In the mid 90’s, seminal acts such as DEATH, DISINCARNATE, and CYNIC all made their mark by delivering crushing, technical, guitar-based extreme metal–all while retaining the key element of writing catchy, memorable songs. L.A.’s own ABYSMAL DAWN have taken those lessons and combined them with elements of technical thrash and Scandinavian black metal to give the band’s debut album, From Ashes its own unique flavor. APESHIT spoke with frontman/lead shredder, Charles Elliot, following the band’s first tour with SIX FEET UNDER, KRISIUN, and DECAPITATED last year.
APESHIT: So how was ABYSMAL DAWN’s very first tour? Did the band experience any over the top crazy situations or live through any horror stories?
Charles: Our first tour went great, man. The responses were amazing, merch sales were good and all the bands and their crews were just incredibly down to earth. Really, for our first tour we were all really surprised it went as smooth as it did. The other bands found it hard to believe it was our first tour as well. Every night we’d get to the club, run as fast as we could out of our Ford Explorer, set up and just play our hearts out. Thankfully no major obstacles occurred; not even a flat tire. Like the guys in KRISIUN said, “we’ll have much rougher tours in the future” and they’re probably right (laughs). We’re just lucky to have toured with such cool people for our first tour. It would have been a much more trying experience, I’m sure, if it hadn’t been for the other bands.
APESHIT: As relative newcomers making your debut on the road, how was the band received by the diehard KRISIUN/SIX FEET UNDER fans? Were audiences familiar with the band?
Charles: The crowd reactions we’re great, man! I’m not trying to brag, but to hear veteran acts tell us that we were doing really good for an opening band made us feel really proud about what we are doing. At the beginning of the tour it seemed like most people were just hearing about us at the show. Towards the end it seemed like more and more people already had the record and knew the songs. The tour served its purpose, I think, and we walked away with a lot of new fans.
APESHIT: Tell us a little about the album, From Ashes. What can listeners expect to hear from ABYSMAL DAWN, and what does the band bring to the underground music scene?
Charles: Well, we try to borrow from all different styles of metal, but mainly we’re a blackened death metal band with some thrash thrown in for good measure. I like to think we bring songs that stick in your head in a genre that can sometimes forsake a good melody for technicality. Don’t get me wrong, we love it fast, brutal and technical but we try to keep those hooks that a lot of the older “classic” bands have.
APESHIT: How did the recording process go for the album? I understand you and guitarist Jaimie Boulanger had some recording experience with your previous band INHUMAN VISIONS. Did that help the recording process any?
Charles: Jamie recorded one song with INHUMAN VISIONS, in fact it was an early version of “State of Mind,” but beyond that he had never really recorded an album before. It had been a long time since I had been in the studio as well. Before From Ashes, the last time I recorded anything serious was the Symptoms of the Manipulated EP that INHUMAN VISIONS put out. I was 17 on that recording and I was 23 by the time we got around to recording the ABYSMAL DAWN LP. I remembered some things from recording with INHUMAN VISIONS, but I think the demo we recorded in our garage was what made us really start getting ourselves in shape for recording the album. We recorded everything to a click track and that made it easier for everyone, I think. So if you don’t know how to play to a metronome, learn because you’ll save everyone some serious time and money.
APESHIT: In your previous bands (INHUMAN VISIONS and RISE) you concentrated solely on guitar playing, but with ABYSMAL DAWN, you chose to handle vocals as well. Was it difficult to make the transition to becoming the frontman as well as just one of the guitarists? What did you do to prepare for your new role? Who would you list as some of your vocal influences?
Charles: I always had favorite vocalists when I was growing up and before I picked up guitar I wanted to be a singer. But ultimately, I focused on guitar more and every band I ever joined already had an established frontman. Actually, when we first started ABYSMAL DAWN we had a couple of people in mind to sing for us. Dan Dismal from CREMATORIUM even came down to jam with us at a rehearsal but in the end we both realized he didn’t have the time and parted ways. Lyrically, I’ve know for a long time what I wanted, so rather than looking for someone else to sing I just taught myself. Vocally, some of my inspirations would have to be Corpsegrinder [CANNIBAL CORPSE], Peter TÃ¤gtgren [HYPOCRISY], Mikael Ã…kerfeldt [OPETH] and Jon NÃ¶dtveidt [DISSECTION]. There are others as well but those are probably the main ones.
