There are a lot of bands who put image over substance in the metal scene, going more the route of fitting people’s stereotype about metal bands from way back. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But thankfully there are bands who give zero fucks about fitting a certain image, and just plug in and melt your face with technical majesty. Abysmal Dawn is one of those groups.
First getting the chance to be exposed to them several years ago opening for All Shall Perish and Conducting From the Grave, Abysmal Dawn got up on stage, put one foot on a monitor and shredded the crap out of their instruments in one of the most professional, no-bullshit death metal sets I’ve ever witnessed. With lead man axe-slinger Charles Elliot effortlessly owning his guitar along with growls galore, Abysmal Dawn won the crowd over. And they’ve been doing this all over the metal world since. Putting themselves on the map with Programmed To Consume and the technically brilliant Leveling The Plane of Existence in 2010 along with a slew of festivals and tours worldwide, the band is a part of new surge of groups emerging out of the United States, keeping the metal as real as steel.
And with the latest release Obsolescence being hailed by critics as the next crushing step in the band’s progression, Abysmal Dawn is looking to the future with laser focus. We caught up with frontman Charles Elliot to talk shop about metal, expanding their recording techniques and the latest news in the AD camp.
MMF: It’s summer festival season and I know a lot of bands are out on the road. Have you been taking part in various festivals or big shows overseas? And how’s the reaction been from the crowds to the newer tracks?
Charles: We haven’t been doing any shows since March actually. We had that huge festival in the US in October, Knotfest, but that’s about it unless we confirm something later this year. We did play the new songs live on our past three tours though and they weren’t over really well. We try to write our songs for the live setting so it’s not that big of a surprise.
MMF: Of course the touring has been to support the latest album, which I have to say sounds twice a huge as “Leveling”…. working with Mike Bear and John Haddad for a few albums now, do you feel that helps the sound of Abysmal Dawn get tighter, keeping that studio relationship intact?
Charles: Definitely. Mike Bear is a stickler for tight performances and this record is hands down the tightest album we’ve ever recorded. John was very meticulous with recording the drums this time around, even more than ever. Every time we get together to record an album everyone is a bit more experienced and even better at what they do. We’ve all known each other for a long time and I think that helps us get through our studio mental breakdowns here and there too (laughs). With every album we do together we continue you make it better in some way and that’s the point!
MMF: Give your fans a bit of a good studio story working on the last album? Any “happy accidents” end up used in a song, or moments where everyone looks at each other trying something new and an eyebrow gets raised?
Charles: I wrote a lot of my solos in the studio but I can’t think of any happy accidents really. This album was very mapped out and demoed beforehand for the most part. We tracked the drums for the cover of Dissection’s “Night’s Blood” last minute, and ended up recording the full thing as time went on. That was as about as close as a happy accident as it got and I’m very proud with how that track turned out.
MMF: On new album, vocally, it seems you really go for a new level of aggression with screaming, whether it be overall tone or length of screams. More of a set game plan or a spur of the moment thing, rolling with the vibe of the tracks in the studio?
Charles: I did look up some new vocal techniques, which helped with my screams especially. I tried to sing a little higher too maybe. I sang a little higher on that first Death to All tour and I thought it was a bit more aggressive and in your face sounding. I love super low vocals but sometimes you don’t get that super pissed off feeling or sound of pain and insanity from them. Overall I think they sound a bit more raw and aggressive somehow.
MMF: It’s cliche to ask if other music influences your writing. Where did Abysmal Dawn draw influence from on the new record, whether from books or movies or situations in the world?
Charles: I was watching a lot of documentaries and trying to get inspired at the time. A lot of inspiration comes from my day to day life as well. Sometimes I wonder if I put too much of myself in my lyrics, but I think you make the best art when you’re honest. Musically, I don’t really think about it, it just happens at this point.
MMF: On “Laborem Morte Liberat Te” there is a really cool choir like chant towards the 4 minute mark. Sounds like a new idea I haven’t heard on an AB track, but it rules! Is this a result of just continuing to grow as songwriters, and pushing your own envelope? What influenced this idea?
Charles: I first tried something like this with my doom band Bereft and I thought I’d expand upon the idea. I was bascially just trying to do something that we hadn’t done before. Each record we try and do something a little outside the death metal spectrum here and there, for the last few albums now.
MMF: Now I’ve seen you guys play a few times here in Seattle. One of the things I like about AB is there isn’t a gimmick or makeup or anything like that. No frills, rip your face off metal. Do you think in modern metal it’s necessary for theatrics like Ghost to be out there representing metal, or in your opinion should it just stay about 4 or 5 people kicking ass without all the bells and whistles?
Charles: I mean I get it, gimmicks sell music. If you aren’t reinventing the wheel, which who really is these days, band try and sell themselves with a “look”. We might experiment here and there because to be honest, we’ve been wearing the same shit on stage for the past 10 years and we’re sort of bored with that. We want to put on a show but I think it’s important that the theatrics don’t get in the way of your sound, or the honestly of your music. We aren’t going to get up there with pentagrams and shit on stage because we aren’t satanists, and I’m not going to dumb things down just to sell some kids some shock and rebellion. Maybe it’s because I grew up with bands initially that sort of rejected all that. We’re playing honest and true extreme metal and think that should be the main focus.
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