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Caught In A Mosh: November 2010

| November 1, 2010

So Much For Sleep

You’re forgiven if you live in Green River, Wyoming, and don’t know the name Chris Black (above, left). If you call yourself a Chicagoan and consider yourself a headbanger, but aren’t, however, familiar with his 15 years in metal, then you’re a failure.

Don’t take it too hard – there are many like you. Somehow (partially by his own devices), Black has remained relatively unknown to the heavy-metal community he serves, even here. So allow me: Black, 32, fronts beer-metal derelicts Superchrist and NWOBHM-worshipping High Spirits; drums in U.S. power-metal titans Pharaoh; is the “man in the shadows” for Nachtmystium (wrote nearly all the lyrics on Assassins and Addicts and has producing, engineering, and performing credits back to 2004’s Demise); and operates Planet Metal, his own distro/label with a fuckin’ A roster that includes Kommandant, Zuul, and Wastelander. (Full disclosure: My monthly Metal Up Your Tap series hosts a Planet Metal showcase November 27th at Red Line Tap).

“He’s proven to be an excellent producer and lyricist for this band over the last few years,” Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd says. “His knack for placements and catchy choruses is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever worked with, and I feel very fortunate to have had his expertise available to Nachtmystium over the last seven years.”

Shit. I didn’t even mention the reason he’s featured in this month’s column: Dawnbringer. It’s Black’s longest-running project, started while a Pennsylvanian teenager in the mid-’90s. Ironically, it’s also his least-known. Nucleus (Profound Lore), Dawnbringer’s newest and fourth full-length, will change that, though. Actually, it already has. The album (where traditional and extreme metal unite in nine slabs of triumphant fist-in-the-air glory) has earned Black and his Dawnbringer cohorts – guitarists Scott Hoffman, Bill Palko, Matt Johnsen, and Scott Haskitt; Black handles drum/bass/vocals – write ups in prestigious outlets like Decibel, Chicago Reader, and Stereogum to name a few.

If we’re lucky, Black and co. might even play a couple shows in 2011 (there have been two in the band’s history, the last in 1998), though good luck getting him to confirm or elaborate on the subject – or, as you’ll read, getting him to elaborate on any subject.

Mosh: There are certainly elements that carry over, but there has never been much musical continuity from one Dawnbringer record to the next. Nucleus, though, sounds like a completely different band altogether, sometimes even from one song to the next – “All I See” to “Old Wizard.” How and why?
Chris Black:
I disagree. For example, the song “No Answer” [2006’s In Sickness And In Dreams] incorporates many elements from both of the songs you mentioned. Our musical continuity becomes more and more clear to me with each album. Our aesthetics haven’t changed at all: heavy metal growing out of grief toward the light. But, it’s important to me to remember that I’m in probably the worst possible position for objectivity.
M: Obviously vocals-wise, it’s night and day. Is that a result of you being more comfortable singing, or simply just the direction you wanted to go?
It’s both. Plus it keeps me honest on the lyrics.
M: Explain how a Dawnbringer record comes to life. You obviously write everything, but when do the other members start to contribute?
Scott Hoffman has always been my sounding board for the design of an album. The overall concepts and controls that will define the process have to be workshopped in certain ways. Plus, I’m writing with these musicians in mind, so in a sense the entire process is collaborative.
M: This is the first Dawnbringer record done in a true, or “professional,” studio setting, correct? Why now and why Sanford Parker?
It was a necessity to record in bedrooms and closets, not a choice. Profound Lore could afford a better situation, so naturally we took advantage of that. Sanford has a good disposition and is a great technician, and he knows by now what to expect from me. Plus, he and Profound Lore already had some experience working together.
M: How and when did Profound Lore come into play?
Profound Lore contacted me sometime during the Addicts sessions, which were in January. I knew them by reputation, and I assume they knew a thing or two about my background.
M: How have your contributions to Nachtmystium gone so unnoticed? Do you prefer it that way?
I don’t know what I prefer, but I guess people are too lazy to read the credits.
M: Explain, if you will, your role in/with that band.
Well, just like everything else around Nachtmystium, it changes. For Addicts you could say I managed the hanging of flesh onto skeletons.
M: Has Nachtmystium’s success surprised you?
Yes, but not because I don’t think they deserve it.
M: How difficult is juggling three bands (four if you count Nachtmystium) and a record label? You must have exceptional planning and organization skills.
I also collect penguin figurines and enjoy long walks on the beach. There are moments when I am overwhelmed, but for the most part it all comes naturally to me, because it has always been this way. I don’t manage boredom nearly as well.
M: What does next year look like?
Nothing is certain except for staying at home until spring. Everyone recorded this year, so the trick will be to sustain some momentum without burning out.
M: Of all your projects, does one bring you more satisfaction than the others? If tomorrow you had to give up all but one, could you choose?
I’d stick to collecting penguin figurines.

CONGRATS: Chicago took another step toward heavy-metal world domination last month when Earache announced the signing of Diamond Plate. The suburban, teenage, thrash threesome will release their full-length debut for the legendary label (responsible for early Carcass, Entombed, and Napalm Death releases) next year. Hail!

HOW CAN I LAUGH TOMORROW WHEN I CAN’T HEAR NEW MUSIC TODAY: I don’t get it. Back in November 2008, Mike Muir told me a new Suicidal Tendencies record would be released in early ’09. Here we are, a loogey spat from 2011, and still nothing. What’s mind-boggling is how much effort Muir and his own Suicidal Records have put into stuff that isn’t a new LP. There was the Year Of The Cycos Infectious Grooves/ Suicidal/Cyco Miko/No Mercy compilation, the dismal Live At The Olympic Auditorium (from 2005) DVD, and the double disc (!) Infectious Grooves/Cyco Miko Funk It Up & Punk It Up: Live In France ’95. Now there’s No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family, a collection of re-recorded Join The Army and No Mercy (guitarist Mike Clark’s ’80s speed-metal group) tunes. If I understand how things work, Suicidal Tendencies had to go into a studio and spend a significant chunk of time re-recording this stuff, so . . . dedicate that time to a new album instead! Why get excited about a new ST record anyway, you wonder? “Come Alive.” It’s a new-ish track snuck onto this album, and it’s a ripper. Not to say No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family is worthless by any means. It’s fun to hear the current lineup burn through these old cuts (the Brunner brothers rhythm section is sick), but most importantly it gives ST a reason tour! Their last Chicago gig (December ’08) was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, so you bet yer ass I’m looking forward to November 17th at Metro. I’ll skip openers Hed fucking P.E., though.

MOSH WORTHY: Trials Witness To The Downfall (TBA); Drunken Bastards Horns Of The Wasted (Hells Headbangers); Autopsy The Tomb Within EP (Peaceville); Killing Joke Absolute Dissent (Spinefarm); Helloween 7 Sinners (The End).

— Trevor Fisher

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Category: Caught In A Mosh, Columns, Featured, Monthly

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