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Abysmal Dawn's Charles Elliot: "Everything we write is meant to be experienced at our live show. Any technical aspects are meant to serve the song, not just show off our abilities"

Interview with Charles Elliot from Abysmal Dawn
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 29 April 2020, 11:13 PM

The true face of society is actually divided into so many facets and versions, however, if there is one thing that unites all the frames together, ties them tightly, is that the feeling is that everything is going down, slowly. Time will tell if mankind will be able to learn from some of its mistake and just behave. However, most of us might not be here to know it. The American Death Metal starlets, Abysmal Dawn, have been tasting the awfulness of sitting at home due to the Covid-19, yet there is no hope lost. Their new album, "Phylogenesis", has enough juice in it to keep the expectations high from what is to be unleashed onstage. Steinmetal talked to Charles Elliot about the current situation, the new album, influences and directions, and more…

Greetings Charles, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. I trust that you are at home in a sort of a lockdown with the Covid-19 pandemic out there in the streets?

I am. I’ve been staying home and only going out for essentials when needed. It’s been strange to say the least.

This pandemic, apparently catching off guard governments, in some way including the US. However, it is not that really no one knew what was happening in China, but rather chose to consider it as a local thing that would never cross borders. What is your input on this whole situation?

I think it’s obvious our government and a lot of governments worldwide, didn’t take this thing seriously enough. I’m afraid this virus had to come here for people to take it seriously. People here freak out when they think you’re going to take their freedom away, even for a little while. Personally, I think I was in a bit of denial at the severity of things until I knew of people by a couple degrees of separation that got it.

One of the many of life’s aspects is the postponement or cancellation of everything that is regarded as social, including the implementation of distancing among the many methods. The music business, as a cultural thing, has shut down its live branch. How do you see the effects of the pandemic in your local scene? Where do you think this is all going?

I see a lot of the smaller clubs shutting down and lower to mid-level promoters going out of business. That’s going to make it harder for booking agents to book tours, and all the bands are going to want to tour all at once when this is over. Since most people stopped paying for music a long time ago, playing live was one of the only ways left for musicians to make a living. This hurts us a lot. Hopefully streaming companies will step it up and start paying artist and labels what they deserve. If not, I see a lot of bands and record labels in trouble.

Many artists, along with the think tanks within the labels, have been coming up with ways to cope with the situation and put to use elements, given by technology, in order to continue to push on the music and promote it as strongly as possible. What has Abysmal Dawn been doing ever since this pandemic struck in order to make sure that its music is known?

We’ve tried to be a bit more active with social media. We’ve never been a huge social media band and always felt a bit awkward with that. So we’re trying to see how we fit in with that world, and to promote ourselves in a way that doesn’t step on who we are as people. The last thing I want to be personally is some social media celebrity, but I understand why bands do it and I’m not knocking them. It’s just not who I am personally. But we’ve relied on touring to spread the word for so long, and now it’s time for us to think of new methods. We have a lyric video in the works, along with some play-through videos. Trying to do what we can.

Six years have passed since the destructive show of force of “Obsolescence”, and here you are again. Frankly, your kind of went lost in the fog. I know that you have been touring extensively to support “Obsolescence”, yet afterwards, there was an expectancy for something new. Other than the lineup changes that the band went through, was it a sort of a needed rest or simply you took your time to write new material in peace?

I think it was a combination of things. The drums and rhythm guitars were recorded in November and December of 2017 but we still didn’t have lyrics, leads or bass lines written. From there, a bunch of things happened in our personal lives that just through us off track. There was no real deadline and I recorded a lot of it myself out of my own studio. I think that made a lot of us feel we had all the time in the world and it dragged on. Lyrics especially take a long time for me because I have to be inspired. We just wanted to make the best record possible, we had the time and resources, so we just worked on it until we were happy. Every album needs to be a progression in my eyes, if it isn’t, what’s the point?

“Phylogenesis” is delivered as the band’s next obliteration of the mind, and with it comes a new era for the band, which took various shapes and forms. One of these forms was the signing with the French Season Of Mist label after being in a long term relationship with Relapse Records. Was that a needed career move for the band to walk away from Relapse? How do you feel the change in the band’s status as part of the Season Of Mist roster?

I think so. I appreciate everything Relapse did for us over the years, but it felt like we weren’t exactly the type of band they wanted to push these days. They’ve always seemed to have either crusty death metal or the hot new hip thing. We don’t really fit into either of those. At the end of it, it just felt like they didn’t care one way or the other if we were on the label anymore. We had also heard Relapse was going to be sold to a major label as some point, and we weren’t sure if that was going to end badly for us. So when our deal was up, we got a few offers and spoke to a few labels. Season Of Mist just felt like the best home for us. The people are all fans, enthusiastic, and straight shooters, which I really appreciate. They seem a bit stronger in Europe as well.

When thinking about it, I have the feeling that you are no biologist, perhaps a person that takes interest, but not a practitioner. How do you capture “Phylogenesis” philosophically in your own eyes? What does it symbolize?

To me, the title represents two things. On the positive side, the evolutionary jump of the band musically on this album. On the negative side, the devolution of humanity in certain aspects of society.

In a way, it can be said that Humanity is going through an evolutionary state, not necessarily Biological, yet psychological. Can you find a fine line between the happenings within “Phylogenesis” and the current state of mankind?

