Christian 'Chrischaan' Wilsberg & Marcel Martin

Dawn Ahead

The furious German fivesome, DAWN AHEAD, is an unconventional thrashcore-crossover outfit, unafraid of boundaries in music and a band that spew sonic fury from the pits of hell! Made up of five uber talented musicians, Thomas, Chrischaan, Marcel, Patrick and Jan, DAWN AHEAD present groove, metalcore and death, all served up with lashings of thrash brutality in their latest production "Fallen Anthems". Metal Temple's staff writer and interviewer, Leanne Evans, had the chance to catch up with the guys and pick their brains behind the band's unique formula, their personal inspiration and drive behind the latest release and what the future holds for the band.

By Leanne Evans
May 30, 2021
DAWN AHEAD's Christian 'Chrischaan' Wilsberg: "In Metal
Hey guys! So nice to speak with you today, thanks very much for your time chatting with Metal Temple! How have you all been doing?

Chrischaan: Hi Leanne, so glad you're having us. I'm fine. The ups and downs in life have been a wild ride recently, but in the end there's more to cherish than to lament.

Marcel: I´m quite optimistic because I think the last 6 months of lockdown and shitty weather will finally come to an end soon.

These last 12 months have sure been crazy for all of us. How have you managed throughout the pandemic and has it helped or hindered creativity?

Chrischaan: Yeah, I think those past 12 months were insane. I never thought something like this could happen, but all of a sudden, the world literally stood still. I think the limitations were challenging, so was the fear that you can infect yourself, or lose someone to the disease. As to how I managed through it? I had no recipe to be honest, I just went on and tried not to think about how long this situation will last. And I failed from time to time, but I didn't judge myself for it. My creativity suffered very much, though. I draw inspirations from my everyday life. When life was shut down, so was the source for my creativity.

Marcel: In the last months I have not created a lot of new stuff. But this doesn´t really has something to do with the pandemic. So, I guess it´s hard to say what the influence was. The pandemic cut off the social life which I mainly compensated by working more hours, so life was definitely more monotonous and less exciting. On the other hand, I didn´t get bored either.

Now, tell me more about the roots of Dawn Ahead… I understand that Thomas is the brains behind creating the band, but how did the concept of Dawn Ahead come about? Did you set out to create something wildly different from the outset or has this organically happened?

Chrischaan: Thomas and Marcel might correct me here, but for me, our style happened organically. We all agreed that our main focus is Thrash Metal, but that there would be room for creativity. For my lyrics and vocal lines, I tried to understand what the song needs, first, in order to work. It's not like: "Oh, this is a Slayer riff, so I have to do Araya here". I try to listen through a song's components and then come up with a lyrical theme or decide whether this or that part needs harsh vocals or a melody.

Marcel: I agree. When you compare the first demos to the new album "Fallen Anthems" we have evolved for sure but I think it was a gradual and organic evolution.

And what roots do you all have musically? I recently reviewed and interviewed a fellow thrasher who had played in punk bands for many years, and it heavily influenced his style and allowed him to go balls deep and be true to the music he wanted to create. Has this been the same for you guys? Have you played in other bands prior to Dawn Ahead? Which genres have they been involved in?

Chrischaan: My musical roots go back to my earliest childhood days. When other kids played with toys, I played with records. I don't have a favourite genre anymore. I grew up with 80s rock and pop, went with 90s Euro-Trash, had a short Hip Hop phase as a teen but grew tired of it after 2 years. With no other popular music genre left I fell in love with classical music and film scores, I still am. Everything I admire about this, the complexity, the energy, the melodies, I rediscovered in guitar music. I started with Punk but found it too limited. In Metal, there are no limitations; that's why Metal became my number one music. I don't care if it is Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Prog, Folk, Gothic, Black or whatever. The musical diversity in Metal is limitless and it's a pity when you focus only on one aspect of it. And yes, I have played in various other bands where I tried myself in every Rock and Metal genre mentioned. Not as a singer, but a guitar player.

Marcel: I´m listening to Metal since my childhood. My father was listening to Rock and Metal, so I grew with Queen, Metallica, Dream Theater and so on. I played in some beginner-type bands before that played Metal – but I think they were at a level where you couldn´t even say what subgenre this is (laughs). But before I joined Dawn Ahead, I had written 3 hours of material that was kind of unlistenable instrumental Prog Metal.

