There are two very different metal bands that have used the name Black Dawn. One is a Scandinavian death metal/black metal outfit from Finland; in the early 2000s, that band recorded an album titled Blood for Satan for Necropolis (a label that is known for putting out a lot of death metal, black metal, and grindcore by Scandinavian artists). The focus of this bio, however, is an alternative metal combo that has been active on the New York scene since the early '90s. In fact, New York's Black Dawn has made a point of stating that its members have no connection to the Finnish band; on their website, the New Yorkers state, "We have nothing to do with Satanism, black metal, Necropolis Records, or a disc called Blood for Satan." The Black Dawn profiled in this bio goes back to 1992, when guitarist Tom Kelly formed the band's original lineup on suburban Long Island. At first, Kelly thought of Black Dawn as something that he would do on the side. But as time passed, he found himself devoting more and more of his time to the band; whose forceful and intense yet melodic style of alternative metal has been influenced by Metallica and Pantera as well as Testament (specifically, the albums that Testament recorded in the late '80s and early '90s; before Testament reinvented itself with 1997's ferocious Demonic). Black Dawn has also been compared to Megadeth and Venom; its alterna-metal isn't thrash metal per se, but it has been influenced by some of the bands that have come out of the thrash field.
After playing in and around New York for several years, Black Dawn acquired a small following in the Northeastern United States. Black Dawn had been together for five years when, in 1997, it recorded its self-titled debut album for the Long Island-based Suicidal Groove label. That CD was followed by the 1998 EP Live at CBGB, which was recorded at the famous rock club on Manhattan's Lower East Side. In 1999, Suicidal Groove released Absence of Time, Black Dawn's second full-length album. The band has undergone some personnel changes since 1992; in the late '90s and early 2000s, its lineup consisted of Tom Kelly on rhythm guitar, Matt Kotten on lead vocals and lead guitar, James Lane on electric bass and Enzo Di Paolo on drums. In 1999, Lane started his own company, JimmyLane.com, which has specialized in website development. In 2002, Black Dawn celebrated its tenth anniversary.