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Hitting the black nail right on the head again. - 80%

hells_unicorn, November 25th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Profound Lore Records

Contrary to what is sometimes suggested, metal music doesn't live and die by impact alone, and often relies very heavily on atmosphere and nuance depending on what discipline has been adopted. That's one of the charms of loving this genre of music, there are so many different flavors to choose from, and often times the more past conscious bands will manage to find themselves a new twist on an existing style to make it seem a bit younger than 30-40 years of age. Dawnbringer is one such band that, along with the likes of Slough Feg, has managed to bring back that archaic, 1970s and early 80s mode of heavy metal without becoming overtly slavish to every single detail of the original approach, unlike some bands that go a little too hard down the retro route and come off as ridiculous (*cough* The Sword).

In much the same way as recent excursions out of the outfit in Nucleus and Into The Lair Of The Sun God, the approach taken on Night Of The Hammer is auspicious in its dual nature of loftiness and humility. While sounding fairly similar to the likes of Manilla Road and earlier Manowar, the tendency towards long droning epics is systematically avoided here for a more compact approach, while still maintaining that glorious atmosphere that conjures up images of brave warrior on the march to some grand battlefield. The songwriting is fairly simple, consisting of a handful of basic yet captivating riffs and melodies that remind of that period in the early to mid 80s where the lines that separated doom bands like Trouble from the more hard rocking NWOBHM acts were not as clearly drawn.

As a consequence of the stylistic ambiguity that was unique to the time period being conjured up on this album, Dawnbringer takes a few opportunities to put their own twist on things and avoid completely living in the past. Probably the most obvious example is found in "Not Your Night", which is essentially an early 80s take on where black metal would end up in the early 1990s, riding a perpetual blast beat for about 2 minutes and featuring vocalist and metal veteran Chris Black trying out a harsher vocal style. Similarly, the theatrics and sky high falsetto vocals heard on "Funeral Child" are a shameless yet fitting nod to Mercyful Fate. Even on songs that are a bit more classic rock/metal oriented such as "Xiphias" that comes with pristine vocal harmonies right out of a Blue Oyster Cult or Chicago approach, there is this subtle post-rock character to the guitar work that gives it a slightly modern feel.

But for all the isolated quirks and twists on existing practices, this is an album that is well at home in the realm of early metal cliche, and it is carried quite well. Arguably one of the most overt nods to the early days of heavy metal in "Hands Of Death" all but perfectly merges that mellow 70s Black Sabbath approach to grooving and jamming with a helping of Dio era goodness that instantly gets stuck in one's head and refuses to leave. There is no shortage of impact to be found here, but at the end of the day, this is an album that wins over its audience with a much subtler take on things, one where a band can be fun without being overly flashy or extreme. It's a bit more well-rounded and has a few less points of utter intrigue compared to the last couple of albums, but anyone looking for a solid, old school experience will definitely find a winner in Night Of The Hammer.

Originally submitted to (The Metal Observer) on November 25, 2014.