for Dawnbringer. And sure enough he was all for it when I asked him two years ago. He lives in New England, so we don’t get to rehearse with him obviously as much as we’d like to, but we’re doing the same thing we did last time where we fly him out and we rehearse with the full lineup all weekend. Now that he’s back home we’re continuing to practice and Matt is practicing on his own.

Recap the players on the album for us then.

The album is the same lineup as the last album minus the acoustic guitar player because there is no acoustic guitar on the album. It’s myself on bass, drums, and vocals; Scott Hoffman plays all the guitar tracks; and there are two guitar players that play the solos, which are Matt Johnsen [Pharaoh] and Bill Palko.

I loved the last Dawnbringer album, Nucleus, and many others did as well.

I think it was going to be a hard one to beat in a lot of peoples’ eyes.

Any time you receive the follow-up to an album that you considered excellent it always takes a few listens to begin fully appreciating the new one. But after those few spins I can without hesitation say it’s on par with Nucleus, if not better.

I think this new album takes a few listens regardless.

True, but after those few spins it became apparent that Into the Lair of the Sun God has a better overall flow and perhaps a more cohesive quality, which I suppose isn’t surprising when one considers that it’s concept album.

Yeah, the edges on this one are smoothed out a little more. You can chalk the mix up to Sanford [Parker] too. It’s got a different character. The last one was more of a blasting and blaring album, while this one is a little more tempered maybe.

You really kept the actual written content included in the packaging to the bare minimum, including using only track sequence numerals in place of song titles. You’re making people work for it.

Yeah and that was by design obviously. We thought about different approaches to take with the presentation and ultimately I wanted to make people use their imaginations a little bit. I think it’s that kind of album where the listener has to do a little bit of the work. With the layout we didn’t want to give too much away. There isn’t much in the packaging, other than nine lines of lyrics from the first song that kind of sum up the premise of the story. If you’re watching a movie and you know the language it’s in you don’t want to have subtitles on at the same time; you want to get the inflection of the words and maybe not catch everything the first time or even the second time. It gives the album a little more longevity. Some people won’t have the patience for it and won’t like it for whatever reason, and that never bothers me.

What can you say broadly about the concept?

Broadly, it’s a story about an assassin who sets this quest for himself and it turns out to not be at all what he thought he was getting into. And it ends tragically of course. It’s a story of failure. If you go to the Profound Lore website the lyrics are up there though. I don’t mind people having the lyrics at all, but I didn’t want the lyrics to be attached to the record in the way that they would be if they were printed out in a booklet.

The opening two tracks are fantastic. It’s interesting the way the melodies are written because it is not necessarily the case that it’s a “chorus” that grabs you; it may be something as simple as the way a particular line is sung. Currently, it’s the line “Silence you bastard!” that has been sticking with me.

That’s cool, thanks. It seems like a lot of people have kind of picked up on that line in particular. Profound Lore sent me a review from a zine and the review was actually titled “Silence you bastard.” It’s just part of the story; the warrior being that cocky and mouthing off to the sun like that [laughs].

Track “II” is one of the best up-tempo ass-kickers you’ve written.

Oh thanks. Track two on any album is important and in the live set too. What goes in the track two position can make or break the album; or at least the sequence of an album, which can also make or break an album. Luckily, we didn’t really have to think about that too much with this one since they were already pretty much in order.

Another one that caught my attention was the closing segment of track “III” with that vocal treatment used when uttering “In the Lair of the Sun God.” Then on track “IV” the bass is so important to the centrality of the song, although the bass on much of what you do seems to play an important role.

Yes, especially in that song, you’re right. The bass is pretty much pounding the whole way through. “VI” is another one that’s pretty busy on the bass. Trying to learn that one for the live show took some time; it’s a lot going on, especially for Dawnbringer.

And that old school organ sound in there! It’s like Uriah Heep or something.

Or Deep Purple, yeah. It’s not a vintage instrument or anything though.

How has the response to the album been so far?

As far as I can tell it’s been good. A lot of people were saying that Nucleus was a big album to beat and it did get a big response and opened up a lot of things for Dawnbringer in terms of exposure. The response has been great. Some people are getting into the story a little more than others, some people are into the riffs, and whatever; that’s why it has both.

Jumping to the new Superchrist album now, Holy Shit may have the best complete-album feel to it of the bunch. It’s one you want to listen to in its entirety every time it begins playing.

It came together really quickly; it was very much just pounded out. There is a lot of spontaneous stuff on there.

You know what to expect from Superchrist and it’s not like this is any major departure from the previous albums, but for whatever reason these songs just hang together really well.

We got a really good studio sound this time too and we haven’t always had that. It’s always kind of worked for what it was, but this time we spent a little bit of money and having Sanford mix it made a huge difference with the power and the amount of ass that it kicks sonically. That just makes the songs sound that much better. Whether it’s our best batch of songs I don’t know; time will tell I guess. But it’s definitely the best we’ve sounded.

It seems like I was talking to you at one point and your plan was to self-release it, but it ended up getting released on Hells Headbangers.

Yeah, that was the plan for a long time. The record was actually done and mastered. I don’t know what the moment of inspiration was, but I figured it never hurts to ask and I sent an e-mail to Hells Headbangers stating that the record was done and included a couple of songs. And sure enough they released it. But the plan up until that point was to put it out myself and then try to get a vinyl release out as well, and Hells Headbangers has done both .It was the best case scenario really and I don’t think that’s putting it too strongly. I don’t think there would be a more appropriate or better label for this band. They do a great job. They have a great reputation and they’ve earned it by just working hard. They always carried our catalogue titles, so I’ve been dealing with them for a while and they’ve been supporting the band for quite a while. Hopefully it lasts longer than some of our label relationships have lasted.

You’ve been up to your neck in metal or rock for a long time; it’s truly a way of life for you on many levels. It’s a got to be a true labor of love. You’re 24/7 and there is a real discipline involved in what you do.

I like what I’m doing and I like the people I’m working with. It’s great having a team of people you can count on for certain things. There are some people I count on for multiple things and people I work really closely with. This is what I want to do professionally and obviously it’s very fulfilling personally in a lot of ways. I hope the good years outweigh the bad years and I can make a somewhat long-term thing out of it. It takes discipline for sure, it takes good planning and again it takes a good team of people to work with and who communicate well with each other and are always ready to go. I stack the deck. If I’m looking for a guitar player I’m not looking at a posting over at the music store; I’m looking through my phone contacts to see who might be around [laughs] and feels like playing. I try to keep as many of my friends around as I can. That’s the extra bonus that makes it so fucking rewarding.


  1. Commented by: Jono

    Cool interview. I never heard of the band before but ordered the CD from Amazon on the strength of this. You better be right Scott! Sounds like my cup of tea.

Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.