Premiere: Gates of Dawn
Gates of Dawn

1/28/22 | J. Proust

Gates of Dawn

Beginning as a dungeon synth project that only released one split, Gates of Dawn debuted into and has since remained for the past four years in unrepentant obscurity. Only one of the songs from that split can be streamed on the artist’s Bandcamp page. Meanwhile, the follow-up release to their scarcely available debut, the release which officially marked their maturation from a DS project into a one-man symphonic black metal band, was a cassingle available only if you happened to catch that distro’s latest batch. Despite all that, the release of this eponymous debut full-length comes with widespread anticipation. Because anyone who recognizes the initials TN, as in ‘GD is TN,’ knows well to expect something worth their time, even if they have no idea what truly lies in wait for them.

For those who don’t know, allow me to enlighten you. TN not only fronts the band that got many of us into underground black metal tapes (that band being El-Ahrairah), he also masters a great deal of the records we’re all listening to at any given time.

Gates of Dawn

According to TN himself, Gates of Dawn “started out as a way to bridge the gap between” the sounds and songs he was making with his “modular synth” and his “other black metal project, El-Ahrairah.” He explains what prompted him to start up the project in the first place, saying, “I had moved out of state for work to an area where I didn't know anyone and had no way of making music with other people, so practically all of my free time was spent on sound explorations with my synthesizer collection. Despite devoting many hours, days, weeks to writing, recording, re-recording, the only material I felt fit for release were the five songs from the Charnel Oubliette split. After moving back to Minnesota, I was still alone in the music making process. The distance between myself and the other members of El-Ahrairah meant that we are only be able to meet up and record once something is almost completely written, leaving little room for experimentation or improvisation. Gates of Dawn is a 'solo project' and it allows me to continue to write in the same style as El-Ahrairah, while being able to freely and fully explore any ideas as they may come.”

He adds: “There is no substitute for collaborating and making music with a group of individuals, but this project has brought me as close as I've ever been to that feeling.”

Gates of Dawn

It’s certainly impressive that an album so layered and teeming with fresh ideas could have come from a single musician, but, by today’s standards, such a feat is not uncommon. What is uncommon, however, is the end result of Gates of Dawn. Moments resplendent majesty will sweep you off your feet throughout this album, but none of its influences are glaring. More than Emperor- or Obtained Enslavement- or even Grausamkeit-worship, Gates of Dawn is boldly singular and fresh like that first breath of a new winter.

No wonder TN cites “Freedom” as one of the major philosophies driving the band. “The feeling of leaving your body, traveling to the spiritual plane, and the experiences you have there,” also play a key role, TN says, before hinting at something about “[i]mparted wisdom from beings unknown that possess the keys to the Gates of Dawn.”

He explains: “At the time of recording I was reading a lot of Vonnegut and PKD, who I admire for their incredible ability to create immersive and fantastic worlds in a very concise manner and served as a creative base for lyrics.

“Musically and philosophically I am also heavily influenced by the Grateful Dead, who put exploration, experimentation, and improvisation at the forefront and are an endless stream of inspiration. Their contradiction of maximalism and minimalism existing in the same space is something I attempted to emulate with this record.”

As for the recording process, TN informs us: “The instrumentals were entirely recorded over a three-day weekend, while the vocals were recorded a week later. I went in with no riffs, no melodies, no lyrics, no clue what would come out. Drums first to ensure each song had a definitive start and end, then what I ingested would kick in and lead the way until the song was complete. It was mixed with minimal processing and summed to 4-track cassette to glue everything together. All in all, the album was completed (recorded, mixed, mastered) in under five days, which was an incredibly refreshing experience and unlike any of my records in the last decade.”

He goes on to tell us, “The most difficult part of the project was the age old hurdle of actually starting to work. Once overcome, I was taken on a journey and was merely a vessel for the music.”

And now, as of this morning, Gates of Dawn is out and we can bask and share in its glory, this extraordinary entry into the symphonic black metal canon. With the clarity of an emeraldine castle and the antiquated atmosphere of your first sword and sorcery trade paperback, Gates of Dawn will radiate and astonish for years to come and it’s an honor to be among the first to have heard it.

“The album will be available on LP through Death Hymns late February / early March,” TN tells us. “It turned out better than I could have even hoped for, thanks to the incredible jacket layout by Visions Noires and astounding logo by Samuel E. Thomas. Hail the Call of the Night!”

Death Hymns

Visions Noires

Samuel E. Thomas