If you’ve read a Taking Dawn review, chances are you’ve learned about the band’s affinity for 80s metal, but what you might not have counted on and should is vocalist/guitarist Chris Babbitt’s love of early Black Sabbath. While the Las Vegas quartet’s squalling guitars, high-ranged vocals, unmatched energy and in-your-face aggression may be reminiscent of the hair metal hayday at surface level, the young guns cite Birmingham’s progenitors of heavy metal at the root of their musical lineage. Having released their debut album Time to Burn this past January while out on their first tour around the globe, Taking Dawn is burgeoning onto the hard and heavy scene, which is why we sat down with Babbitt to discuss their recent “Changes.”
Revelates Babbitt, “Actually you know what, [“Changes”] -- that’s the only song I don’t like by them. Fuck man, that and “FX” -- that’s the only Sabbath tune you’ll ever see me skip.” And though he starts with some negativity, Babbit profoundly explicates the love he holds for “his favorite band ever.”
“My dad was playing [Sabbath] since I was in the cradle, so I was gonna love it whether I liked it or not.” And love it he did. “We Sold Our Souls For Rock & Roll – that was the first record I ever bought. I went out and bought it [myself] when I was way young.” But why start with the greatest hits? “Right off the bat I wanted all the [good] stuff. I listened to all the records all the time, but usually my dad popped in the We Sold Our Souls tape, and when you’re hanging with your friends you want to play them all the best shit cuz you want them to get into it too, but then “Changes” pops up.” Pausing, Babbitt shakes his head, but continues, “By the time I turned 12 I had every Sabbath record you could – even Seventh Star and all the Iommi stuff that wasn’t really Sabbath -- I had all that shit.”
Casual or die-hard, any fan of the band knows that the purveyors of the down-tuned blues have gone through their share of transformations – replacing singers, experimenting with instrumentation, etc. And without missing a beat, Babbitt tackles the ultimate question: “Ozzy’s easily my favorite.” The singer matter-of-factly quips, “I don’t like the Gillan stuff even though I love, LOVE Deep Purple. There’s one tune on there that’s ok, but as a whole it’s a failed artistic endeavor. I love Dio and the Sabbath shit with Dio reaffirms them so much more as the ultimate fathers of heavy metal, because they start in the late 60s/ early 70s defining everything prior to everyone, and then redefining in the 80s.”
Excitedly continuing as if ready to discuss Sabbath his whole life, Babbitt spews out more adoration: “Favorite record is Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but I jump around. Masters of Reality is the shit. Vol. 4 is unstoppable, but I feel they’re most progressive on Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” And for Taking Dawn, the proto-metal influence doesn’t stop there. Starting with Deep Purple, Babbitt continues, “I listen to so much Purple. You can go easy and say Machine Head like most people do, it’s a killer record, but Battle Rages On is a big one too.”
Moving into NWOBHM territory, the frontman shares his love of Maiden and then some. “All Maiden – except the Blaze stuff. The Blaze shit had some good songs, he’s just not a good singer. Obviously love Metallica, I love all Ozzy’s solo shit.” And not as obvious, Eminem. “I love Eminem to death. I know every lyric to every single fucking record he ever put out. He does have clever shit. He’s very, very lyrical. I think it’s clever. It’s probably why I say so many words so fast in our faster tunes.”
But the hair metal likeness mentioned in numerous reviews of these upstarts’ debut record Time to Burn had to come from somewhere, and as Babbitt name-checks Skid Row and Def Leppard, we completely understand. But as for the '80s' label branded onto his band, Babbitt challenges, “If it’s big and catchy, or just big with those drums and those guitars, you’re not gonna hear a song that has a faster version of a Ritchie Blackmore riff or fucking Ted Nugent riff. But, “Fight ‘Em With Your Rock” is more akin to ”Cat Scratch Fever” than anything fucking Bang Tango did. We’re gonna be misperceived all day long – that’s what people like to do," affirms the frontman. "They like to throw you into pigeonholed little genres where they immediately demean the value of the music."
Genres aside, we ask Babbitt what it is about his record that might be lost in the critical eye. "It’s real. It’s not worthless. It kicks your fucking ass and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like it. It’s genuine. The guitars are shredding, there’s songs for fun, there’s songs to kick your ass, and there’s songs for substance, everything’s on there. It covers range and it’s a rock record that ‘s been missing for a long time to have been put out by a rock band.”
Get it right here.