I’ll admit that Dawnbringer‘s latest, Night of the Hammer, had its hooks in me, before I even heard a note of it. The stark, but evocative cover of a black-clad, hammer-wielding figure staring across a field at a house in the distance begged so many questions. Is this some madman about to embark on a brutal massacre? Is this some heroic figure bent on meting out bloody, but just vengeance? Would Night of the Hammer be another concept album wherein the story of this mysterious figure would be told? Would Night of the Hammer be the absolute triumph that Into the Lair of the Sun God was? The answers, in order: I don’t know, I don’t know, no and yes, in its own way.
Night of the Hammer is not a concept album, but there does seem to be a thematic and atmospheric unity to the compositions. Into the Lair of the Sun God was, despite being an ultimately tragic tale of a mad quest to murder the sun, quite a vibrant and sunny affair, full of glorious, galloping trad-metal, and Iron Maiden-esque melodies. Night of the Hammer, on the other hand, is a darker affair. As titles such as ““Hands of Death”, “Damn You” and “Crawling Off to Die” suggest, Night of the Hammer is a bit of a downer. Many of the album’s tracks are somber of tone and slow of pace, with a real doom metal feel, a sound which the band has exlpored before, but never to this extent.
Despite Night of the Hammer‘s predominantly dark and downbeat vibe, the songs are no less possessed of that unique Dawnbringer magic. Even at its most energetic, Dawnbringer’s music has always had a haunting, otherworldly character to it, and the often slow, contemplative nature of Night of the Hammer in many ways enhances that aspect. A prime example of this is “Nobody There”, a bleak dirge built of a few simple, lumbering riffs that perfectly projects the feeling of emptiness expressed in its title. But that’s no frigging fun, is it? Maybe not, but I can’t get the chorus out of my head and I hear the track’s closing slide guitar licks in my dreams.
Equally bleak and plodding, but more sinister is “Damn You”. The track offers three minutes of seething doom before shifting into higher gear and building to a climax from which seamlessly bursts “Not Your Night” Snarling with black metal ferocity, complete with blast beats, this track harkens back to Dawnbringer’s earliest days.
Two of Night of the Hammer’s more energetic highlights include “Hands of Death” and “Funeral Child”. The first features a swaggering doom-stomp reminiscent of The Obsessed, but with an anthemic melodic theme that recalls Solstice. The second is marked by Dawnbringer mastermind Chris Black’s surprisingly respectable King Diamond impression, which stands in stark contrast to Black’s normally understated performance. The music itself is a metal mélange that is pure Dawnbringer, but it does feature a solo that would do Hank Sherman and Michael Denner proud.
With its surfeit of slower material, and cloak of doom and gloom Night of the Hammer is not as immediately accessible or fun as its predecessor, but it is insidiously infectious. Given appropriate attention, these songs will leave their mark on your psyche. Night of the Hammer in its own way is every bit as rewarding as any of Dawnbringer’s previous work.