Abysmal Dawn – Riffs You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Sunday, 23rd November 2014

Calilfornia’s Abysmal Dawn have been one of the more captivating death metal bands of the last ten years. While many in the genre have decided to go the route of full technicality, Abysmal Dawn have gone in the opposite direction, incorporating more melodies into their particular brand of death metal, while not quite leading into the mostly barren realms of melodic death. It’s a winning formula, keeping the brutality of death metal with riffs and leads that you can remember long after the music ends.

The band’s latest, Obsolescence, is the band’s culminating work so far. A collection of songs (as opposed to technical flourishes), it really does effectively blend a bit of the old with a bit of the new. Just coming off of a tour with Deicide and Septicflesh, we talked with guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliot about the recent activity of the band, including said tour, the new album, and their approach to melody.

Dead Rhetoric: You recently finished the Decide/Septicflesh tour. How did it go?

Charles Elliot: Really good! I think it was a good mix of bands, some on the black metal side and some on the death metal side. We are mostly death metal but I think that we have some black metal elements as well. We went over well with that crowd too. It was cool to do a tour that put us in front of some different kinds of fans, it went really well and we won over a lot of new people.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any plans to follow up with more touring, now that the album (Obsolescence) is actually out?

Elliot: Yeah, we are talking about doing something early next year or in the spring. Nothing concrete yet but we have a European tour we are trying to work out. The sooner we can everything according to plan there…[it’s] not necessarily putting a wrench in our American touring, we just have to work around it for the time being.

Dead Rhetoric: Most of the time you were on the Deicide tour, Obsolescence wasn’t out yet. Does that put any challenges into play when you get onto a great tour but your new album isn’t out yet?

Elliot: I don’t know about challenges; ideally we would have liked Obsolescence to have been out at the very start of the tour. It was the best touring option we had, and it was a great tour, so the fact that it wasn’t exactly around the album release was something we just had to deal with. At the start, we were playing three new songs, and about half way in we kept it at two new songs. Not that the third song wasn’t going over well, but people still want to hear the old shit, and we had a very short set so that’s what we ended up doing. But the new songs went over really well, and those were the songs that had been released already online. I even saw some people singing the lyrics at the shows, so that was pretty badass.

Dead Rhetoric: Abysmal Dawn to me has always been very consistent over the years; do you think that consistency as a virtue is sometimes undermined by various reviews before the album comes out?

Elliot: I don’t know, I feel like if that is the way that people view us, I think they are wrong. I feel like every album is different from the other one. We haven’t released the same album twice. From Ashes is a bit more on the melodic death metal side. Programmed was more of a darker, straight up death metal album, I guess with a little black metal in there. I feel like Leveling was more on the tech death side and this one [Obsolescence] is different from all those. Maybe it’s a culmination of everything we’ve done before. I think that if we write a good record, that should be the focus.

I hear that criticism in death metal sometimes, with Cannibal Corpse, as an example. And you know what? Who gives a fuck? They write a killer record every time and I don’t understand why people need every fucking release to re-invent the wheel or re-invent a band’s sound. Obviously you want them to change enough that they aren’t putting out the same record, like AC/DC putting out the same riffs over again or something. But we’ve never been that either. There’s a certain amount of consistency, but we change it up enough where aren’t putting out the same record and I think we improve every time.

Sometimes I see the amount of variation and the amount of different things we do downplayed. There’s clean vocals on the album, and a bit of elements that we haven’t used before. There’s different shit on this record for sure. And we’ve done that on a lot of our records. On Leveling, we had “The Sleeper Awakens,” which is very different from everything else we’ve done. It’s more like a doom song, with whispered vocals and clean guitars, but for some reason people just ignore that or have this mindset.

Dead Rhetoric: Ah, that’s what I was getting towards; there’s that mindset sometimes if you describe yourself as being a death metal band there are certain perceptions. But if you go ahead and change a few things, people get upset at that too.

Elliot: Ultimately, we play this music for ourselves and our fans. But mostly for ourselves. The jaded critic that is looking for something new, because he has heard death metal a million fucking times is and doesn’t care about music anymore is not who we are looking to please. I’ve said this before in interviews too, and I like to explain it like this: you still like fucking right? So do we. So what’s wrong with that basic human enjoyment? You can throw in some variation there, like whips and chains or whatever you are into, but the basic fucking formula is there. Don’t get all creative trying to change something that you yourself enjoy. The songcraft, or love-making technique [laughs], that I’ll call it just gets better with time.

I just get frustrated when people act when death metal, or whatever, is not a valid genre. You are still playing within certain guidelines, but that’s because we enjoy this music. That’s what people should listen to music for; it’s their enjoyment. If you push the genre forward, but you are just overthinking things and putting out the records for the shock value of it, with no songs or songcraft, then I think that sucks too. If it appeals to me, that’s awesome; but you can count on your one hand people that can do that. Sometimes the shit that gets noticed as “re-inventing the wheel” I think is fucking bullshit sometimes. I’m like, “dude I’ve heard this shit before.” People don’t get the reference or all they are doing is mashing up a few genres that I’ve heard before. But it’s a whole other thing and I’m not trying to bash other people’s bands or anything like that. You can do what you like; [consistency] is not such a bad thing.

Dead Rhetoric: I read somewhere before that you mentioned that “melodic leads were becoming a lost art.” Why do you think some bands are shifting away from that?

Elliot: I don’t want to downplay anything, but with Christian [Muenzner] for example. Christian is one of the most influential guitar players within the last ten years. I love his playing and I love him as a person. I think his influences, at times, some kids take it the wrong way. They took one aspect of his playing, which is his amazing technique and they just focus on that. They don’t focus on the vibrato or his melodic phrasing. It’s like people just got caught up in the mechanics of guitar playing at some point. With the whole technical death influx of bands, I feel like people just got caught up in that. That’s cool; I understand why people are into it. They are trying to push the physical limits. But I feel like sometimes, I’m not just listening to music for my brain, I’m listening to it for my soul. I want to hear some melody, I want to hear things that aren’t grouped into easily divisible patterns and shit. I try and add I guess, a bit of Marty Friedman back into metal. Or even Shawn Lane or something. I feel like people don’t bend enough notes in metal anymore.

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