Into the Lair of the Sun God

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If Dawnbringer's recent career were to be analyzed simply based on the color palette used on their album covers, one might deduce that these staunch heavy metal purists were traversing their "sepia phase," whatever that means, as they released their fifth studio album, 2012's In the Lair of the Sun God. Alas, it's nowhere near that simple trying to explain how an album steeped in so many vintage metallic hallmarks as old as the hills can possibly sound so fresh and exciting, but here goes. This is a concept album comprised of nine Roman-numeral-designated song titles that together spin a fantastical yarn about an ancient warrior wracked with feelings of inadequacy (where's a wizard shrink when you need one?) who decides to secure his legend by murdering the sun itself. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Well, in what amounts to the first of three unstated but musically distinct acts, our would-be hero sets out on his quest bestride a galloping flurry of dazzling guitar work written and recorded to duplicate the sound of an old Iron Maiden demo (all too fitting for a tale of hubris topping even "Flight of Icarus"). Parts "I" and "III," in particular, are quite literally phenomenal (eat your heart out, Steve Harris), even surpassing anything found on Dawnbringer's prior critically acclaimed LP, Nucleus; yet a major curveball awaits on act two. For you see, songs "V" and "VI" are essentially ballads, and though their haunting lyrics may portray the Crypt Keeper's twisted concept of romance, the music itself is evocative not of Maiden or Priest, but Bon Jovi or Skid Row! This curious musical detour can do nothing to waylay our nameless warrior's harrowing mission, however, just delay it with the dread-filled, dramatic, deliberate cadence of doom embodied by the album's third and final act, whereupon song "IX" finally finds him fulfilling his destiny with an unexpected plot twist that will not be spoiled here. Suffice to say that In the Lair of the Sun God delivers from start to finish, and can't even be marred by Dawnbringer main man Chris Black's strained singing, which falls somewhere between Lemmy, Slough Feg's Mike Scalzi, and frequent collaborator Blake Judd of Nachtmystium, but fits right in with his band's lo-fi aesthetic. Amazing what great imagination can do with great music, no matter how endlessly it has been plundered in the past.

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