Photos and story by Brat
If you enjoy your metal blended
with elements of power and traditionalism, spiced with guitar solos coming
from a wide range of influence and strong vocals then DUNGEON’s recent
release, A Rise to Power, may
be the CD you’ve been waiting for to sate your listening appetite.
I’m not going to bore you
with spinning facts from their biography–all that is available at length
on their website, but I will tell you DUNGEON hail from Sydney and
describe themselves as ‘Australian power metal’.
Building a strong and loyal
following with constant touring and consistent performances over many
years, DUNGEON created a demand for recorded music and released Resurrection
in 1999. DUNGEON is only one of a handful of Australian metal acts that
tour outside its home state regularly.
Why limit the band to one city? The point of doing this is to become the
best Australian band...not the
best Sydney band. We can only play Sydney so often. We're lucky at the
moment in that nobody is like Dungeon anywhere else in the country.
Tim (LT): What a lot of people don't realise
is how expensive it is to tour in Australia. This is a BIG country with a
lot of miles between each place to play and then, since the metal market
is so small in comparison to other musical genres, the turn-out at the gig
may not cover your traveling expenses, let alone put money into your
pockets. One of Dungeon's greatest strengths is its live shows–people
know us for that more than anything else, I think.
Because if we didn’t tour we’d receive death threats from our fans.
No, if you don’t take your music to the audience in this country you
will get nowhere.
Dungeon has a pretty strong work ethic, everything revolves around being
in Dungeon–our private lives, work and such, so it’s important for us
to take all areas seriously, to build a following here you have to tour,
it's the only way.
I agree with Lord Tim. It’s
their live reputation that has earned them support slots for so many
overseas metal acts and not just power metal bands. Some of the bigger
names include YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN, NEVERMORE, MAYHEM, EDGUY and
We’re genuine fans of many different styles of metal and I think that
crosses over live.
We're entertainers on stage. Even if people don't necessarily like what we
do musically, they enjoy the show because it's visual, it's fun, it's even
tight and played well in some shows. We're not really a typical power
metal band and that helps a lot, too. We have influences ranging from glam
to power, to thrash, to death in what we do, so it makes it easy for us to
tailor a set to suit everything.
I think we all try to achieve a band we'd like to see.
And, we feed off the crowd’s energy and they feed off ours.
Apart from the international
supports, DUNGEON completed a national CD launch tour late 2002. I asked
the members what they thought of the tours…
Awesome! Our (CD launch) tour was great because we finally made it to
Adelaide and Brisbane for the first time–that was something we'd been
wanting to do for ages but just never had the money to do it.
Destruction–well, what can you say about those guys? Great guys, awesome
band, totally pro and a pleasure sharing a stage with them every night!
Both of those tours will stay with me forever as highlights of my career.
Absolutely fantastic. Like Edguy, they are the most down-to-earth blokes
willing to laugh at themselves and learn from anyone. I haven't seen too
many overseas acts mix with the audience they way they did after their
performances. They were truly accessible to everyone and were proud
patriots of their country as well as metal. We received a rare gift from
them in the form of experience and attitude. We made some good friends on
Unforgettable! On our CD launch tour we drove the whole way in a small,
relatively uncomfortable bus. I think in total we traveled over 7000 km
for 8 shows and drove back to Sydney from Adelaide in one go–that’s 17
or so hours straight.
The Destruction tour was great.
We’ve played with some great bands over the last few years and these
blokes became our friends along the way too. To play with such metal
legends and to be treated with the respect that we were by them was
inspiring. These guys are pros and I look forward to having several German
beers with them again one day.
The Destruction guys were awesome both in person and on stage every
night–it was a great experience to spend time with a band I have
idolised from 1989.
…and if there were any
memorable events they could tell
Memorable events can be good and bad. Touring can test the mettle of a
band's spirit; i.e. travelling together constantly in a confined space
(tour bus) and constantly being exposed to the same 3 people
day-in/day-out. I believe we pulled through okay.
