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BLACK DAWN, Long Island's Hardest Alternative or Metal Rock Band?
"BLACK DAWN is following in the footsteps of the few, the proud and the heavy..." (Musicians' Exchange)
By Andrew Marles
(more articles from this author)
2011-07-13
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BLACK DAWN is a group of four musicians, a faithful road manager, an ever-growing legion of fans (ranging from rowdy adolescents to toothless old men and women), a respect and appreciation for the sound of silence, and a suitcase full of aggressive and passionate hard-edged music.

The original incarnation of BLACK DAWN was created in 1992 when Tom Kelly hooked up with a local Long Island bass player, and once formed the band decided to name themselves as appropriately as they could, utilizing a name that deep down described their heavy, morbid, and intense music quintessentially. "We needed a name that is not happy, because the songs are not happy. This was the most unhappy name we could think of. For us, it implies an absence of hope. I suppose that, in a way, it recognizes those who are in a bad situation and know that they are not going to get out of it."

Originally intending to have the band be a hobby, over the years it has evolved into a very serious affair. "At first, it was probably just to be able to use and improve whatever musical ability we have. The shows would be a chance for us to party with our friends. We've kept the band going all this time because it is our art. It is what we would rather be doing instead of our jobs."

"BLACK DAWN has been labeled 'New York's Hardest Alternative Rock Band'. But Backwash Zine would beg to disagree. "...f*ck that. They're not alternative. They're metal. The way it's supposed to be...". The band describes their music as somewhere between Godsmack and Volbeat bringing elements of both hard rock luminaries into their aggressive style while still retaining their own unique and personal approach to hard rock which can only be accurately described as "BLACK DAWN".

Enzo: "Our music appeals to a large age group, one night we were playing a show and we had just finished a song and this deranged old man got up on stage and started dancing. He had three teeth missing and had his underwear hanging out of his pants. He liked us so much that he took his money out and starting handing it out to everyone in the band..."

Their self-titled debut, second album "Absence of Time", and live album recorded at the famed New York Club CBGB's has gained the band acclaim from both fans and critics alike. Both studio releases charted on dozens of college alternative and loud-rock radio stations throughout the Northeast and earned the band a folder full of praise. Their hard work and talent also got them noticed on the Long Island music circuit, where they ended 1997 as semi-finalists in the Long Island Music festival.

The band strives to stay fresh and vibrant in a genre that is muddy and dark; aims to be positive amidst lyrics that are manic, frustrated and angry; breathes new life into a musical style that is often over saturated by stale, "been there, done that" local bands. Much of this originality can be attributed to principle songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Matt Kotten. Although the music he writes is heavy and angry-sounding, his lyrics are passionate and emotional. "Our goal has always been to save people from having to listen to the same stuff. We like to give people something better than what they were expecting at a time when they did not expect it. Quick and sudden changes in time, rhythm, and overall tone are used to knock people on their asses when they think they are going to hear a typical ballad."

Rare is it these days that a band can manage to stay together so long and still be able to survive all the ups and downs and inner turmoil that being in a band constitutes, but BLACK DAWN attributes much of their longevity to the chemistry established between the band members: "We have been able to stay together this long because we have a formula between us that works. That formula is the most basic element of our sound. So we do whatever we have to in order to preserve it. There have been obstacles a plenty, and it only gets more difficult as time goes on and the band members' personal obligations become more and more demanding. In some bands, a band member will be kicked out for being late to practice more than three times. It is not like that in BLACK DAWN. Work and family come before the band."

The members of BLACK DAWN stay honest by being true to themselves and true to the music, and after years together, they know how to make the band machine work smoothly. Besides their obvious musical roles, they also have their unspoken roles within the band: Matt is the sensitive one - he brings the aggression into the songs. Tom is the serious one -- he brings stability and helps keep the music together. Enzo is the crazy one - he adds the power behind it all. James is the cool, collected one - he brings the soul into the music.

Their hard rock and metal Live shows have always been a crucial aspect of the genre and typically a proving ground for success. BLACK DAWN is no exception to this. The band strongly believes in their live show and ensures their fans truly get their moneys worth. "Shows are always supposed to be better than the studio recordings because they are live, which means anything goes. If you want to do an extended guitar solo, go right ahead. If you want to experiment with new equipment, effects, or fills that were not included on the CD, you can incorporate these changes at shows. The show can be an opportunity for fans to hear the songs in a more updated format" Their music has taken them touring all over the country including shows in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Louisville.

James: "The most important thing is that you never settle on just trying to please an audience by playing what you think they want to hear and see. If something is bothering you about what you're playing, then change it. If something is still bothering you after that, then don't play. Maybe complete silence is the sound you are searching for to complete that masterpiece..."


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