ABYSMAL DAWN "Black Sun Rising"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

To hear Abysmal Dawn tell it, the extinction of mankind is right around the corner. Instead of looking at this cataclysmic event as a horrifying catastrophe, they conceive of it as part of the natural order of things. The Earth will be cleared of an unsuccessful species that has outlived its stay and make room for something new to take its place. A new species that hopefully will not produce another version of Charlie Sheen or Moammar Khadaffi. This process of extinction and replacement has been detailed on the beautifully otherworldish cover art of Abysmal Dawn's albums.

The latest is "Levelling The Plane of Existence" and on the cover, a new civilization has risen under a black sun. They certainly have a lot more interesting architecture than we do and Arby's is nowhere to seen. Musically, the band continues to offer its thoughtful yet gnarly brand of death metal, inhabiting a kind of "Goldilocks Zone" between overly technical deathcore and stale worship of the oldschool. Abysmal Dawn has just about scaled the summit of this particular brand of music and now looks proudly down upon those trying to catch them from below.

One would think Mr. Charles Elliott would be a gloomy type, given Abysmal Dawn's grim outlook, but he's actually a pretty hopeful guy. Talking to him did not move me to jump off a tall building, but it did inspire me to dig deeper into the brutal intelligence of "Levelling The Plane of Existence". Here's what I found out...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I noticed in your most recent PR photo that the band was a trio. Is that still the case or are you back to a four piece?

CHARLES ELLIOTT: We recorded "Levelling the Plane of Existence" as a trio. We have a second guitar player that helps us out live but we are currently looking for a full time guy. We kind of lost some members before recording and we decided to go ahead as a three piece instead of adding someone at the last minute.

WC: Did you have any guest performances on the new album to help fill the gap?

CE: Yes, we did. Moyses from Krisiun did a guest solo, Kragen from Heathen and Prototype did a guest solo. We've always been a dual guitar band, with a lot of trade-off leads. We're looking for a lead guitarist who can play on our level. We have a lot of harmonies.

WC: The cover art on the new CD is absolute beautiful. What's the story behind the artwork?

CE: I had the title of the record in mind for a while. Basically, the whole idea behind it is setting the planet back to zero and starting over. The cover depicts the next form of life rising from the ashes of our society. It's the next scene after the cover of our last album, "Programmed To Consume". If you look closely, you can see the orb that consumed everything on the cover of the last album.

WC: That orb has been on the cover of every Abysmal Dawn album so far. In this case, it looks like it's finished it's job of sucking up every last human being, right?

CE: (laughs) Yeah. I've had the title in my head for a long time and as time went on, it took on a broader meaning for me. It's about renewal and starting over. It's levelling the plane of existence and making way for the next form of life. Humanity had its chance. On a personal level, I had a lot of changes in my life as well as changes in the band. It all tied in together, actually.

WC: Changes on a macro and micro scale...

CE: Yeah.

WC: It seems pretty safe to say that the band's outlook is very pessimistic. Is there any room for hope or anything positive in your lyrics?

CE: Ummmm...I don't know.(laughs) I think this band is sort of an outlet for my pessimism. I can be a happier person. A lot of the lyrics are based on personal experiences...people that I've been wronged by or things about society that I don't like. Is there hope? Sure, there's always hope. The world is about balance, too, you know. There will always be evil in the world, for lack of a better term. This record is really about going through the worst and starting over. It's about change and that's sort of hopeful in a way.

WC: Do you think the world is approaching the "reset" phase? I have the impression that things are happening that indicate the button is going to be pushed and things will go back to zero. Is that your view?

CE: I don't know if humanity will be wiped out, but there's great change that needs to come about. We need to go through great hardships to have anything better come about. I think a lot of rough times are ahead. I don't know exactly where we are headed. I'd like to believe things will get better but things have been getting worse for so long. You feel sometimes that it will take a great financial collapse for things to change.

WC: You've got a song called "The Sleeper Awakens". That was a phrase that was used in the book "Dune". Was that the actual origin of the song?

CE: It actually is, because I was reading the book at the same time I was writing the lyrics. (chuckles) The lyrics aren' really about "Dune". It was just a line I could identify with.

WC: Who's the "Sleeper"? Who does it  represent?

CE: Me, in a sense, but also society. We've had the wool pulled over our eyes for so long about certain things. Things have to get really bad before people start to wake up and see what's going on.

WC: I'm guessing that your song "Pixillated Ignorance" is about the awful state of television or computer communication. Is that the meaning?

CE: Actually the lyrics are inspired by the movie "Videodrome". That movie is about how television or media controls people and alters them mentally. In the movie, it goes beyond that and you start to change physically because of the images you see. I thought that was a really cool idea to write about. How television and media can actually change people...the way we think.

WC: There's a book out called "The Narrows", which says the internet is actually changing people's brains. They now communicate so much in small bursts that they can't conceive of big ideas or think for a long period of time.

CE: Yeah, it's weird. My grandfather and father would tell me that people's attention spans are getting shorter and I'd say, "yeah, whatever. You guys are old!" (laughs) As I get older though, it's like, are we really down to having news as Twitter posts? People don't really want to read into things anymore. The internet is a double-edged sword. People that were educated in research aren't going to be paid anymore. There are no more magazines. All the news is online. With music, people just download it for free. There's a great change in the world but I don't know if it's for the good. I'd still like to think that people are really thinking.

WC: What was the idea behind the song "In Service of Time"? That was an interesting title.

CE: It's the idea that time pretty much rules all. If you believe in God, even God has to acknowledge time! It's also about making the best of your time on this planet and finding your path. Not repeating the same mistakes...there were a lot of different thoughts going on in my head as I was writing that song.