Stevo’s not talking about the
tour buses people in the US and Europe are probably imagining, he’s
talking about a van that holds a maximum of 12 people filled with band,
gear and beer pulling a trailer with even more gear (and beer?).
Besides the gigs in the places we'd never played before, just the shows
themselves really. Dungeon fans are some of the most loyal and intense
fans in the world, I think, and seeing a hall full of them going nuts is
awe-inspiring. The chants, the sing-alongs, the stage-diving... All
…from crazy fans hurting themselves in the pit and getting up to do it
again, to the unbelievable generosity of the people who help us out along
the way. On the Destruction tour, Stu and I went through a few hours of
tattooing on the day of the biggest gig in Melbourne, only arriving
backstage 10 minutes before we had to load onto stage for our set.
The final night of the Destruction tour in Melbourne we all hung out at a
pizza place and the guys in Destruction mentioned how much they dug our
stuff, we all got smashed and vowed to meet again at Wacken for a proper
Now that you have a better
insight into the band that is DUNGEON, let’s get to the heart of the
Rise to Power shows more maturity in writing and playing to Resurrection,
being exposed to the surge in popularity of European metal has also made
it’s mark on this new CD.
As fans of so many types of
metal, I asked if anyone influenced A
Rise to Power.
I think you can't not be
influenced by anything in the current market when you record something you
would like to be successful.
We needed to make an album that would
stand up against anything that was selling well across the globe so we
used those popular bands (of our style) as benchmarks. That's not to say
we were copying what they did, just in terms of the size of the
production, harmonies, solos, etc.
Music wise, most of the influences I
had in writing came from bands from 15 years ago and the current melodic
death metal thing caught my ear and probably had a part.
Recording-wise we tried to get the ‘big production’ which is what’s
necessary to compete with international bands, especially European ones.
We're all influenced by our own styles of metal. When that's brought to
the table and conglomerated, the result is usually far from any current
style. While, overly, the songs may encompass speed power metal, I believe
the delivery of the material is what makes Dungeon a little different from
the current market. The world has too many power metal bands... why not be
one that's a little different?
We did use reference CDs to gauge whether the sound we were going for was
going to hold up with the other bands out there. I can only comment on the
recording process, but we were playing a lot of metal like Gamma Ray,
Edguy and Swedish death bands in between breaks.
Now, down to the tunes on A
Rise to Power (Australian release)…
For me there's two (favourites). Other than Insanity's Fall, Netherlife,
Lost in the Light and Traumatised,
it would have to be Where Madness
Hides because the drumming is a little different than in other Dungeon
songs and I enjoy the diverse playing. The other is Life
is Black. I gave Tim the chord progression and told him to come up
with the most heart-bleeding lead melody he could think of. What he came
up with totally surpassed my expectations.
I count five songs. Is anyone
else worried that Stevo is DUNGEON’S drummer?
If you’re not into symphonic style
intros, skip this song otherwise you’ll stop playing the CD
Rise to Power
Simple yet a strong melody laced with
intricate guitar playing starts the CD holding back no energy.
(Black Rose Die)
This track’s darker than a lot of
the CD with a hint of Priest-style rhythm guitar in the mix.
The wait for this song to be added to the
live set was definitely worth it. It’s strong, melodic, has an even mix
of instruments with a catchy melody.
Insanity's Fall (is my favourite). The
chorus gets me every time.
The Other Side
A slightly mellower (if that’s the right word) track on the CD.
This track starts with a solo.
Where Madness Hides
Probably appealing to my nuttier side, Where
Madness Hides gains more of my attention with the style changes in the
singing adding some interesting elements into the mix.
Lost in the Light
What an epic. So much diversity in this song without sounding like a lot
of tiny songs stuck together as many other epics do. A nice addition is a
bass solo–something bands seem to be doing more these days in
recognition of the bass stepping out of it’s rhythm section shadow.
