One might wonder if music fans rejoice more than the classic metal underground crowd when Chris Black releases a new album. You can almost hear the “hey, hey“ chants, headbanging and devil horns going up as the Chicago singer songwriter announces a new album for either Dawnbringer and or High Spirits. In this case it’s Dawnbringer, for which the previous two outings have been well received and praised – these being 2010’s Nucleus and 2012’s Into the Lair of the Sun God.
“Alien,” the opening song, starts of with some heavy riffing that has a tinge of New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence in the mix. Fantastic lead work that is catchy and inspiring are found throughout as well as some very memorable and infectious song lyrics. On “The Burning of Home” Mr. Black brings to life the power of the riff that some would say hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. Later the song goes into a nice solo that wouldn’t be out of place on, say, a UFO or Scorpions album from the 70s.
Next up is “Nobody There,” which begins with doomy depressive tones and riffs that are straight out of the Mercyful Fate play book – along with some catchy lyrics and memorable tempo changes that make a strong invitation for listeners to immediately connect with the themes of the song. “Xiphias” has some nice instrumental music during the opening minute then melds into some really progressive riffing and bass work that some might say was very Steve Harris inspired.
On “Hands of Death” the mixing and mashing of doom with Iron Maiden style riffs works well and the theme of the song grabs the listener. The mid-section of this song also may remind one of the classic days of Priest. “Not Your Night” is the most black metal sounding output on the entire album and listeners might be pleasantly surprised by Chris’s vocal range and style as he tackles a Tom G. Warrior approach on this one. “Funeral Child” find him again demonstrating a different vocal style and range as he reveals his inner King Diamond voice. This song also combines some classic riffing and time signatures that most metal fans will appreciate.
It seems easy for one to say that as a songwriter Black has no trouble making it seem like songs just fly off the fretboard, drums, bass and vocal cords with ease. But if the listener looks deeper it seems there’s always a sense of classic metal flow and warm melodies throughout his work that make it unique and some might say a treasure to the underground metal scene. Overall, the songs are great but after repeated listens the tones and guitars may start to sound very similar to some fans. Chris sticks to his guns and doesn’t go too far outside the classic metal box with this one, folks. So if looking for something totally different and progressive or off the wall, this may not be your ticket. On the other hand, if you’re looking for fantastic classic metal songs written by an artist who is continually striving to fulfill the promise of the lost eras when metal was fun, catchy, epic and inspired, look no farther. As Black continues his great experiment in songwriting and singing in classic metal, all we as listeners can do is follow with our ears, thoughts and hearts.
(Profound Lore Records)