Dawnbringer

Nucleus

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    8
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Dawnbringer's fourth full-length release over the course of a 15-year career, 2010's Nucleus, served as a coming-out party of sorts for this long-obscure traditional metal ensemble led by Nachtmystium, Pharaoh, and Superchrist collaborator Chris Black. Not only was the album named among the year's best in many top heavy metal publications, but Black's increasing approachability helped put his vision into better context for would-be fans, and then of course the music vindicated everything because its essentially classicist approach didn't equate with dull revisionism or lack of sonic variety. Ready for the roll call? Here we go: opening number "So Much for Sleep" charges across the blasted plains on galloping Iron Maiden riffs embellished by serpentine lead guitars à la Isen Torr (courtesy of Black's six-string pal Matt Johnsen); "You Know Me" violently pounds its stakes into the ground with the inexorable force and consistency of a steam hammer; "The Devil" threatens to speed off into thrash metal territory before geeking out on a jumble of riffs, Slough Feg style; "Swing Hard" and "Cataract" behave like Siamese sisters representing Dawnbringer's more gentle and melodious qualities, exposing Black's limited vocal prowess somewhat, but arguably overcoming them with his guests' elegiac electric and acoustic guitar work; "Like an Earthquake" offsets seismic punctuations with driving down-strums and surprisingly singable lyrics; "All I See" broaches proto-black metal terrain with its frosty guitar melodies, Abaddon-simple drumming tattoo, and raspy demonic exhortations, while the ensuing "Old Wizard" indulges in morbid doom; and the deliberate hypnosis of "Pendulum" name-checks Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" by way of Voivod on its way to an intentionally off-balance finale. A very fine album, in short, and the only cautionary disclaimer worth making here regards the rough-and-tumble nature of Dawnbringer's retro-metal, which forgoes the clean production sheen of a Judas Priest or latter-day Iron Maiden, as well as any remotely Halford-ian vocals, in exchange for a distinctly blue-collar "street metal" vibe.

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