Interviews : Abysmal Dawn
With Charles Elliott
Abysmal Dawn, one of Crash Music, Inc.'s latest signings, has crafted one of the early runners for record of the year in the form of the band's debut, From Ashes, mixing guitar-driven melody reminiscent of Death and Carcass with brutal musicianship that could make Deicide and Morbid Angel jealous.
Renewing my faith in a well-trodden genre where few bands seem to come up with music that can be considered much more than run-of-the-mill, I jumped at the chance to pick the brain of Abysmal Dawn guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliott.
First off, fucking amazing record. Totally technically-minded while still grooving ahead in the death metal genre. What did you guys do during the songwriting process to make this all pan out into an album still sounds fresh in a genre with so many bands, or does it just come naturally?
Thanks a lot man, I’m glad you like it. I think we were just looking to include all our influences to try and find something of our own. We like all the different culminations of extreme music and we wanted to make an album that wasn’t just a straight-up brutal death metal record. There are some thrash parts on there along with some black metal and doom sections. We love newer bands like Aborted, Necrophagist, Behemoth, Spawn of Possession and Decapitated, but we were also looking to add elements of older albums that we felt were classic in our eyes. There’s a definite emphasis on catchy song writing which gives people a sort of early 90’s death metal vibe but there’s definitely a more modern element in there as well.
You and guitarist Jamie Boulanger trade some wicked shredding on From Ashes. Did you guys set out to want to throw a few solos in each song, or is that just another aspect of the songwriting process that fell into place?
I for one love guitar-oriented music and when I first started listen to heavy music I was constantly reaching for those Metallica and Testament records. Both those bands had a keen sense on where to put a guitar solo so that you really felt it belonged there and was part of a song. We wanted that sort of epic vibe that those bands have and throwing on some wicked solos really adds to the dramatic flare of the band.
I know you've got to love them all the same (just like Mom and Dad loved all us kids 'the same' back in childhood), but you've got to have a favorite song on the record, right? My votes go for "Salting The Earth," "Crown Desire" and "Blacken Sky," but what's your call?
That’s a tough one. I like “Salting the Earth” and “Crown Desire,” just because those were the two last songs we wrote for the record and I haven’t grown tired of playing them yet, ha ha. “Servants to Their Knees” might be my favorite, though. It’s just a really fun song to play live and it has all the elements I like in extreme music. I really like the lead section and it’s just face-meltingly brutal.
With nine songs, From Ashes flies by pretty quickly, but that's also got me hitting repeat to listen to it again, or listening to it two or three times a day, sometimes. Was it your intention to blast through some tunes and leave fans wanting more, rather than tossing 12 or 14 tracks on the disc?
Part of it was that we wanted a short, to-the-point record that people would just listen to as soon as it was done, sure. We wanted a record that would just go straight for the jugular and I think we achieved that. Some of my favorite records are short ones, Slayer – Reign in Blood or Deicide – Once Upon the Cross, for example. But, we’re also very anal about our music and we aren’t the type of band to have any music left over for an album. Everything you hear we are 100% proud of and should be on that record.
Abysmal Dawn comes from the Los Angeles death metal scene, which houses some pretty solid bands. How did you guys come out of there and land the deal with Crash Music?
As lame as it sounds, they heard about us on Myspace. We recorded the album ourselves before we signed with them and when they heard it that just sealed the deal.
You guys got Anthony Clarkson (also responsible for Exodus' Shovel Headed Kill Machine and Nebula's Atomic Ritual artwork, among others) and Par Olofsson onboard for artwork and layout, and the end result both is really impressive and reminiscent of late 80s / early 90s death metal. Did you guys provide framework for artwork, or did you let Par and Anthony run wild?
For the cover, I kind of just told him what I wanted and that’s what he came up with. The cover depicts a scene out of “Blacken the Sky” and you’re right, it does give it that classic death metal vibe. I really like Par’s style because he’s able to combine hand painted elements as well as digital art. We wanted something that was somewhat modern but didn’t have that photoshopped-to-hell thing going on. We wanted more of that old school painted feeling. I think the art came out great and we’ll probably work with him again. Anthony did a great job with the layout as well, and for that he just sort of ran with it. I just told him to give it sort of an artsy look without being too pretentious and that was the end result.
The band will be touring with Six Feet Under, Krisiun, Decapitated, and Cattle Decapitation throughout the fall of 2006, what's that like to land a pretty big tour alongside some brutal bands?
It’s a great honor. It’s our first tour and now we’re going to have step it up a bit because that’s some serious competition. We’re really looking forward to it though and can’t wait to get out there and promote the record.
Speaking of the live show, I caught you guys at California Metalfest and definitely walked away impressed. Is it tough for you guys to sound so close to the songs on the record, especially when there are a good number of times where you've got to be growling and playing some pretty technical stuff?
Well, it does take some practice, that’s for sure. When we first started the band, we wanted someone that would just sing and play nothing else. After searching for a while I just decided to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time. I don’t really think about it anymore, but when I first started it was tough. I have to say I’m really thankful that I did learn though, because I always had an idea of what I wanted this band to be like lyrically and vocally. That and it’s one less personality you hope you can get along with, and we can tour slightly cheaper as a four piece.
Any more touring plans after that one, or is it gonna be a quick turnaround for a new record?
We’ll see how it goes. I’d like to do at least two US tours for this record and then concentrate on writing some new material. We already started writing for the next album and have one song so far and two others that we’ve been piecing together. If everything goes according to plan I’d like to have the next album out in about a year to a year-and-a-half from this past April. We’ll try to keep the momentum going as much as possible, that’s for sure.
Okay, just because I like to know: here's cheesy desert island question. What 3 records would you bring with you on a deserted island...
I can never decide when it comes to questions like this. If we’re basing it purely on the records that have most influenced me over the years though I’d have to go with say Death – Human, Carcass – Heartwork and At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul. I could go on and on with this list with even some non-metal stuff, but those are a safe bet for my need for brutality.
This one's for you. Anything I missed, or anything you want to say?
Thanks a lot for this in interview and we'll see all you guys on the road soon!