Dawnbringer - In Sickness and In Dreams - 2006 - Battle Kommand Records
1. Scream and Run 2. Anomie 3. Hell is a Desert 4. There and Back 5. Under No Flag 6. You Get Nothing 7. 11:58 8. Midnight 9. Attack of the Spiders 10. The Snitch 11. End of Earth 12. Death in Time 13. Endless Guilt 14. No Answer
When discussion turns to heavy metal and its origins, the most heated debate no longer deals with the ‘who’ (Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin being two of the most obvious and popular choices) but rather the ‘what’. That is to say, did those early bands actually play metal, and if so, what sort? Can we legitimately call Sabbath a ‘doom metal’ band or were they only hard rock? In a compromise as well as a concession to the modern penchant for inventing new genres, necessary or otherwise, we tend to refer to Sabbath as ‘proto-doom’, or more inclusively, ‘proto-metal’. However, both of these still refer to a relatively specific genre (‘proto-metal’ essentially means ‘proto-traditional-metal’), when it is clear that Heavy Metal today encompasses a much larger range of styles.
If any band today can accurately embody the entirety of ‘proto-metal’, albeit nearly 40 years after the fact, that band is Dawnbringer. From the roots of this peculiar, Chicago-land based project we can trace a line through to nearly every branch of metal’s tree. Of course, this does not include every possible permutation, but the major categories of traditional, thrash, power, death, and black are all healthy contributors to 2006’s ‘In Sickness and In Dreams’.
After many years of unheralded labor, Dawnbringer’s mastermind Chris Black has recently achieved some level of fame for his percussive work in the sensational trad/power metal group Pharaoh, as well as his connections to Nachtmystium. However, it is here, through Dawnbringer, that he explores the true breadth of his talent and on ‘In Sickness and In Dreams’ that he realizes it.
Although this album is not particularly outside the standard of Black’s previous works, it can still be difficult to approach comfortably. Those unfamiliar with Black’s style in particular may be perplexed by the abrupt song endings, overlapping genres, dense production, and admittedly amateurish (but hearty and apropos) vocals. And indeed, at times ‘In Sickness And In Dreams’ sounds like the haphazard demo tracks of six different bands’ nascent hopes, but that very texture is an and arguably the integral part of Dawnbringer’s appeal. The sustained, redeeming element throughout it all is that Black always presents his work with integrity and honesty; however odd it may be, at no point does ‘In Sickness And In Dreams’ ever smack of smug self-satisfaction, so often the downfall of solo experiments.
And that unassuming demeanor, ultimately, is what makes Dawnbringer more proto-metal than post-metal. Although Black’s band technically exhibits the traits associable with either style, its spirit is humble and its talent unique, quite unlike the self-aware egoism exuded by so much of today’s post-metal scene.
In essence, and to put it in more straightforward but no less earnest terms, Dawnbringer simply rocks too hard to subscribe to posh post-metal separatism. And regardless of the technicalities, ‘In Sickness And In Dreams’ is nothing if not a fresh pleasure that reminds us of the times that were. The times when great music could exist without ego, when genre bandwagons were not taken as a matter of course, and when the limits of heavy metal were defined only by the furthers corners of our imagination.
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