LT: I think my favourite would be Lost
in the Light because it's just so over the top in so many ways. But Traumatised,
Insanity's Fall, Netherlife,
Life is Black and The
Other Side are also big faves of mine.
Life is Black
Instrumental and ‘token ballad’ of the CD.
will sound funny, but my wife and I were married to Life
is Black. Every time I hear the song and that
solo the hair stands up on the back of my neck. I have visions of everyone
in the room bursting into tears from the emotion of seeing Jenny, so
beautiful, at the bottom of the stairs just as the first note of the main
solo hits…I guess you had to be there. Live is another story though.
Be prepared to be surprised with this track. Forget everything you’ve
heard from DUNGEON and even then, you’ll be lucky if you can even
imagine the sounds coming out of this song. I remember the first time I
heard this track during the ‘listening party’. I sat motionless. My
mouth dropped looking from member to member wondering who? what? when?
where? why? This song made such an impression on me I walked around for
weeks after humming the chorus, hungry to hear it again.
This was a song I'd originally wrote for
Addictive... the band I was in before Dungeon. The song got as far as the
notepad before their inevitable demise. During the A
Rise to Power writing stage, I played it to Tim and his eyes lit up
like saucers: "Fuck yeah... we gotta do this". With a bit of
tweaking and the addition of a couple of melodic elements, the music was
spawned. The lyrics are loosely based on a part of a sci-fi story I'm
writing (yes, there's an entire background story to the subject of this
song), so with a bunch verse tweaks by Tim the lyrics were also born.
This song has polarised a lot of people who have heard it–they either
love it or hate it with a passion. The solo is one of my faves on the
album, too. There's this one harmonic I do on the guitar just before the
harmony guitar part that sounds like you're getting your stomach ripped
out! We don't want to feel limited just by the bounds of what people
perceive a power metal band should be.
What were your worst and best
experiences when recording ARTP?
Best: Finishing bass lines, which I’d been stressing about and then
hearing the end result after it was mastered by Steve Smart.
Worst: The day I turned up to do my
bass lines, fired up (see ‘stressing’), only to have a goddamn power
blackout for 6 hours and not being able to do them.
Best: There's magic in them there recordings, pure and simple. Some of the
stuff captured exactly the vibe we wanted or the performance we tried to
achieve. My highlights were the silly high vocal stuff in Lost in the Light, my solo in Life
is Black, how well the vocal harmonies came together, the blast beat
and sweep-picking fest in the middle of Lost
in the Light and the vocals of Traumatised.
I'm so proud of all of that stuff and it all still brings a smile to my
face now when I listen to it.
Worst: Just the intense pressure to
get it all right, really. I wouldn't wish that kind of pressure on anyone.
Best: I had just joined Dungeon, so I was looking forward to getting into
it. It was great to work with the guys and discover how professional the
recording process was.
Worst: To be honest, none really. A
lot of the hours and editing was completed by LT and Stevo in the studio,
so it was pretty cruisey for me, hahaha.
Best: The last hit in the last song on the last day, hahaha. Also, hearing
all the songs finally come together, in particular Life is Black and
Did the end product meet your expectations/visions?
More or less, yes. As soon as we finished, I picked about 20 things just
off the top of my head that I wanted to change and that was just me. But
every recording you make is a learning experience and if we went back in
with the same budget as we had for A
Rise to Power for the next album, it would come sound even better. The
bottom line is, we're all damn proud of this album! It's not perfect but
it's pretty damn good for how we did it.
We’ve done pretty well. With the things we learnt recording A
Rise to Power the next album will be even better.
I am really happy with the CD overall. When you play in a band you tend to
record various things and in the end have to make excuses about the
quality or sound, but not on this one.
It exceeds them. Obviously, there are little things that could have been
done differently, but overall, I'm happy with it.
With 12 original tracks on the
CD, what made you decide do add some covers? Why those particular songs?
