Sacred Dawn – Lothar Keller (vocals/guitar)
Chicago’s SACRED DAWN blend a heavier edged power metal with progressive rock. The band’s hard rock and heavy metal influences create a unique blend of vocal harmonies, heavy riffs, shredding guitar solos and good songwriting.
At age 14, Lothar Keller (guitars/vocals) was hooked on metal after his father, a minister, took him to an IRON MAIDEN concert. Soon after, Lothar began to create music and started a christian metal band called DISCIPLE 13.
From the ashes of DISCIPLE 13, Sacred Dawn was born through Lothar’s vision. Through several years and several lineup changes as well, Lothar feels this version of SACRED DAWN is at its creative peak. The new album is soon to be released and Lothar and his bandmates are ready to take the next step.
Kelley Simms (SMNnews): Chicago is such a great heavy metal city. The bands are so diverse in so many different genres. What were you trying to establish while putting the band together?
Lothar Keller: It was kind of a vision of the songs I had written in the past. The first drummer (Joe Marvin) and I had a past for about 10 years in a previous band called Disciple 13. We lost contact, I got into the TV business for about five or six years and then managed to make contact again. I had a bunch of stuff I started recording on my own, because I built a studio and thought it was time to start writing again. Some of those old songs came back from the Disciple 13 years. Then that drummer moved on, and our current guitar player, Mike (Carpenter) was also in Disciple 13. It’s kind of a collaboration of musicians over the years that has gotten to this point. I’ve predominantly written most of the material in this band, but I’ve been wanting to collaborate with other guys. It’s been pretty cool and this next album we’ve got coming out … I can’t express enough, and the other guys in the band feel the same way … it’s definitely a different direction for Sacred Dawn. But we’re pretty excited to see how the fans are going to like it.
KS: Talk about the new album. Is the material going to have that same “Gears of the Machine” feel to it?
LK: There’s still the same fundamental Sacred Dawn sounds … heavy riffs, melodic vocal lines and so on. The material on this album has definitely gotten, in some cases, a little more heavier and aggressive. It’s a darker album. It’s a concept album, so it kind of has that need for it, that kind of feel, that tone and sound. Right now, we’re still in the final mixing stages so it could be another month until we get everything out there. We started recording this album over a year ago last January. All the parts have been recorded and we’re hoping to get this out there next month.
KS: “Gears of the Machine: A New Beginning” is mixed with such diverse tunes, but your vocal style is a bit hard to pin down. Which singers had an influence on you?
LK: I’d have to say, anywhere from Robert Plant to Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate, even a little flair of current singers that are out now like Nevermore. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Iron Maiden were two of the first bands I really started to get into when I started to listen to metal when I was young.
KS: The original “Gears of the Machine” was released in 2006, and the “Gears of the Machine: A New Beginning” in 2008. Were the songs remixed and rearranged?
LK: The first release of it was with a different drummer and bass player. The bass player actually left before the album got finished being mixed and I ended up replacing all the bass lines. We had done a small release and didn’t get too expensive with it, and we decided to pull it back and re-record with the new members. We are now half of a different band and we’ve definitely gotten a lot tighter and everybody’s playing has had an effect on the material. We just felt the need to re-record it and do a complete remix. That’s why we titled it “A New Beginning” because it was a new band and new lineup.
KS: When I noticed that a cover of “Devil Went Down To Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band was on the album, I thought for sure I would hate it. But it actually works very well in a metal way. What made you decide to record it?
LK: It was kind of a left-field thing. When Sacred Dawn first started, there was only about five or six original tunes. We wanted to start getting out and playing and get some exposure, and cover tunes were one of those things where we had to pick a few of them. We picked the typical ones; Maiden, Priest, Black Sabbath. We had to do something to really get people’s attention and that song just spoke a border-line speed metal version. The guitar work and the melody was cool. Everybody knows that song, even if they’re not a metal fan, we still got their attention.
KS: You’re relatively a newer band, but do you feel you should be getting more recognition for what you’re doing? Or do you feel that you’re right on schedule for the type of metal that you play?
LK: Considering that we’re now at the point of getting our second album out, there are people who know we’re out there, and that’s kind of the whole thing. We’re really hoping to get a good response out of our second album, especially in the European markets. I’m not dissatisfied and I’m pleased with the fan base we do have. None of us are getting any younger, but we’re hoping the next couple of years are going to be good.
KS: With your classical music training, do you feel it’s an advantage over other bands that don’t display such a diverse musical ability?
LK: I definitely think it’s an advantage because there’s just a lot of skill and technicality that goes into the whole classical music sound. I think what it’s really done is help on the compositions, because you can hear all sorts of different things. There’s so much variations of classical music just like there’s so many variations of heavy metal. You got progressive, neoclassical, blues-based metal … there’s border-line country metal out there. I think it helps mold the kind of band Sacred Dawn has become for future albums. Even with our new keyboard player that we added on for this new album, there’s some stuff in progressive and classical coming out in the band. I did get a little training in rhythm and blues as well. I also play a lot of different instruments. I’ve got training on the trumpet … I play bass and drums, the harp. It’s nice to have a well-rounded basis to work with something.
KS: Being the son of a minister, does your music or lyrics reflect a religious standpoint, good or bad?
LK: We kind of fall in the middle of that. I did have a christian rock band when I was younger and that was one area where people said, “Why don’t you go in that direction?” It wasn’t that I was necessarily against it. Even on this album, my father helped with some of the lyrical content. It’s more secular I guess. It’s not religious-based. But a lot of metal is based around religion. A lot of us have grown up with some form of religion in one way or another.
KS: Any last words, comments or plugs you like to get in?
LK: I would like to let everybody know that Sacred Dawn will be playing the Warriors of Metalfest in Chillicothe, Ohio on June 26. It’s a two-day open air fest. There’s a ton of metal bands and you’ll definitely won’t want to miss it. Check out www.sacreddawn.com and www.myspace.com/sacreddawnmusic. We’ll be making announcements as soon as we have dates, and as soon as the album is ready, it will be available on Amazon.com. We’re looking forward to this release and hope to be playing in a town near you.
By Kelley Simms