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Dawnrider's Filipe Relêgo: "We insist to favour and bring forth our demise. Even so there’s always a choice. In the end all depends on which path you choose to take"

Interview with Hugo Conim, Filipe Relêgo & Joao Ventura from Dawnrider
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 April 2022, 9:22 PM

Once again mentioning the self-damaging effects of humanity upon itself, the Portuguese Doom Metal band, Dawnrider, aren't really bothered that this matter has been covered from top to bottom, it has to be raised as a realistic point of view, and possible future, time and time again. After lineup changes, and right before the pandemic, the band was able to complete its fourth record, "The Fourth Dawn". With a lot of heart, and dismay towards what has been ailing the social order, Dawnrider are bound to convey their truth upon the many.  Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk with three of the band members, Hugo Conim, Filipe Relêgo and Joao Ventura, about the new album and reality surrounding the release. 

Hello gentlemen, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

H: Hello! Well, beside all the craziness that is happening on the world right now, I’ve been doing great. Thank you for your interest on Dawnrider and for the opportunity to talk about our new album The Fourth Dawn.

As always, a first time is for everything, and I was glad to stumble upon Dawnrider this time around. Certainly you made quite a name for yourselves in your local scene in Portugal. However, these last two years haven’t been too good, so to speak. In your view, how were you guys able to keep it going, in particular without any live action?

H: In these two last years with no live shows, we’ve concentrated on writing and recording new stuff. We did write and recorded a new EP and we wrote a complete new album, that we will record during this next summer.

Not just keeping it together throughout the rough period of time, due to the pandemic, there is also being focused while working on new material. How did these last two years influence how the band worked on new songs? Were you doing everything over the internet or rather wait until the next band rehearsal in order to meet up?

F: We went to studio to record the material in December of 2019, and the pandemic in Portugal started to appear about March 2020. So, all the creative process preceded the worst of this goddam pandemic outbreak. Even so, when the situation started to worsen, we kept working together on new material but always with all the cautions possible.

Along with the dreadful pandemic, there is the damn war in Ukraine. Even though it had nothing to do with the current Dawnrider songwriting, how does it affect you? Have you ever performed in Ukraine in the past? Anything that you remember if you did?

F: As human beings we can’t be oblivious to the dreadful situation in Ukraine, it touches all. Dawnrider is against all kind of despotism and/or tyranny. Until now we’ve never performed in Ukraine, hopefully in the future we’ll be able to. For now, our thoughts are with everyone hurt and involved and we wish nothing less than peace. But unfortunately, it seems that we’ll have very rough times ahead.

As a fourth album, there is “The Fourth Dawn”, and after nearly eight years, quite a lot of time I might add. Firstly, what were the reasons for this massive gap, following your third album? Was it mainly a writer’s block or simply taking the time without further pressure?

F: Due to a few setbacks, along this past three to four years, we can say that sometimes it was a bit frustrating ride. We had a change in our line-up and with that it kind of thrown us back to the start, which required to discard some material done and write several new songs for The Fourth Dawn. We went to studio to record the songs in December of 2019, then the pandemic in Portugal started to appear about March 2020 which also contributed to delay the album’s release. Within this time, we worked on new material for a fifth album as well as for an EP. So, I guess writer’s block weren’t the problem (laughter).

I have the feeling that titling the new album as “The Fourth Dawn” isn’t merely because it is the fourth in line in your discography. What lies beneath this phrase? What do you make of it? Does it have a personal meaning to you in any way?

F: As you’ve may have noticed, we try to continue the logic of inserting the numbering of every new record in the title of the album. Furthermore, new line-up, a new dawn, which results in The Fourth Dawn. A DAWNRIDER’s new dawn of Doom, so to speak.

Similar to a variety of Doom Metal oriented albums, the narratives cross paths with the sorrowful side of things, pretty much letting the listener sink in deep, mostly in thoughts, about the spiritual manner of gloom. Would you say the opposite about that? If you do, where does “The Fourth Dawn” lead the listener lyrically?

F: The Fourth Dawn’s concept revolves around the impending end we live every day, about a certain “door” to chaos that, either personally or collectively, we humans, tend to open wide and consciously, most of the times, we forget to close. We insist to favour and bring forth our demise. Even so there’s always a choice. In the end all depends on which path you choose to take. The lyrics are a reflection of these issues.

I have to admit that the album’s artwork puzzled me. I tried to connect the dots of what is what, the connection between things, yet I found myself quite lost. What do these individuals, in particular the woman and the dying man, symbolize? Why the mask for the reaper, what does it serve in its purpose?

F: In charge of the artwork was an extraordinary Portuguese artist: Victor Costa. He has worked for bands such as Moonspell, Filli Nigrantium Infernalium, Ironsword, Decayed and others. We gave him the lyrics, we worked around them and he came with this awesome cover for The Fourth Dawn. Nevertheless, the best person to talk about it would be himself. Anyway, the And Justice for Art distinguished The Fourth Dawn’s artwork and Victor had the chance to explain the cover’s concept to them. Below we transcribe what he said, you can check it in their FB page:

Lisbon-based artist, Victor Costa, designed the cover artwork of The Fourth Dawn, the new album by Portuguese Doom Metal act, Dawnrider.