WC: Abysmal Dawn is kind of what I call an "in-between" band in the death metal scene. You don't play the real super ultra technical stuff with jillions of notes and bizarre time changes all over the place but at the same time, you are not the real rough, raw, primitive old school death metal. You're smack in the middle of those poles. I'd compare the band to mid-period Death. Would you agree?

CE:  I don't know if we sound like the middle period of Death, per se. I do love that era of the band. But if you're asking if we're super-tech? No. I love technical death metal but I still want it to be really heavy and have hooks. Maybe some people are disappointed that we're not the most extreme but I don't give a fuck. We're more about hooks and melodies.

WC: It's not something like the band Brain Drill, who don't sound like they could write a song to save their lives.

CE:  I'm not going to knock that band, they have some riffs I like, but yeah, that's not the sound we're going for.We want to be heavier and more atmospheric and have more hooks. When we write songs, we want them to be something we can play in a live environment. We want them to have the kind of atmosphere you can remember.

WC: You're not afraid of a very clear production. In some circles, that's considered a bad thing. But the last two albums have had impeccable production. "Levelling The Plane of Existence" seemed to be a very smooth transition from the previous album. Was that what you were after from the start or did it just happen that way?

CE: We put a lot of thought into the new album but I don't think we were too concerned with making it a continuation from the previous one. It just happened naturally. Some people might think it sounds really different from the last album. I definitely think it's different from our first album, "From Ashes". I think that each album we do sounds really different. I feel we try something different every time. We don't want to tread the same ground each time. We don't want to be a band like that. You mentioned Death and they're one of my favorite bands. They pretty much reinvented themselves on each record, but it was still Death. Same thing with Carcass. They'd change with every record and still be viable. Now as far as the production goes, we wanted this one to have a thicker, more modern sound. "Programmed To Consume" sounds good but it's a little more oldschool and raw. We felt we were wrongfully getting pegged in the "oldschool" category just because of the production. The new album is still really organic but it has a more modern take to it.

WC: Do you have any idea how the band might evolve? Could you see yourself adding clean vocals or synth in the future?

CE:  I don't know. We've used synths in the past. We've got an intro track on "Levelling..." which is a classical type piece. We're not afraid to try different things. This new album had a really unusual track in "The Sleeper Awakens".  I think if we do something new, we want it to be aggressive and in your face so we can play it live and we also want to have experimental stuff here and there to show that we can do things differently. I wouldn't rule anything out. Clean vocals?(chuckles) I don't know, that would be tough.

WC: Do you or any of the other fellows have projects outside of Abysmal Dawn that you're involved with?

CE: Nothing too serious right now. Our drummer, he writes and records a lot of stuff himself. He's really into that. I've been talking with one of my friends, Sascha from Intronaut. We've been trying to form a doom band and it looks like it's actually going to happen. I'm just going to sing while he writes all the music.

WC: Is there a name attached to this project?

CE: Oh, dude, he sent me a name that I thought it was fuckin' horrible, so I'm not even going to say! (laughs)

WC: I won't put you on the spot, then!

CE: Yeah, we'll see if it gets renamed. It sounds cool, it will be a different thing for me. I'm a big fan of doom metal, also. My vocals are more inspired by that realm.

WC: Sometimes your vocals remind me of the old English doom stuff like My Dying Bride or Paradise Lost.

CE: Yeah, yeah, I'm a big fan of doom vocals.I've got various other influences, too. The material that Sascha has is really cool and different and definitely a change from what I normally do. I don't know know if you've heard Intronaut before, but they're quite off the wall and inspired by indie rock and progressive music and, for lack of a better term, hipster metal. (chuckles) I love all that stuff,too, but I'm definitely much more in the metal realm. I think it would be cool to have a very metal take on that music . I think it will be cool, man. I think it will either be fuckin' awesome or people will hate it! (laughs)

WC: You better grow a big bushy beard so you'll fit in! (laughter)

CE: Yeah, I'll gain a hundred pounds or something!

WC: What touring plans do you have for "Levelling..."?

CE: We're on tour with Kataklysm, All Shall Perish, Decrepit Birth and Conducting From The Grave. That starts on Feb. 18th. That tour should last about a month and a half.

WC: What was the last CD you bought just because you wanted to hear it?

CE: I got the new Behemoth DVD, which comes with a live album. I also got the new Inquisition record which I like a lot. (Fabulous band and record!--Mality)

WC: What was the last band you caught live just because you wanted to see them?

CE: Ummm, wow. I went to go see Sepultura the other night.

WC: How were they?

CE: They were actually very bad-ass. I never actually saw them with Max live. I have to say, they were fuckin' awesome with Derrick and they played a ton of old stuff,too. They also played a new song that was really cool.

WC: In the history of Abysmal Dawn, has there ever been a Spinal Tap moment you can share with us?

CE:Oh God....

WC: First one that hits you...

CE: Well, the first one that hits me I don't want to share with your readers! (laughter) I remember we were on tour with Origin and Misery Index and the tread came off one of our tires completely. We got that fixed and then we were going down the the Grapevine the next day and the tread came off another one of the tires. And that was the first two days. The same shit happened on both days. Defective tires or something. That was pretty bad when you're on your first real big tour.

WC: Any last message for the faithful?

CE:  Support metal and support Abysmal  Dawn. When you come to our shows, stop by and say hello. Buy some merch. If you really like the album, buy it. Support record sales. We tour under far from ideal conditions, so when you maybe don't drink that extra beer or buy that shirt, it makes a difference. We gotta make it to that next show.