Those covers are pretty much there as bonus tracks for the Australian
release only just to give the Aussie fans something extra.
We had a promo CDR out sometime in 2002 which had test recordings we did
when we were auditioning studios to record A Rise to Power. There were 6 songs, all covers. This CDR made its
way to local radio stations and 'zines and became quite a sought after
item, it seems.
Years is a pretty special song to me, we
played it at a benefit concert in Melbourne where all of the singers from
every band that performed that night came back on stage with us and sung a
line, then joined in together for a huge chorus. The vibe that day was
just so amazing, the song always brings back great memories of that show.
of the Reich is something I'd wanted to sing
for a long time since I'm such a huge Geoff Tate fan. Being able to do
that and have it included on the album is pretty cool to me.
I guess my one gripe with the
CD is, although the guitar solos are excellent, there are a lot of them, but
with two excellent guitarists I don’t think if would have been possible
to do it any other way and still maintain the essence that is DUNGEON. It
gives listeners an accurate description of how they sound live.
Another CD, Rising Power–Commemorative Japanese Tour CD, containing 5
originals (some remixed or re-recorded) new covers and bonus video
material, was released to coincide with DUNGEON’S Japanese tour as part
of Melodic Metal Festival, Tokyo, in May. The tour was a huge success and
managed to capture video footage to be used in a later release.
DUNGEON made many new friends
(fans and other festival bands) and their forum was flooded with new
members as the word spread through the country while DUNGEON played their
own headliner show in Osaka.
Japan pics kindly provided by Dungeon.
What's the most satisfying
thing about being a member of Dungeon?
Having loyal, crazy fans who enjoy watching us four fools enjoy ourselves
in front of them and seeing them enjoying us live.
To be playing with a unit that’s tight and knows what it wants. I think
the hard thing sometimes in bands is that members have different
priorities that make it hard to achieve what you are going for, not the
Overall, for me, it's playing live to an appreciative audience, but also
being able to play and tour with such high-standard bands.
Being acknowledged for what you've done, whether it be in a review, by
someone who's heard the album and said "Wow, I love it!" or by a
venue full of people who are totally enjoying what you do–that's the
biggest thing. Also, being able to express yourself artistically in the
way that we do on the album is pretty cool.
Which band, current or defunct,
would you love DUNGEON to tour with?
Definitely Iron Maiden. There are so many great bands out there, though.
Take us to Europe and I’ll tour with just about anyone. If Edguy or
Destruction asked us to tour with them again I’d do that any day.
No doubt Judas Priest. Also Maiden, In Flames, Gamma Ray (I would love to
meet Kai Hansen–the godfather of power metal).
Soilwork (we'd get stuff chucked at us, though). Nah, just about any
classic metal band. The highlight for me would be to support the bands
that influenced me to take up metal.
Priest or Maiden would be the top of my lists, I think, but any larger
band would be cool. I'd go back out on the road with Edguy or Destruction
in a second if they asked.
Where would DUNGEON like to be
in a year?
On a world tour with IRON MAIDEN as our support. OK, that ain't gonna
happen but that's what I'd like to see! Realistically, I'd like to see us
continuing on from where we are now and taking Dungeon and Aussie metal to
the rest of the world.
We hope to tour (Europe) and represent not only ourselves, but Australian
metal as a whole.
Backstage at W.O.A after playing an hour set with a “Dungeon” chant
coming from the crowd…. That would be nice! And of course drinking
European beer in Europe.
Living in Europe, working hard touring and pushing the new CD. And we hope
to see everyone there with us.
As you can read the band
members are genuine people as well as accomplished musicians giving credit
and never forgetting the non-metal aspects of their lives which prove to
only make them better people. Well (the rest of the world) it’s only a
matter of time before you, too, will be exposed to the people who are
DUNGEON and will come realise this.
As of June 30, A Rise to Power is available world-wide through LMP.
L-R: Stu, Dakk, Stevo, LT