I also understand that Patrick is quite new to the band; have you been able to play together since Covid kicked off, or have you found yourselves in the same position as many other musicians right now and resigned to having to playing together virtually?

Chrischaan: Yeah, when the first lockdown was lifted, we had a few rehearsals together. Patrick has a natural understanding of the songs and it felt like he always played them. Unfortunately, we only had like two or three months with lighter regulations, so when lockdown was tightened again, we couldn't do anything musically. We had a lot to do for the album though, so we had other things to manage. And he was involved in every decision concerning the album.

Marcel: We rehearsed for a few months regularly and Patrick played his parts very well from day one. But I hope and think that when we get back to the rehearsal space the excitement that we can rehearse again and the whole situation will bring us to another level compared to where we left off last year.

Your sound is extremely unique, with many a nuance and genre running through the new release, "Fallen Anthems", and really sets you apart in the world of thrash with the crossover that you convey, not too dissimilar from Suicidal Tendencies. Is this deliberate to appeal to a diverse fanbase or is this naturally Dawn Ahead's identity?

Chrischaan: Again, I think it is organic what we create, so I assume there's no definite fanbase the music of Dawn Ahead appeals to. I would say our fanbase comes from Extreme Metal with no further specification. But you should be open minded; there is traditional stuff and old school stuff in our music, but if you only listen to old school stuff, you won't be happy with us. We have modern parts and I love it, that you, Leanne called us Thrashcore Crossover. No one did that before and I think it suits pretty well. I don't see the "core" aspect and would replace it with "modern" somehow, but we have the same idea here.

Marcel: It actually is very funny that even we´ve already got a decent amount of reviews and feedback in general there are still new definitions coming in from time to time on how to categorize us. I agree with Chrischaan on our mix between old school and modern stuff. But that´s as far as I want to go, and I don´t see the need to specify it beyond that. The rest is up to people like you, Leanne (wink, wink!)

Now, speaking of "Fallen Anthems", there's a lot going on in one album. Tell me more about the thematic and inspiration behind the tracks!

Chrischaan: When you count every recording we did, including home demos, many of the songs on "Fallen Anthems" came from a demo Thomas recorded, and it was the 7th recording under the banner of Dawn Ahead. So, he came up with the idea that each song on that recording should carry the working title of one of the seven biblical sins. For me the direction was clear, that many of the songs (even those Marcel contributed) would get the "Sin-Treatment", lyric wise. I'm happy with the end result, because it's not too obvious anymore. There is a lot of thematic mashup, always to enjoy with a grain of salt and you have to read between the lines to get what's in my mind.

Marcel: My songs are all over the place. It just came out that way, that two of my songs are the two slowest on the album, "Anthem of the Fallen" and "Among the Blind". For "Among the Blind" I can tell you that my working title was Walk – that tells enough on where my mind was when trying to mold these riffs into a song. And the working title for "Summon the Black" was Rollercoaster Ride. If you listen closely, you will hear that several parts that sound completely different are all based on the same chord progression. Because I came up with so many variations based on these chords it had to become such a long and progressive track.

I was very honoured to review the new album and thoroughly enjoyed it! I appreciate the fact that you guys started with a pretty killer instrumental to kick off (I mean, doesn't every decent thrash album do that!) with lots of clever twists and turns. There's grooves, tempo twists, solid solos… and there's the clean crispness of Chrischaan's vocals that quickly burst into death-style growls… wow! Have there been any particular bands or influences that have inspired you to create such a standout style?

Chrischaan: Thomas may tell you about the musical approach of "State of Mind". Vocal wise, the first draft was created in 2017 when Annihilator released their album "For the Demented". There's this song, "Twisted Lobotomy". I loved Jeff Water's vocal approach, that you have this brutal riff and this hilariously high breakneck speed, but melodic vocals. Our older songs all have the same scheme, harsh verse, melodic chorus. So I loved the idea to open the album with the fastest track our listeners knew from us to this time, but surprise them with melodic vocals.

Marcel: I have always seen it that way: to a single idea, one riff or a particular vocal style for example, in most cased there is an influence from one or several of our "heroes" in it. But, of course, in a song some many ideas from different guys are put into it that in the end it is a huge melting pot. So, our diverse sound is the combination of many little influences not a single big one.

Were there any challenges that you faced when producing "Fallen Anthems"? If so, how did you overcome them?

