About Me

Interview with Abysmal Dawn

Within Death Metal, Abysmal Dawn needs no introduction. After a 6-year hiatus, they returned with their latest album, Phylogenesis, perhaps the most technical album of the group so far. Vocalist / guitarist Charles Elliott talk to us about the album, the new publisher, the new elements of the band and what he is doing in the midst of this worldwide pandemic.

M.I. – Hey! How are you? First, thanks for time answering our questions. Second, congrats for a great new album. It’s awesome!

Thank you! I appreciate that. We definitely put a lot of effort into this one.

M.I. – Ok… So, 6 years, that`s how long it passed since your last album. Why? What have you been doing in the meantime?

We toured a lot for the previous album. I think we did something like 4 or 5 North American tours, a European tour and run of South America. I started a small recording studio during that time as well. We also went through a lineup change and some things happened in our personal lives that needed to be taken care of. 

M.I. – The feedback and reviews of this new album have been very good. Is it your best work so far? Is it a true Abysmal Dawn album? Or, listening to it now, would you do anything different?

I definitely feel like it’s our best record yet. I might have done little things different here and there but overall, it was the best possible record we could make in that moment in time and what we wanted to do. I guess I wouldn’t do anything different but I know how I would approach things a little differently next time around. I’m still extremely proud of “Phylogenesis”. 

M.I. – This is the first album with two new members (James and Vito). What did they bring to your sound that was missing in the band?

I think James’ drumming just opened up a lot of possibilities for us. We were able to explore different grooves, feels and tempos this time around. Vito is the over the top shredder of the band. I’m a decently lead player I feel but he’s way out there with his playing and technique. I always wanted a guitarist that was more dedicated to lead playing and that’s something we have for the first time on this one.

M.I. – With the new elements, were there any changes in the way of writing the album or did it follow your natural process?

We were able to jam more this time. On the last album, I think we were able to get together maybe a total of 3 times to try and write? That caused me to write a lot on my own with a drum machine. Our drummer just lived so far away that was the only way to do it. This time, we all lived relatively close together and could work out ideas in front of one another. I think that helped with the energy of the record and keeping the inspirational juices flowing so to speak.

M.I. – Phylogenesis is also your most technical album. Was it something consciously thought out or just the natural result of your growth, not only as musicians, but as instrumentalists?

I think we wanted to push ourselves as players a bit on this one, so there was a bit of a conscious effort. “Obsolescence” was a bit more straightforward and I think we wanted to get back a bit to their style on “Leveling The Plane Of Existence”. But I think our growth as musicians and chemistry just naturally brought out something more.

M.I. – Technique… is that something you want to explore more or are you going to go back to the more melodious sounds with which you built your career?

Technique is a tool for us and what we’re trying to say. It gets us to our point, it isn’t the point itself. Melody will always be a part of what we do. Hooks and memorable riffs are what I enjoy most.

M.I. – The entire album is a criticism of society and the way we live today ... Hedonistic, the song you chose for the presentation single, is a criticism of the way we look for happiness. For you, what is the ultimate end? What should be the purpose of life?

Everyone needs their own purpose. Once you have purpose, some form of happiness will come. I think that’s why a lot of artists and musicians choose this hard life-style. There’s more fulfillment in trying to create something lasting in the world than making money at a job you don’t believe in.

M.I. – Much of the album speaks, directly or indirectly, of the effects of social media in our lives ... Do you consider that these media brought more disadvantages than advantages? Are they the ones who shape the way we think and act and we hardly do that for ourselves?

That’s hard to say. As a musician, social media for example makes it so I’m able to spread our music to more people and potentially get more fans. But in the end, there just became more bands and fewer bands can actually make a living doing this. I think we’re shaped by the things we see and interact with, whether we know it or not. The internet and social media are still relatively new, in the forms they exist today. We’re only learning now what sort of affect these things can have on us mentally and how they shape our lives and politics. So in the end, yes, I sort of feel these things have brought us more harm than good at the moment.

M.I. – Phylogenesis has a hidden Death track... Sure, it's one of the great references within the genre, but why did you want to add it to the album?

We just ended up having some extra time in the studio and decided to record a cover song. We picked that one since Death is one of my all-time favourite bands, and James is a huge fan of Sean Reinert’s drumming. When we were putting together the final track listing, it just seemed to fit perfectly with the overall feel and lyrical content of the album.

