– Hello and, first off thanks for taking your time. How’s everything going in the band’s lair?
Nuno: Hi Tania! Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our thoughts! We are currently busy preparing the recording of the album, which should happen in the next few weeks. Rehearsing, adding final touches to songs, stuff like that!
– How are you guys doing having just released your first demo? It might be exciting times I guess. What’s the feeling when you can hold the real, physical artifact in your hands? When it’s not just something abstract anymore, not just ideas?
Nuno: Although Dolmen Gate has existed for more than one year, we only wanted to present ourselves to the world when we had music to share! I see many new bands who show up on social media (Facebook, etc.) with lots of photos, promises of songs to be shared in the future, etc, but no actual music. Nothing against that, but that’s not our way. Therefore, we recorded these songs and then we released on youtube (on the NWOTHM Full Albums channel) the song “Retribution”. The day that song was released, was the day we opened our Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp pages. The response to that song was great and we followed that with the release of our demo, first digitally and then, a few days later (the time it took to produce), on tape. This all happened in the space of one month so, yeah, pretty hectic times! The response to the tape has been great and it sold out in two days! I am an old-school person so I’m very partial to physical releases ahah. The ideal would have been to release this as a 7’’ single, but the costs and waiting time for producing vinyl these days are almost prohibitive so we went for the tapes instead.
-Since this is our first interview with you: how and why was DOLMEN GATE born?
Nuno: DOLMEN GATE started somewhere in early 2021 when Alex (drums) and Kiko (guitar) got together to play some epic Heavy Metal. Fred (bass) joined them and together they started rehearsing. In the meantime, Alex kept annoying me (Nuno – guitars – we had been together in RAVENSIRE) to join them and just to shut him up I ended up agreeing! That’s how we started writing songs, still without a vocalist. This quest wouldn’t take long, however, as one day a friend of ours shared on Facebook a video of his girlfriend (and also our friend) singing “Burn” by Deep Purple. When I saw it, I told Alex “that’s it! We have a vocalist”! In the meantime, Fred quit due to his lack of time to commit to the band, Artur joined on guitars, I switched to bass and here we are!
– Already the band name itself gives a hint that you lean more somewhere in between the historical and the mystical. How do you transport this to your sound and how did you come up with the name?
Nuno: Actually, it was the other way around! The name was chosen after we had most of our music done, so it was the music that inspired the name of the band! Kiko, who came up with the name, is very much into history and fantasy gaming and literature, so he had the idea for the band name after visiting one of the hundreds of pre-historic monuments we have here in Portugal (lots of dolmens, tombs, etc). He imagined a dolmen that once you crossed its gate, you stepped into the vastness of eternity. Everyone liked the idea and the name stuck.
-Your first demo is ‘Finis Imperii’. A hint to Roman history. Where does this interest come from?
Alex: Roman history is an inevitable part of history for any European in general and maybe even more to a Portuguese. Our landscape, cities, names, bridges and many other landmarks are carved with Roman heritage and I personally think they were a fascinating civilization. In our songs, we focused more on the epic conquests and, especially, the local resistance to the invasions. Boudica in old England and Aeminium in Portugal both tell tales of fighting against the Roman imperialism and the creation a voice of local identity opposed to the Roman hegemony. These tales live on, even nowadays, as we are still pretty much under the same dynamics, now with a III World War looming ahead. As Atlantean Kodex say: “empires rise, empires fall” ahah!
– Are there any specific experiences or events that inspired some of the lyrics?
Alex: Yes,i would say that they were inspired by existing tales. “Rest in Flames”, for example, is based on a true documented rebellion of the inhabitants of Aeminium (now Coimbra) at the time. That specific fight against the romans shaped the local identity and still today there are plenty of ruins from those times. Not having the pretension of doing any kind of historical analysis, we take (such as most of epic metal fans I suppose) the romantic aspects of these epic tales into our songs. On the other hand, that fight can also be metaphoric, since we all have our own struggles in this mad world of 2023.
-Some of them have this fantasy story kind of vibe. What do you read?