Chrischaan: I can only tell you stuff from the vocal recordings, as the drums and guitars were recorded separately without my participation. The vocal recordings were rough, to be honest. I suffered from an angry bronchitis when I entered the studio. We booked the studio for two weekends, four days in total, to get the vocal stuff done and do additional work on mixing. The first weekend I only could work two or three hours a day, so a lot of time was wasted. We could go through with almost every song in the end, but I had to scrap a lot of ideas I originally had in mind. There were other reasons I didn't feel comfortable during the recordings. I think some parts turned out really good in the end, despite the circumstances. But some other things I wish I had done different and with more time.

Marcel: It was a really challenging, time consuming and exhausting production for me as I was involved in all the stages of it. From the drum recording where I was present the whole time, to the guitar and bass recording, including the editing of the guitar parts and the vocal recording to the mixing. Especially the mixing which took quite a long time to a get a result that we were satisfied with was a bit frustrating at times.

One of the most enjoyable tracks for me on "Fallen Anthems" is "Excess" which is excessively excessive and works so well! Which have been your personal highlights from the album? Are there any tracks that place special meaning at all for you?

Chrischaan: I think we all can agree on "Excess" as a standout piece from the album. I love it and I assume it will be included in each and every setlist we play from now on. But there are some other killer songs as well, such as "I Command" or "All I Have to Do", which have some intriguing lyrics and storytelling. "Among the Blind" and "Shot at Dawn" are two slow-burners that become really haunting when they start to stick with you. And I really wish to play "Summon the Black" live, with an epic production as the finale of our regular set. I think that would be bonkers!

Marcel: Every time we play "Excess" – even when it´s just during rehearsal – I feel it and I get really excited and hyped while playing and screaming my lungs out. It´s kind of over the top which always makes me smile, almost laughing, while playing and watching the rest of the guys playing it.

You've received good reviews for "Fallen Anthems" and as I said previously, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did mention in my review that it does feel like there is a lot going on in places in some of the tracks, but perhaps a little more streamlining in the fusion you wish to achieve this would enhance your uniqueness. How do you guys personally feel about that?

Chrischaan: There's this KISS-formula in song-writing. It says: "Keep It Simple, Stupid". One day, Richie Blackmore used this formula, and "Smoke on the Water" was the result. That's a perfect example for your point or the point that was mentioned in other reviews. But if you listen to the latest Dream Theatre, for example, where they tried to use the same formula, you really feel that the songs are incomplete. As for our stuff: I think, songs like "Excess", or "Hunter" and "Sinister Thoughts" from our older releases are pretty much straight forward and focussed. But for every simple song on a record, you should have a more experimental one to compensate. This enhances the diversity and leaves the band enough room for creativity without reducing themselves. Maybe we could try to compose two or three in-your-face songs more than we did in the past for an upcoming record. But we´re not Dawn Ahead if we weren't allowed to experiment.

Marcel: We certainly haven´t had a discussion about our future direction yet. Maybe we´ll have one when it´s about time to write new stuff – or we will just roll with it and see what comes out, I don´t know.

Have you found that the reviews you've received have been constructive and have you been able to glean anything from them?

Chrischaan: Yeah, totally. There were two destructive reviews I can remember. All they knew to say was "This is shit" and "Totally horrible" without actually getting into the details what actually went wrong for them. Every other review was very constructive. I think it's interesting to hear, what other (educated) music fans and professional journalists think about our stuff. I totally think the band will have some of the constructive points in mind when working on the next record.

Marcel: To be totally honest, I don´t have the full picture of all the reviews we got. I have read some of them but not all. The ones I read were all constructive and because someone from the outside has a totally different perspective it sometimes lets you think about stuff that just wasn´t on your mind. So that´s pretty interesting in that sense but I´m not sure if it will have an effect on my future writing, at least not a direct effect.

Now, looking back on Dawn Ahead's journey, do you feel that there's been organic growth in your style, or do you feel that you are still in the throes of unearthing your identity?

Chrischaan: Yes to both points. It was all organic growth that led us to where we are now and there is still room for evolvement. I'm trying different vocals styles every day and I hope that I can try them on future songs. I think it's the same for the other guys with your instruments, isn't it?

Marcel: I think that we have found our style roughly but within that there is still a lot of possibilities and new ground to cover and explore.

