While many have waved the flag for trad metal in recent years, one man has perhaps done a bit more than the rest: “Professor” Chris Black, owner/curator of Planet Metal Records, member of Superchrist, Pharaoh, and High Spirits, and head honcho of Dawnbringer, the latter project being the subject of this review.  Nucleus was this reviewer’s introduction to Dawnbringer (shame on me), a Chicago-based outfit who’ve been in operation for a number of years, and it brings a weighty brand of true metal to the table, the kind where shirtless, long-haired sweaty dudes wearing patch-clad denim rule the roost (just the way I like it).

A half-assed description of the sound brought to life by Dawnbringer would be one portraying a pissed-off Manilla Road with Lemmy on vocals.  At least it’s a starting point.  Black and his cohorts have torn into the pattern that weaves heavy metal, hacked it up a bit, and come out with something sounding unique yet essentially timeless.  A thick, galloping, NWOBHM-esque backbone is the (pardon the pun) nucleus of Nucleus, with rhythms and riffs branching out from the core, all creating a heavy, moody, purely metal masterpiece, the likes of which resonate indefinitely in the brains and bones of listeners.

For good examples of the power and subtle bipolarity of Nucleus, listen to “So Much for Sleep,” a steadily building heavy metal head-shaker; “The Devil,” an intense near-thrashing assault on the ears; “Swing Hard,” complete with Maiden gallop and smoky-lunged verses; “Like an Earthquake,” slow paced yet malevolent; or “Old Wizard,” an excellent exercise in trad-doom.  While some may say the album begins to wind down toward its second half, it’s more as though Dawnbringer shifted focus, moving from a more energetic, riff-oriented sound (the driving “So Much for Sleep”) to one that’s more ethereal and atmospheric (the hypnotic “Pendulum”); it’s somewhat like falling asleep (though the album won’t have that effect on you).  The gradual change in dynamic is welcomed.

Those who dug Züül earlier this year (released on Black’s own Planet Metal, not surprisingly) should also enjoy this latest offering from Dawnbringer.  It’s intelligent, gritty, and heavy with the weight of reality.  Can’t wait to hear what comes next―and what I’ve missed―from this group.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jodi Van Walleghem
December 22nd, 2010


  1. Commented by: Biff Tannen

    Jodi- Check out the previous album, ‘In Sickness and In Dreams’ . Completely different vibe, completely awesome.

  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Never understood the love for this act- didnt care a whole lot for in sickness, care even less for this. at least in sickness had some very fine elements of black metal riffage.

  3. Commented by: Scott Alisoglu

    Outstanding review, Jodi. The second paragraph brilliantly captures the essence of this album. And yes, Erik, we know well your general distaste for trad metal, hee hee

  4. Commented by: .W.

    a rather disappointing followup to the concise, highly personal and more emotive “ISAID”. i, also, prefer the black metal leanings to the (admittedly genuine) trad elements found here.

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