After reviewing one of the best Death Metal releases of 2014 in Obsolescence and seeing them in action live a week later I finally got the chance to sit down with vocalist/guitarist Charles Elliott of ABYSMAL DAWN for a phone chat to discuss the tour the band had just wrapped. We also got into the writing of the new record as opposed to earlier releases among other things. So check it:
Amps: First of all, gotta tell you how much I loved Obsolescence. Easily one of the best Death Metal records of 2014.
Charles: Thank you, man. That means a lot. We tried really hard on this one and it took a long time. So to have a good reception like it’s gotten means the world to us.
Amps: This album is very different, but it’s still the same ABYSMAL DAWN. It definitely grabs you by the throat more. Would you agree?
Charles: I think so. We never repeat ourselves, and every album sounds unique from the other ones but still has some sort of underlying characteristics as other bands. I think this album’s definitely a little more intense; it’s our most intense record. There’s a lot of grooves on there and honestly it’s our fastest record overall.
Amps: “Inanimate” and “Devouring the Essence of God” have to be two of the best songs in the band’s catalog now. What went into writing those two?
Charles: I dunno, sometimes the groovier stuff comes easier to us. A lot of “Inanimate” was written in the rehearsal studio and then when it came time for the real crazy second half that was something I had to work out because they’re such dizzying fuckin’ riffs (laughs)! It took a while to break it down to make sense out of it. Andy (Nelson, guitar) wrote “Devouring” and I kind of rearranged it. This song was our first writing experience together and when we first finished it he hated it (laughing)! I think when we finished he was bummed. But I’ve heard a lot of people saying how much they like it so I hope he thinks that the changes I suggested were good in the end, especially after I wrote lyrics over it and everything. It’s a cool song as well, a little more on the tech side of our sound, I think. I really like Bobby Koelble’s (DEATH) guitar solo on that song, too. Fuckin’ awesome!
Amps: Yeah, security at my day gig shakes their heads every time I drive up to the gate blaring that one (both of us laugh)! ABYSMAL DAWN is just what I need at 5:30 am to wake up!
Charles: They probably think you’re gonna go postal!
Amps: So you just finished the tour with SEPTICFLESH, INQUISITION, and DEICIDE. What’s on tap for 2015?
Charles: We’re trying to figure out how to make things work financially but in theory we should be in Europe in February. We’re also trying to work out a spring tour. Our record was released at the butt end of the year and everyone’s trying to rush their albums out. So many came out the same day as ours. Just an incredible list of albums. So I’m not sure when exactly we’re gonna play the U.S. again in 2015.
Amps: Yeah, October 28 was tough. So many records came out that day.
Charles: Yeah and there are people who don’t like ours, but this is probably the best received record we’ve done so far. I’m happy for that. I wanted to write a record that would contend with the heavy hitters and I feel like we’ve done that. I feel like we’ve put out something as good as what some veteran acts did.
Amps: Who does what in the band in terms of writing?
Charles: The process this time around was since Scott (Fuller, drums) moved back up north, six hours away from L.A. when the writing process for this album began. That really put a damper on how we normally do things. We had a handful of jam sessions where something came out of them. What ended up happening is I got a better computer and better recording software and was able to take some of the ideas from those sessions and make them into full songs, retaining some of the drum parts he had written, then writing a bunch of drum parts around that. Eliseo (Garcia, bass) contributed some riffs on the album and we’d get together and he’d show me what he had idea-wise.
And later we’d go back and reference some of those when I was looking for ideas. Andy wrote “Devouring” with a drum machine and I just came in and pissed him off and rearranged it (laughing)! It came out cool. This was our first sort of writing experience everyone all together, so we’ll definitely collaborate more in future. Plus, it seems like this line-up is here to stay, hopefully, and we’re trying to make it work so we can create more beautiful Death Metal music in the future.
Amps: A lot of people feel that this is your best album (me included), but how do YOU feel? Is it your best, or is the best still to come from ABYSMAL DAWN?
Charles: Hey, the possibility of us doing an even better album exists. That’s the whole point, though. After we did Leveling the Plane of Existence we were like, “OK. Where do we go from here?” So it took a while. The whole point of putting out albums is to be hopefully better than last time or at least as good as. It seems like most people are favoring this album, even though they like Leveling a lot too. I feel like those are the two records people gravitate towards. Leveling is where we first got noticed. I’m not knocking our early career, I think those records are cool but I prefer the last two albums, and we play mostly that stuff live.
Amps: Speaking of live, it sucks you did a tour before the record even came out. I mean, it dropped with what, two dates left? That was tough, I imagine.
Charles: We had maybe a week of being able to sell the CD on the road. It sucks but it was what came up as an opportunity so we took it. People probably downloaded it before then anyway (laughs). But still, we kind of wanted to differentiate ourselves in style these days, and while there are certain bands in this genre that I enjoy I think we were trying to horn in on song craft and riffs and powerful arrangements. We wanted to play fast without playing a million notes. Just capture people’s attention by writing songs they’d wanna play over and over again. Not to knock what everyone else is doing because everyone’s got their own path in life and what they enjoy in music. I wanna have music that people will remember and latch onto. Maybe I’m just getting older. I’d rather have songs that just crush live instead of all those notes.
Amps: When you’re out there and you guys get sick, like on this last run what do you do to make sure you’re always on?
Charles: I do what every vocal coach in the world would tell you not to…I drink a beer. (Amps roars with approval!) I was coughing and had a lot of phlegm on this last tour, and having to sing every night was rough. I think drinking ONE beer before a show helped decongest me. I’m sure a vocal coach would kill me if I said that to them. You gotta do what you can on tour.
Charles: This album took so long to fuckin’ write that now we’re just getting together to exchange some riff ideas and not wait three years till the next record. That seems to have been the cycle these past few albums. I think a two-year cycle would be more ideal. We’re feeling a little restless and inspired again so we’ll get together and see what happens, and that’s good, because that means we’re not burnt out and hating music.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the ABYSMAL DAWN fans out there?
Charles: Buy our fuckin’ record (laughs)!! Thank you for your support, and I hope people enjoy this record. If you like it, pick it up. If we’re on tour come hang with us man, we love to get to know people and have a beer with them. Keep supporting the music that you love and don’t ever let anyone tell you what to listen to.
And there you have it. Charles Elliott from ABYSMAL DAWN, ladies and gentleman. He’s pretty cool, isn’t he? Just a guy who loves to play Death Metal that people dig. At press time the band has been confirmed to go on the Chaos Raids USA Tour with 1349, ORIGIN, and WOLVHAMMER, starting in February. You can get tickets HERE. And if for some reason you STILL haven’t bought a copy of Obsolescence, please take your dominant hand and slap yourself in the face six times in succession. And then go get it!
PHOTOS: ARDENT OWL MEDIA