Nuno: Any band dealing with epic Heavy Metal will have a hard time escaping some stalwarts of the genre like Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft. The pulp fiction of the early XX century was a gold mine for speculative fiction and fantasy. Even some earlier authors like Clark Ashton Smith, Algernon Blackwod, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Conan Doyle (his horror and fantasy stories are amazing!) and Edgar Allan Poe provide endless hours of reading material! Another interesting pool of material to be explored is fictional depictions of historical figures. Read not so long ago Conn Iggulden’s series about Genghis Khan and what an amazing tale! Bernard Cornwell also has several interesting series of books about Anglo-Saxons and Vikings and everything in between. These are but examples; there are so many interesting authors and books around!
-Sound-wise these three songs are very old school, Epic Metal that harkens back to the ‘80s. What albums have you been listening to while working on this demo? Are there any new bands or artists where you can recognize yourselves in?
Nuno: There are so many bands influencing us, from every style of Metal and Hard Rock and from every era from 1968 until today! We have been sharing moments and influences with a lot of contemporary bands, especially when we were playing and releasing stuff with RAVENSIRE. We’ve had a lot of bands with whom we have forged bonds and with DOLMEN GATE I’m sure it’ll be also like that. Bands like TERMINUS, ETERNAL CHAMPION, BATTLEROAR, GATEKEEPER, SMOULDER, VISIGOTH, DOOMSWORD, FRENZY, VULTURES VENGEANCE and so many others! Musically we’re all different from each other, but there are invisible threads binding us all together! I think the albums that might have been more present on our minds during work on this demo are probably MANOWAR “Hail to England”, OMEN “Battle Cry”, DOOMSWORD “Resound the Horn”, VULTURES VENGEANCE “The Knightlore”, BATHORY “Hammerheart” and IMMORTAL “At the Heart of Winter”.
-I must admit that the first thing that caught my attention was the cover artwork. I love it. How did you work on it? What’s it significance? Tell us about it.
Nuno: We already have a few songs composed (not only these two) and generally the lyrical content is, as you say, dwelling on historical and mythical themes, not exclusively on Roman themes. But coincidentally, when we were deciding which songs would go on the demo, we ended up choosing two songs with lyrics about the Roman Empire. That’s when the idea for the demo title came up. All this defiance from these “barbaric” tribes (together with the internal civilizational decadence) ended up bringing the end to this massive Empire. And the artwork depicts exactly that! A broken gladius (ancient Roman sword) symbolizing the fall of Rome!
-This demo was self released. Was this a choice or the only option? How much do you value a DIY ethos in underground?
Nuno: As our first release, it was a choice as we can easily manage small releases like this and distribute it around. But with bigger releases, like an album, it’s much more complicated to handle the logistics as well as the promotion that’s needed. We love doing DIY stuff but we have to be realistic and understand that we also have jobs and families that require our attention so a label is very helpful in helping out. At the same time, we are very conscious about which labels we would like to work with! It has to be a label that shares the same vision we have about Heavy Metal and the scene.
-Are you in the talks with labels to maybe reissue it or to release future material?
Nuno: We already signed a deal with No Remorse Records for the next album, which is a label that fits pretty well the vision I talked about. I’ve known Andreas for quite some time and he has always been supportive of the stuff I made (with RAVENSIRE) and also Alex made (with MIDNIGHT PRIEST) so finally the stars aligned and we ended up collaborating. As for the demo, an announcement of another special collaboration will be made very soon!
– There’s now an obvious resurrection of pretty much anything old school. Is it easier to get out there due to the growing interest or the fact that there are a lot of bands doing this makes it harder?
Nuno: I think the problem nowadays is how easy it is to listen, make and release music. This creates a flood of constant new music that overwhelms the listeners. Moreover, many musicians divide themselves in several side-projects further diluting their contribution to the scene. Although my bandmates might have a different opinion, I am the guy that commits to a band and doesn’t want distractions on parallel projects. I think that’s the best contribution I can make, because I devote 100% to what I’m creating and what I’m part of. It was the same with RAVENSIRE. Anyway, this quantity of stuff being released every day is so distracting to the fans that they end up sticking to the most catchy songs, simply because they have no time (or will) to fully listen to songs and let them grow. The more complex, or unusual, a song is the less “immediate fans” it attracts and ends up quickly forgotten. But I hate simple formulas, so in Dolmen Gate we’ll keep working on having songs we can be proud of, even if they don’t appeal to the casual listener.
-Anyway, where does the tradition end and where does the mimic begin?
Nuno: That is a very interesting question. But let’s not fool ourselves… Mimic has ALWAYS been present in Heavy Metal (and in music in general)! In the 80s, regarded as the golden age for Metal, I’ll risk in saying that 30% (and maybe not that much) of the bands were the originals and the rest were simply following their lead and copying whatever style or ideas the 30% came up with. And you know what? I don’t have a problem with that! I love Heavy Metal, I love the sound of it. I enjoy as much Iron Maiden as I do most of their clones. Who cares as long as you like what you’re listening? As someone said “imitation is the highest form of flattery” or something like that ahah. Honestly, though, I think it’s important to have your own identity and not simply copy whatever band you adore. Although DOLMEN GATE has its influences, I don’t think you can say we sound exactly like any band. We do have our own identity and personality and that’s how we want it.
– I think we all already know Metal tends to be a quite nostalgic “community”. When Simon Reynolds researched on the cult of retro on “Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past” he wondered if: “Is nostalgia stopping our culture’s ability to surge forward, or are we nostalgic precisely because our culture has stopped moving forward and so we inevitably look back to more momentous and dynamic times?”. Applied to the Metal world, what’s your opinion? Do we use to look back because we feel there’s something missing on most of today’s music?
Nuno: The only reason Traditional Heavy Metal nowadays is nostalgic is because this resurgence started with a bunch of folks from the 80s wanting to revisit their adolescence. In the 80s (and I was there) we were all young and we were all living the present. We couldn’t care less about 70s bands! We wanted to listen and support the bands that were coming out and making new music. We were not nostalgic because we were young, hungry and had new stuff to listen to! In the early 2000s, after Metal supposedly died in the 90s (it didn’t), the first people to reignite the scene and organize shows hardly had contemporary bands to look for, so they had to go to the 80s and reunite them. Then the young kids who showed interest in Heavy Metal were going to these shows and were exposed to a lot of these 80s bands. Then a trend set in and everything from the 80s was glorified! Festivals were booking old reunited bands, labels were reissuing every single obscure release from the 80s (some of them are very bad, let’s be honest) and all this nostalgic trip was passed on to the younger kids. But at the same time it also gave rise to a vibrant new scene, with lots of new bands, most of them with young people playing in them! So I think right now would be the time to stop blindly glorifying the past and begin diving deep on the interesting and dynamic scene we have, full of great new bands making music. It’s not that the Metal culture stopped moving, it’s just that who has been dominating the scene until now were old guys! In a very direct way: there’s absolutely nothing missing out of today’s Heavy Metal! There are more interesting and fresh bands in various styles than ever before. So let’s embrace that and stop yearning for the past!
– Having a front woman in the band I guess the “female fronted” tag will be often used to refer to DOLMEN GATE. How do you feel about it? Are you OK with it or sense it like a non-accurate description solely based on gender?
Nuno: What is female fronted? It doesn’t describe anything related to the music except that there’s a woman singing. It can be Thrash Metal, it can be Speed Metal, it can be Heavy Metal or it can be anything, really! Although women are in minority on the Metal scene, they’ve always been VERY present and nowadays there is no shortage of women in bands and in audiences. Maybe we (as a scene) should be more natural regarding the feminine presence and embrace it, instead of making a big fuss (either positively or negatively) as if girls were an extra-terrestrial presence ahah.
-And finally what’s next for DOLMEN GATE?
Nuno: After we record the album, we’ll start focusing on live shows! We already have a few lined up and a few others are being arranged as we speak! Expect some announcements soon!!
– That’s all from our side, thanks again for your time. If you’d like to add some final words, feel free to do it.
Nuno: Thanks a lot for this very interesting interview Tania! If anyone is curious about DOLMEN GATE, please go to https://www.facebook.com/DolmenGate, https://dolmengate.bandcamp.com or @dolmengate on Instagram, and follow us! Hope to meet you on a stage in the future!