Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dawnbringer: Nucleus (2010)


A week ago today, I got the new issue of Decibel which included their picks for the 40 best albums of the year. A few of them I hated, others I kind of liked, and a handful were ones that I loved. The list as a whole is pretty hit-and-miss, probably because they simply want to generate controversy rather than agreement. But of the top five, I had already given perfect scores to four of them--so it seems I agree with them more often than I thought. The fifth, Dawnbringer's Nucleus, I had listened to for the first time that day. Can Decibel go five for five?

Nucleus finds the American band Dawnbringer performing pure heavy metal. It opens on "So Much for Sleep", which brings to bear an excellent and memorable riff, along with two guitar solos before the vocals even join the fray. Guitar chords before vocal chords--How much more metal can you get?

Many of the riffs are extremely memorable, like on "You Know Me". And the band changes things up often enough to keep it interesting. The ballad "Cataract" has a folksy intro and plenty of emotion without losing its metallic qualities, "Old Wizard" is total doom, and closer "Pendulum" has lots of atonal acoustic guitar melodies that recall the end to Opeth's "Burden", paired with a simple bassline.

The only real downside to the album is the lackluster vocals. They are in a slightly gruff but almost completely natural voice, and the delivery echoes Blake Judd's monotone and tempo (without the harshness). Other than when he tries to drive the song with a vocal melody (as on "Like an Earthquake") it doesn't really hurt the music, but it never does anything spectacular to help it out, either.

There are some truly great standout tracks on here, like "So Much for Sleep", "You Know Me", and "Old Wizard". But "The Devil" gets silly in the middle, and "Like an Earthquake" and "All I See" seem unfinished or imperfect. Still, you won't regret getting it.

The Verdict: Despite an uninteresting vocal performance, there are plenty of memorable riffs and hooks, and enough variety, to keep Nucleus interesting. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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