I was lucky enough to view a live recording from one of your gigs in Andernach in 2018 and was blown away by your performance of "Restless" from your first EP. It was a high-energy flawless show, and your passion clearly courses through your veins. The world is a little different right now, but hopefully, we'll be back to live performances soon. Is Dawn Ahead keen to create the days of Andernach once more, and get out and do live shows?

Chrischaan: First, thank you very much for your kind words concerning our show in Andernach. That was our show with Blizzen, Angel Dust and MotorJesus. It was our second show we played in this venue. I lived in Koblenz for 12 years which is next to Andernach, and I went to see shows in this venue every two or three months. It was very special for me to play there. Even if the audience in your hometown is more critical than anywhere else, haha! Every show we play is full of energy, but I think this was a special one for sure. And yes, we need to play shows again. Where do you guys want us to play? What about Britain? You know some nice venue for us? Haha…

Marcel: What a goddamn fucking situation we are in that we get nostalgic when thinking about a live concert! So much time has passed since my last concert that it´s even hard to imagine how this was and hopefully will be again. But I think the end of tunnel is closer than we might even think right now. It will be so awesome to be back on the stage!

What plans do you have on the cards for the band over the next couple of years? Will we all be able to look forward to material from Dawn Ahead and if so, are you able to give us a hint, or tease us, with what the next release might sound like?

Chrischaan: This is a question Thomas and Marcel need to answer. At the exact time of the interview I don't know any new stuff (except the stuff that is recorded but not released yet). All I wish for new songs is that there will be surprises, room for creativity and of course two or three straight forward catchy in-your-face songs.

Marcel: I have some ideas, but I have only finished two songs right now – and of course just instrumental. That´s why it´s a little early to say which direction we will take. At least no country songs or ballads up until now, I can say that.

And do you all have any longing aspirations that you'd like to fulfil with the band, maybe in terms of performing at a particular location or festival, or anything else that your metal hearts desire?

Chrischaan: Oh dear, there are too many to mention. It'd be great to play for a foreign audience or for a big audience, maybe at a renowned festival. But as I am a fanboy first and foremost, I'd be lurking around backstage and hope to meet my idols!

Marcel: I play anywhere! I´m not picky about the location but of course a big festival would be a dream come true.

And to round things off nicely, a question that has endless possibilities and very fun, my signature "Leanne question" I ask in my interviews! Indulge me and tell me who your fantasy celebrity metal tea party guests would be! You need to choose someone to cook, someone to chat with, someone to entertain you and someone to party with…

Chrischaan: Haha…okay, tough one. Someone to cook? I have no idea at all. The singer/guitar player of a German Comedy Metal band called J.B.O., Vito, recently posted a video of him preparing a pretty awesome looking seafood risotto. That'd be nice. And for someone to chat I choose Kai Hansen from Helloween and Gamma Ray. He is my idol, musically spoken, and I already had a nice long chat with him over a few beers. He is kind, relaxed, funny and has so many interesting stories to tell that time flies by when you talk to him. Someone to entertain me? What about Scott Ian from Anthrax? He always seems so grumpy, so the idea of him being forced to play the jester makes me smile. And as a party dude I pick Dani Filth. I had the honour to interview him once, and the interview turned out to be chitchat and fooling around alongside loads of information. I felt totally easy around him and I think, he did too. We went well over the deadline because we were stuck in conversation. Management burst in and told us to stop and he was like "I think we need another five minutes" again and again, all with his British politeness, while management became more upset everytime they reminded us that we were over the time limit. It was hilarious. Having a few pints with him should result in mischievous fun.

Marcel: I have no idea which musician can cook well – but spontaneously, I would say Dave Lombardo. He has a Cuban heritage, and I can somehow imagine that he is a good taste – like has with his drum fills, haha! Or a guy from Gojira because they are French, haha! And since I began with drummers so I will go on with it. Gene Hoglan seems like a really nice guy, and it would be so cool to chat with him about drumming, everything about his career and so forth. But I can´t make it a full drummer tea party because Devin Townsend is probably one of the funniest guys in Metal. While he is entertaining us, I will party with the Lars Ulrich from 1989, haha!

Thank you so much, guys, it's been a pleasure! We, at Metal Temple, look forward to the next chapter of Dawn Ahead's journey and we'll be following your progress. Good luck to you all and keep it metal!

Chrischaan: Thank you for your support and this great interview! Hope we'll be able to play for you guys one day!

Marcel: Yeah, I hope we will make it to Britain some day! And thanks for the interesting questions.

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