"This is a very symbolic and meaningful illustration," Costa explains to And Justice For Art. "The cover was created around the 'doomed world' idea and the 'dawn of destruction' which is the general concept Dawnrider explores in this album. In an ominous dawn background (which illuminates in brownish and dark hues the barren landscape full of destructed nature and humanity), three figures are used as anti-graces entities. As suggested in the lyrics, these are (from left to right): Torment, Chaos, who reveals is true face as death and torture (is stepping on a chopped head) and Famine, almost lifeless, dragged by Chaos. To complete the picture, the four crows flying towards us and landing over the cross represent the four Apocalypse's knights annunciating the end of time."

Continuing your legacy of 70s meets 80s driven Doom Metal, as if I was listening to both Black Sabbath and Candlemass at the same time, “The Fourth Dawn” displays a mannerism of heaviness, simplicity and frantic groove. In your perspective, how do these three elements serve what you wished to express on the songs through the music?

F: I would say that we all share the same taste for great Doom bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Reverend Bizarre, Spiritus Mortis and so on. And not only Doom bands. There are many other Metal bands as Celtic Frost, King Diamond, Pagan Altar (just to cite some of them) that we all love. Obviously, some will have more or less influence to each one of us, but that’s what makes DAWNRIDER a fuckin’ awesome Doom Metal band. Doom Metal is part of our DNA, so we’ve always set our minds for a sound inspired in the very essence of old school Doom where you certainly get the elements you’ve referred.

Since every album is a step forward, usually at least, what makes “The Fourth Dawn” as the grounds of where you guys of Dawnrider found an additional layer of maturity? In your view, what makes the material mature? Is it merely because of added experience?

F: With every album you find yourself aiming for getting better and pushing forward, it is a natural part of a band’s evolution. We keep growing and evolving as persons and musicians, which, whether consciously or unconsciously, I think it definitely will impact on your latest works.

Earlier, we talked about the three elements that I found to be the working engine of “The Fourth Dawn”, however, in your perception, and in light of your previous albums, what changed this time around in your perspective towards songwriting that made this album different in a way?

F: Our sound has been always inspired in the very essence of old school Doom. That said, I would say that what differs the most from the previous albums to The Fourth Dawn is the whole line-up of Dawnrider. Only our brother Hugo is part of the original line-up. So, I guess “new blood”, different approaches and views summons up the out-turn you’ll get to hear on this new album.

Experience is part of who we are as songwriters, musicians and so on. What can you tell in regards to how “The Fourth Dawn”, upon its works, made you a better writer, and a musician of course?

H: All the songs come from the soul. Making music makes me a better person, a better musician and human being. Writing songs, it’s like a therapy for me, it cleans my soul from all the ugliness and despair in this sick world.

Since it hasn’t been easy on musicians to actually regroup, either working on new songs, or mainly recording their outcomes, what forms of challenges stood in the path of Dawnrider for the completion of “The Fourth Dawn”?

F: We didn’t stop rehearsing. We work quiet well as a whole. We all pitch in during the creative process as well as on all the stages of creating a song. The biggest part of our process is done together, in the rehearsal room. We shout a lot, mumble, drink (beer, mostly), some smoke too, but mainly we work and play hard. All ideas are welcome. We work around them together to find what feels better to all, The Fourth Dawn is the outcome of that. Our best fit is together. We’re a bunch of friends, a family who loves to play Doom and enjoys hanging together.

“The Fourth Dawn” is the first album by your new vocalist, and bass player, Filipe Relêgo. From what I could judge, he fits the personality of the band like a velvet glove, making his debut as if he has been in the band for many years. Taking you back a bit, where did you find this guy? How do you evaluate his performance on the album?

J: Actually, we knew him from other bands in the Algarve’s Metal scene in the 90s. He first came to the band as a bass player, and due to his previous experiences as vocalist ended up as singer also. Filipe Relêgo (viking), besides keeping true to the classic Doom Metal spirit in the lyrics, he also adds a new vocal range to the songs.

Tony Reed, of the Mos Generator fame, ensured that Dawnrider would sound explosive, massive, bombastic, yet maintaining the classic feel. The ounces of bass, and meatiness are astounding, certainly an element in which is a calling card of the album. How do you view Reed’s work on the record and what makes your sound a major impact on your identity as Dawnrider?

F: Fernando Ribeiro of our label Alma Mater Books and Records suggested that The Fourth Dawn deserved someone with a curriculum vite to mix and master it, so our brother Hugo suggested Tony Reed, whom we loved his previous works with Saint Vitus. With Dawnrider Tony managed a fantastic balance between all the instruments and the vocals, gave his touch and we loved the end result. It sounds fuckin’ amazing!

One of the album’s mightiest, if not the best, at least for me, is the haunting “Reaching Glory”. With “The Fourth Dawn” not coming forth to present hooks for the listener, but rather channels of deep thoughts, “Reaching Glory” led the charge. What do you make of this song? What can you tell about its process?

F: “Reaching Glory” denotes how easily humans can be corrupted by power or wealth. Human, ethical, moral, social and so many other values seem to be neglected these days. The whole premise revolves around material possessions. It seems that we can’t get enough, always pursuing more and more, no matter the cost. Unfortunately, nowadays we have the example of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, led by someone who’s a despot and a megalomaniac.

Clearing up everything, with the Omicron slowly fading, a lot of tours are on route for the millions of fans. What are the plans of Dawnrider in that aspect?

J: Definitely to play as lot of gigs as possible, get people to know our work and with that, who knows, increase our fans base. But still keeping faithful and true to our essence and style, as we do since our very beginning.

Gentlemen, plenty of thanks for this chance to interview you. No doubt that you guys will remain as part of my list. All the best, cheers

F: We thank you for the opportunity to talk about Dawnrider and The Fourth Dawn. See you on the road! Kind regards.


 



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