Back in March, I wrote about the band High Spirits, and the man behind High Spirits, Chicago’s Chris Black. Black is a prolific and versatile musician who contributes to lots of bands, most notably the three acts which are more or less his and only his: High Spirits, Superchrist, and Dawnbringer.
Dawnbringer is the most celebrated of Black’s three alter egos, and consistently the best (though all three are pretty widely revered, and all three are very good). The last Dawnbringer album, Into The Lair Of The Sun God, was Stereogum’s second-favorite metal album of 2012, and the one before that, Nucleus, was our sixth-favorite metal album of 2010. In that March post, I wrote the following about Black and his three main projects:
Black’s nickname is “The Professor,” and I’ve heard from people who know him that he’s literally a genius, and while I have no idea if that claim is true, I like to believe it just the same. Because Black’s music absolutely feels to me like the work a genius might produce. It’s meticulously detailed, though not the way, like, Steely Dan records are meticulously detailed. Black’s ear for sound — and more importantly, his ability to produce (or reproduce) the sound he’s after — is almost without peer.
Each of Black’s musical iterations has its own identity, but each is also a lovingly crafted extension of a bygone era of metal (mostly circa the early to mid ’80s): Superchrist belong to the same rugged, drunken New Wave Of British Heavy Metal school that produced Saxon and Motörhead; Dawnbringer combine the melodic, anthemic, and progressive tendencies of Iron Maiden circa Piece Of Mind and Powerslave with those same tendencies as manifested in the music of Swedish black metal pioneers Bathory during that band’s viking period. And High Spirits are Black’s feelgood metal band, the one that would have scored a drag-race scene in a slob comedy circa 1983.
Dawnbringer are now set to release their sixth album, Night Of The Hammer, which steers sharply away from the direction the band was heading with Nucleus and Sun God, even though the destination appears unchanged. Night Of The Hammer feels like a lost proto-extreme metal classic from 1982, and if you packaged the thing with a Lewis-esque backstory, you could probably sell it as just that.
But while Black may be obsessed with esoteric and atavistic sounds, he’s not presenting Dawnbringer as retro kitsch. In the hands of a lesser (or less ambitious) artist, Night Of The Hammer would come with cover art reminiscent of this — something that screams: “HEAVY METAL! NOT JUST THE GENRE BUT THE MAGAZINE AND THE PARKING LOT! \m/” Instead, Night Of The Hammer‘s actual artwork (which you can see at the top of this post) depicts something entirely different: It’s a stark black-and-white photograph capturing the moment of calculation and calm that precedes a slaughter. The words “Night Of The Hammer,” then, might serve as the local paper’s headline the day after that violence had come to light, or even the title of the In Cold Blood-esque true crime bestseller that would follow. Point is, Night Of The Hammer may sound like a lot of fun on its surface, but don’t be fooled: It is deadly fucking serious.
We’ve got a song from Night Of The Hammer for you to spin today: “One-Eyed Sister,” which kicks off the album’s second side. Listen.
Night Of The Hammer is out 10/28 via Profound Lore.