APESHIT: One of the things I noticed on the album is that the band emphasizes melodic, memorable sections both in terms of song structure and in the way that you and Jaime perform the guitar solos. Was this a conscious decision, or did the writing naturally flow that way?
Charles: It was a conscious effort actually. I like a lot of old trash bands like METALLICA and TESTAMENT. The way those bands would fit a solo into a song really appealed to me. We just tried to have an epic feeling or structure in every song that would give it sort of that “classic” vibe.
APESHIT: Another aspect of the band that sets you apart from a lot of other bands is the lyrics, as they tend to avoid the conventional cookie-cutter satanic, mutilation, horror-inspired clichÃ©s that a lot of other extreme bands overuse. Can you give us a little more insight in to some of the lyrical subject matter on From Ashes?
Charles: I’ve been called a somewhat moody person and I guess that’s more reflected in the lyrics than the music. Gore lyrics don’t really do anything for me because they rarely convey any sort of emotion or feeling. I want our music to convey pain, suffering, despair, obsession, frustration, hate and anger. I don’t want to hear about love and happiness because if your art conveys that it doesn’t mean anything. Joy doesn’t move people, suffering does. Though clichÃ©, I’d rather hear about some guy killing some woman with her own amputated limbs than a song about the girl next door.
APESHIT: Tell us a little about some of the visual aspects of the band. What made you decide to use Par Olofsson for the artwork? Did you give him specific concepts for what you wanted visually? Or did you give him free reign to create his own work?
Charles: The first time I heard about Par was when he created the artwork for that DEEDS OF FLESH DVD. The band had a link to his work on their site so I checked it out and was blown away. From there I just contacted him and started talking to him about doing a cover for us. This was way before we had even recorded the album and all he had for inspiration was our low budget demo. Fortunately, he still decided to work with us (laughs). The cover is just a depiction of the lyrics to the song “Blacken the Sky.” The lyrics are about someone who loses someone close to them and is mad at God. He burns himself alive and his ashes drift towards heaven and scorch the sky. He’s reborn as in the form of a phoenix in order to wage his war against heaven.
APESHIT: The band filmed a video for the song “Crown Desire” before you headed out on the road. What was that experience like for the band? Did the band create is own concept for the video or was that task handed to the director?
Charles: Well it’s harder than playing a show I can tell you that much (laughs). We must have played the same song for four hours and we were probably the most exhausted we’d ever been in our entire lives by the end of it. The lyrics are about how sometimes the things we want can get the best of us. The concept for the video was my own. The model in the video is supposed to represent Eve and how she lost paradise when she was tempted by the devil to eat the forbidden fruit.
APESHIT: Trends come and go”¦even in metal. Today’s latest wave seems to be the metalcore. What’s your opinion on it? It’s distinctly different from death metal and black metal yet just as heavy. Would you consider touring with a band that fell under that genre?
Charles: The fact anything remotely metal is popular these days helps the underground scene tremendously. There are some good bands in that scene, but there are also just so many terribly bland bands right now as well. I’m not sure what you want to call metalcore, but I wouldn’t mind touring with a more metal or deathcore band. I will say that personally, I can’t stomach the current trend of clean singing in most these bands. Some bands pull it off but most lack any character in their voice. To me it sounds like they learned to sing by singing in the shower or their school choir or something.
APESHIT: What’s next for the band”¦more touring? Is there any new material already in the works?
Charles: We have two new songs at the moment and a couple of others in the works. We’ve been trying to get a head start on the songwriting this time around. It took us a while to write From Ashes and we want this one to top that. I think the next one will be a little more extreme. We’ll see though, only time will tell.