You watch three clean-cut young men in hoodies and sneakers walk in to a basement, settle onto stools, bring their instruments around their shoulders, and seconds later you’re flying on a magic carpet of shred.
That’s how I first encountered Derick Harshbarger, Brandon Clevenger, and Joel Schwallier, the two guitarists and bassist behind Lafayette, Indiana’s Dawn of Dementia. Their guitar/bass play-through of ‘Vitrification’ from their recent EP Residuum is drawing attention across the tech death world, something the members never expected when they first got together in high school.
“When we started, we were 16 years old and we just jammed a few times,” Brandon remembers. “Eventually we started writing and we formed Dawn of Dementia. Initially, we didn’t have any intentions of making a band, or even writing for that matter. We didn’t even start out listening to death metal, we actually played deathcore. After a year or two of writing, we were tired with the style and we got into more technical music and decided to head in that direction.”
They may have grown up within the sight of Indiana’s corn fields, but the guys in Dawn of Dementia have great taste in music, drawing influences from the best of the tech death masters.
“Spawn of Possession, The Faceless, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Son of Aurelius were our primary influences for the EP,” the members, who include vocalist Noe Sepulveda and newly joined drummer Kevin Baum, agree.
The more I listened to the EP, the more I heard tones and patterns that reminded me of Cary Geare and Max Zigman’s playing on Son of Aurelius’ groundbreaking The Farthest Reaches.
“As far as Son of Aurelius’s influence, we tried to emulate the melodic style of riffing mixed with odd time signature patterns,” Dawn of Dementia points out. “The opening riff to ‘Vitrification’ is an example of a riff directly influenced by SoA’s style, as it’s still melodic but changes time signatures every measure. The pattern consists of a four bar phrase counted as 5/8 + 6/8 + 5/8 + 8/8, and like most of our riffing, utilizes the Phrygian Dominant scale (another influence we took from bands such as Necrophagist, Wretched, and Son of Aurelius).”
Dawn of Dementia are also showing interest in the mixture of atmospheric music with tech death.
“For the much more atmospheric/cleaner sections, Fallujah and Augury were two primary influences,” bassist Joel says. “I also took a lot from Dream Theater and Son of Aurelius’s style with constant time signature changes when it came to sections in ‘Vitrification’ and ‘Somatic Fallacy’. As far as my bass influences, Dominic “Forest” Lapointe from Augury was, and definitely continues to be one of the biggest inspirations for my instrument.”
Work is already underway on a new full-length Dawn of Dementia record.
“We started writing the guitars and bass for the full length and have made substantial progress,” Joel continues. “We’re hoping to have the music completed within the next year and a half and record in the winter of 2014. As far as lyrics, we’re still developing a concept. The material will certainly retain our technical and melodic influences, but you can expect longer and much more diverse songs, as we aim to incorporate a wider range of our influences.”
They hope to be on the road regionally next year with a longer tours planned for 2015.
This is ambitious music, particularly for players as young as these guys, but the effort is part of its own reward.
“It takes a lot of effort to play this kind of music at this age,” Brandon says. “We’ve only played our instruments for five to six years, but it seems like a lot of bands our age don’t try hard to write or play original music. So many local bands settle for the same sound, and if they want to get better, they have to put a lot into their music. It’s not to say that we write technically styled riffs for the sake of technicality, we simply enjoy the way it sounds.”
“A lot of the material we wrote ended up pushing our playing abilities,” Joel agrees. “This resulted in us having to practice quite a bit to learn and master the challenging material. Writing challenging music has certainly served as good motivation for practicing and improvement, and it’s definitely something I would recommend to anyone who wants to improve. Also, just finding bands that experiment with genres is always a cool way to develop ideas.”
So you take a bunch of guys from Indiana, expose them to the best tech death in the world, watch them develop new ideas with their instruments, and you have Dawn of Dementia, a band I’m confident we’ll all be listening to and enjoying for years to come.
Stream Dawn of Dementia’s latest EP Residuum below.