The upcoming Night Of The Hammer is, to my ear, the weirdest thing yet released by Chris Black under his venerable Dawnbringer handle. It makes some unexpected shifts at points, particularly in Black’s vocal attack, but it’s not just that: The whole thing has this aggressively retro-minded feel that seems extreme even for a noted historian/perfectionist like Black, and it constantly leaves me asking the universe what the hell is he trying to achieve here? I don’t mean to say that’s a bad thing! As I wrote about the album’s first single, “One-Eyed Sister“:
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.
Today, the second single from Night Of The Hammer is released. It’s called “Hands Of Death” and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the LP. The album is coming out, as usual, on Profound Lore, and a little while ago, PFL owner Chris Bruni (whose historical acumen rivals Black’s) tweeted this about “Hands Of Death”:
There is a series of riffs in said DAWNBRINGER track just posted that sound like riffs from the Dio song "Sunset Superman".
— Profound Lore (@profound_lore) September 24, 2014
For me, Night Of The Hammer is filled with such details, although I’m ill-equipped to make sense of them. My ear is nowhere near as finely tuned as Black’s or Bruni’s, so I mostly find myself wondering which early-metal song or artist or performance is being referenced at any given moment (if indeed any such reference is even being made). But that doesn’t really matter: Night Of The Hammer rocks on its own terms, and “Hands Of Death” rocks especially hard. Listen.
Night Of The Hammer is out 10/28 via Profound Lore.