Back-to-BasicsChris Black is on a roll. An unstoppable heavy metal force. He is truly one of metal’s most gifted songwriters at the helm of two of metal’s most likable bands.
Oh, do you still need more? After the last couple of Dawnbringer albums and the great High Spirits record from earlier this year, I thought you’d already be convinced that you need Night of the Hammer. Well, this time around the promo spiel is self-contradictory, claiming this is “more unique and even stranger” but also “more straightforward . . . and traditional.” I’m going to lean toward the latter claim as the truth.
Dawnbringer has been stripped to essentials. These are short, simple songs (though not lacking for nice guitar leads) with an added emphasis on vocal melody. Black’s vocals on Nucleus were a little static for my taste, but recent years I’ve witnessed a remarkable improvement. Through eight tracks of mostly straight-forward heavy metal tunes, with a couple of doom numbers thrown in, he sings in a pure, unaffected style, and he does it well. But more importantly, he mixes it up on the other two songs. “Not Your Night” borders on black metal, and there he uses a raspy growl. The thing that really grabbed my attention, though, was his King Diamond impersonation on “Funeral Child.” Falsetto vocals and even a bit of the King’s phrasing, as well as some Mercyful Fate style lead work (but unfortunately not an MF-style riff in sight).
This is a solid album of solid, memorable songwriting. It doesn’t set out to be a magnum opus, but perhaps a return to the basics. Now if next time around he pens another concept album complete with a whole lot more falsettos and growls, we could be looking at an album-of-the-year contender. But for now, I’m happy just enjoying the simple things.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars