The letters “USBM” conjure up a lot of things for a lot of people. From the primitive barbarism of VON and Profanatca to the crippling psychosis of Leviathan to the sunglasses of Deafheaven to whatever the fuck you folks like these days. But what you don’t think about too often is atmospheric, symphonic psychedelic USBM. That’s because it didn’t fucking exist. Until Gates of Dawn.
Last year’s self titled debut was one of my favorite records of the year, filled with lush keyboards, sinister guitar work and a warmth to it while remaining bitter cold, a la mid-’90s Swedish projects Parnassus and Octinomos. II, the project’s second album for Death Hymns, takes the formula from the debut and expands it, which is another way to describe the record, “expansive.” The atmosphere of II is drenched in a dark psychedelia, a mind altering pulse across bleak black (metal) skies. It’s a journey. It’s fucking good, is what I’m trying to convey.
Today we offer a stream of the album, nearly two weeks before the album hit with Death Hymns’ loaded summer batch. With the impending release of II I had a brief chat with Travis Nordahl, Gates of Dawn’s creator, to introduce the project and new album to Decibel’s audience.
How would you describe the progression between the two full lengths?
Where the first album focused more on creating a wide expansive and blurry soundscape, II is about all the instruments playing off each other. Reacting and harmonizing in more of a band type of way. I let the psych-jam-etc influences come through a lot more on this release, and opted to come to the recording session with ideas for one song rather than a stream of consciousness style of writing.
This album also features live drums and bass, which obviously resulted in a much more organic groove. I’ve played the drums for almost as long as I’ve played guitar, and was always opposed to using a drum machine in black metal, but at the time of recording the first album it felt right to use a drum machine. The additional live instrumentation allowed for more avenues to explore and improvise that I’m very pleased with.
Gates of Dawn originally began as a dungeon synth project. What caused the shift from dungeon synth to black metal?
The purpose of this project is to have something that allows me to explore whatever ideas come along and run with them. At the time of the first release, I was living in an area that was pretty isolated. I was a bit of a hermit and spent all of my free time building and learning modular synthesis. I would record hours and hours of synth music, but only what appeared on the split with Charnel Oubliette felt fit for release. Ultimately, creating DS that’s both unique and interesting proved to be too difficult for me to be productive.
My other black metal project, El-Ahrairah, was forced into a geographical hiatus so another outlet for the ideas I had been working on for EA was necessary. All that time spent toiling away, twisting knobs and pushing buttons, allowed me to figure out how to make synths fit in BM in ways that I hadn’t done before.
When someone listens to II for the first time, what do you want them to hear?
Each song on the record discusses topics as old as time. Death and rebirth, terror and love, regret and intent, the heroes and the humbled. The track sequence reflects this point and counterpoint theme, with each half of the album ascending and descending in two distinct acts. The music often stands as a literal translation of the lyrics. Swirling, cyclical, and confusing when trudging through the sheets of cosmic dust, raw and grounded when the realization of acts committed sets in, triumphant and melancholy when forging to battle with an undeserving adversary.
I want people to get swept onto the bus, doors locked, and let off at the end of the line.
Gates of Dawn is a uniquely adventurous and creative project in an era of well marketed mediocrity. II will be released on July 22nd, again through Death Hymns.
The post Full Album Stream + Interview: Gates of Dawn – “II” appeared first on Decibel Magazine.