M.I. – This is also the first album with a new label ... Was it a necessary change? Or did you just want something different?

I think it was necessary for us to grow in Europe. Season Of Mist just seems to have a much stronger set up there. I appreciate what Relapse did for us in the past but they didn’t seem to be that interested in us in the end. We spoke to a few labels but Season Of Mist just seemed the most enthusiastic and I appreciated their frank manner of speaking. 

M.I. – After 15 years, what was your biggest challenge to date? The one you had to fight the most against?

Just keeping a band together and continuing to put out records, honestly. It was definitely a challenge to get us to Europe that first time in 2015, and the same getting us to South America in 2018. But in the end, just continuing to be a band that makes music in this day and age has become a huge achievement. It hasn’t been an easy ride over the years but I’m glad we’re still here, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.  

M.I. – During your growth as a band, you went on tours with some big names… Who did you enjoy playing with the most? And from whom did you learn more?

Probably, Cannibal Corpse. They were always super good to us and humble for being the biggest death metal band in the world. And they always had a no bullshit attitude, which I admire. I remember Alex saying to me once how he’d seen a lot of musicians with personas start off one way over the years, and just end up themselves in the end. That sort of stuck with me. We’ve always kept it about the music and not some silly imagery or something that prevents us from being ourselves. At the same time, I understand bands that have a gimmick. We’d probably be far more successful if we had one ourselves, but it just isn’t us.

M.I. – Who would you like to share the stage with and haven't had the opportunity to do so yet?

Carcass, The Black Dahlia Murder, At The Gates, Amon Amarth and King Diamond. I’m not sure how we’d go over with King Diamond fans but I’m a huge fan. It would just be cool to meet and tour with those guys.

M.I. – What was the most absurd and WTF episode that you had in your live shows? 

There have been a few over the years. The first tour we ever did we played the night after the Insane Clown Posse. The stage was sticky still because it was covered in that bullshit soda they spray everywhere. So, at some point, I stepped on my set list and it was stuck to my boot the rest of the show. Another was this last tour we did with Vader, Hideous Divinity and Vitriol in Los Angeles. It was the last show of the tour and everything just decided to break that night. James’ pedals broke the first song, then Vito’s guitar kept cutting in and out for some reason until going out completely for the last few songs. It was a nightmare but people seemed to still love it. Luckily our sound guy Daniel knew what he was doing and saved us. 

M.I. – It is almost impossible not to address this topic ... Due to Covid-19, the world has changed. Events were cancelled, the social rules changed ... But with this, we saw the appearance of new ways of communicating, new initiatives, bands and artists betting on other tools - which they did not use before - to be with their audience ... Will music / musicians continue to bet on this growing digital wave or, when the pandemic passes, will everything be the same as it was a few months ago? Do you think there will be definite changes?

I don’t think things will go back to normal, no. I think we’re going to see buying habits for music change. Fans will start streaming more and buying music directly from record companies, band stores and other online retailers. Music stores were already in trouble and it’s hard to see them getting out of this alive. And depending on how this lasts, people’s buying habits will just change.

M.I. – And you? How do you occupy your life now? What changes has Covid-19 brought to your day-to-day?

I currently work a day job from home and I do mixing and mastering for bands on the side. Other than that, probably the same changes most of us are dealing with. I cook a lot more and make giant batches of food for freezing. It makes my trips to the market less frequent. I try to workout from home and go on walks to stay sane. I’ve tried to keep in touch a bit more with friends to see how they’re doing as well.

M.I. – If we were to, at this moment, spying on your Youtube history, what bands, music and videos would we see there?

Honestly, I don’t go to YouTube much for music. You’d probably find a bunch of video game playthroughs, mostly for “God Of War”, and music equipment reviews in my history. Randomly tutorials for things and stuff like that.

M.I. – What's next for Abysmal Dawn in the coming months? Any plans for a tour in Europe? 

If all goes well we hope to be back in December on tour. Hope to see you maniacs there once we make it.

M.I. – Okay, again, thanks for your time. Any last words for our readers and your fans in Portugal? 

Take care for yourselves, support the bands you love during this time and hope to see you in the near future when this madness is over!

Thanks and stay strong as you always have!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Ivan Santos