Well in the sense that art reflects its surroundings and modern society at the time, yes. It’s a crazy time and it was a dark moment for me personally. The record is a reflection of that and almost a sort of death metal soundtrack to falling apart.

The shaping of your previous album, “Obsolescence”, started a manifestation of technical qualities to your Death Metal doctrine. “Phylogenesis” may as well be a step forward, engaging in a bloody dogfight with Technical Metal, creating a kind of monster. I guess it was a natural phase for a band that served a version of old school Death Metal, American made of course. How do you find this evolution of Abysmal Dawn’s music?

We started getting the technical death metal tag around “Leveling The Plane Of Existence”. I actually felt I reeled in the tech aspect of the band a little on “Obsolescence”. But with this album, we went a little bit crazier again. But my goal has never been to be the most tech band, so to me we’re death metal with technical aspects to our playing. At the end of the day, I just want to write songs that you can remember and want to see played live. Everything we write is meant to be experienced at our live show. Any technical aspects are meant to serve the song, not just show off our abilities. I think that and some sort of underlining melody in everything we do has helped set us apart.

What has been fascinating you in the elements of technical driven music? To be honest, at times playing technical by definition makes the music a little soulless. How did you find the edge while writing the music for “Phylogenesis” in order to maintain the lively spirit of Death Metal and in particular, Abysmal Dawn’s legacy?

I don’t really listen to a ton of tech death to be honest, but I can appreciate it. Like I said previously, any technicality that’s there just serves to write a better song. That’s probably why the old-school death metal spirt still lingers in there as well.

The recruiting of James Coppolino (Drums) and Vito Petroni (Guitars) appears to be a necessary step in order to reach the next goal that was set for “Phylogenesis”. What did you find in these guys that others couldn’t deliver for Abysmal Dawn? How do you appreciate their technical efforts on “Phylogenesis”?

Well James to me is just a drummer's drummer. He loves metal but he listens to and can play other styles of music. He’s a well-rounded musician. No offense to the previous guys in the band but we’ve always just had strictly metal/rock drummers before. I think that new take on things really opened things up for us, and we were able to explore aspects of our sound that we’re able to previously. Vito is just a totally shred guitarist and well-rounded musician as well. That was something I always wanted but we never really had that dedicated “lead guy”. I’m a competent lead guitarist but I’ve made my emphasis more feel, odd timing and melody. It’s nice to have someone in the band that can just barrage you with a million notes and rip your face off. As a fan of 80s shred guitar, I respect that.

A general question, there has been a phenomenon going, not that in a matter of great scale, of veteran old school bands that needed to reinvent themselves in order to become one with the scene that is going on today. Do you think that it is necessary rather to remain true to one’s self?

I think you should play what you want. No one is making a killing financially playing this type of music so why compromise yourself with trends. I’m proud that we’ve stuck to our guns and just wrote the records we’ve wanted to hear, and gotten better over time.

While “Phylogenesis” is a brain melter, a challenger, how can you describe the songwriting process of this whole shebang? I assume that it took its toll on you while arranging the songs?

The music itself wasn’t terribly hard to write. James, Eliseo and I would basically get together at my home studio and jam on my electronic drum kit. We would also do some writing in Guitar Pro, including the drums times. We would record these sessions and then I could work on arranging the songs until they were perfect. Lyrically though, that was tough. I was in a sort of dark place at the time and focusing on a lot of dark emotions in my lyrics. I was in a bad place by the time it was done. I felt a lot of relief when it was over.

Certainly one of the songs that takes the listener into the evolutionary process that came over Abysmal Dawn is “The Lament Configuration”. It conveys a mystery with its title, and defines a standard as a mind provoker, but all in all, provides the chance to headbang mercilessly. What is your appreciation of this creation? What can you tell about its writing phase?

Probably the only song on this one with a bit of black metal influence in it for a moment. Some of those riffs I wrote around James’ drum parts from what I remember. He was just doing a cool off time beat with a lot ghost notes on the snare, which we hadn’t done before. I added a riff with some weird whammy bar noises as well. Lyrically, the song is about being numb to the world. I think when you get like that you want to destroy yourself to feel again somehow. It made me think of the first few Hellraiser movies, so I gave a nod to that in the title. It seems to me the people that sought out the cenobites were people that could no longer feel, and that needed to go to extremes to feel again. It was the last song I wrote the lyrics for and like I said, I wasn’t in the best headspace.

Though the Covid-19 is out there to stay, at least for a while, what do you think are the main challenges for Abysmal Dawn when it comes to supporting the album and of course also looking forward into the future, until the next time you sit down and write new material?

The main challenge right now is not being able to tour. Traditionally that’s how we’ve promoted ourselves, with grass roots touring. So far now, we’re forced to try and think of other ways to get the word out there. We might start writing the new album sooner than later. Will probably have an EP at some point. There were a few songs that we recorded during “Phylogenesis” that just needed lyrics finished and recorded so we’ll see.

Charles, it was amazing to have you for this interview, I thank you for the time provided to answer the questions. I wish you best of health and all the best. Thank you for an amazing release.

Thank you for having me and thank you for supporting Abysmal Dawn. Cheers!



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