A Lullaby for the Wicked – An Interview With Dallian

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The best symphonic steampunk band you’re going to hear today.

When a band releases their first album no matter how good it is, something sounds missing, as if the band is on to something but hasn’t quite figured out who they are. Often it takes a few a releases for band to fully figure out what they are, unless they’re like Dallian. Formed in 2017 and hailing from Portugal, Dallian is a steampunk inspired symphonic death metal band. In 2018, they released their debut album Automata, which I reviewed last year. One year later, I’m still blown away by the strength of that release. Recently the band decided to sit down and answer some of my questions.

How did Dallian form?

The band’s concept started after Carlos Amado and Ricardo Carniça left their previous band Madame Violence in 2015. The songs were already created and they started to improve them and creating the visual aesthetics in 2016. It was only in 2017 that the band was truly born and the line up became complete with the addition of Leandro Faustino on guitar and André Fragoso on drums (Tales For The Unspoken/ex-Madame Violence). This also was the year the album was recorded.

Where did the name Dallian originate from?

Dallian is actually a name that Carlos and Hélio Sanna (session bass player) came up with for an old project that didn’t took off. Carlos liked the name and used it for this project. The name itself has no meaning, it’s the “definition” of the band.

What inspired the band to adopt a steampunk vibe?

We noticed there were no bands under this style that infused extreme metal. This gave birth to a certain interest on what thematic concepts might arise. Unfortunely, when the concept came about, the album was already created, thus sonically the band hasn’t used the theme as influence on this specific recording. The steampunk bands that exist dabble on a more “glamorous” side of this aesthetics, something that Dallian has the intention of avoiding. Instead, we try to create a more bleak, “dark steampunk” style.

What was the writing and recording process like for Automata?

The writing process for this record was something new for us. We never did anything that included so much orchestral work, let alone the use of many other instruments and musical styles, such as the use of Flamenco or Fado with Portuguese guitar, which is a genre from our own country. It was an extreme shift in sound from what we were all doing at the time, but since all of us were starting to have an interest in more symphonic metal bands, which mixed the extreme and more calm sides of music, so to speak, aside from everything that we listen to individually. So it was a real challenge and something completely new for everybody, which is why it’s so experimental, but the final result came out great and we are all happy with this first work. In terms of recordings, it was stressful and tiring. It’s never easy to record a full album, let alone when it’s the first time for everybody to actually record a full album, especially when it has 12 songs. And then there is the other side of the recording, such as the final drum parts only being composed during the recordings, because that was the time when Fragoso joined in, at Golden Jack studios. The vocals, along with guitars and bass, were recorded in Yugen Studios, but the first recordings didn’t came out so good. So it had to be recorded all over again. The mixing and mastering were made by João Dourado at Golden Jack Studios, so it was all new for us and stressful, but we are all happy and it was a great learning experience for the future.

How did you guys come up with the name Automata for the album?

The automata is an archetype for the decaying humanity of an individual. This specific Automata, as seen in the album cover, is in bronze for that same reason. As in alchemy, bronze is an unpolished metal, still impure. Thus all songs in one way or another reflect certain aspects of struggle of humanity, both in the individual and collective senses. Another reason why we came up with it is because Automatas are important in steampunk lore, as they were one of the first created marvels of technology around Victorian times.

What was the response like for this album?

The feedback was beyond what we expected, in a way we were confident that the feedback would be good in our national scene because we felt we were doing something different from the rest of the bands. What surprised us was possibly how fast we started to gain recognition. And for a bigger surprise, the best starting feedback we had was international, we received quite a few contacts for reviews from countries like Brazil, Germany and Netherlands, for example. In general, there was very good feedback in a short period of time after the release.

What are the five bands that have influenced the band the most?

Septicflesh, Opeth, Dir En Grey, Gojira, and Xanthochroid.

How does Dallian stand out from other symphonic death metal bands?

One of our musical approach is the “world music” we include and blend with the symphonic aspect, giving it a fresh/exotic sonority of the Portuguese guitar in Fado, the Japanese Koto instrument, the Chinese Erhu, Indian percussion and Sitar, the Spanish Flamenco guitar. Also we consider to have a very broad dynamic throughout the album. Not being a total full blast aggressive death metal, we also experience colder, epic and darker feelings, in order to give somewhat of a journey to the listener.

How would you describe the Portuguese music scene?

The Portuguese music scene has had a growth the last couple of years. There was a period of time when it kind of went down and there wasn’t much activity, especially in the central part of the country, where we come from. And still today, unfortunately, there aren’t that many bands in our hometown and, overall, there is a lack of spaces to have gigs. And it’s not becoming easier whatsoever.

But, like we said, the last couple of years have been better. There has been many new bands growing, like Analepsy, for example, they just formed in 2013 and already are one of the biggest in their genre, and many others have already formed their place within the metal scene. And fortunately for us, we have been able to share the stage with lots of them since we started this journey, for example Sotz and Nihility, which come from the northern part of Portugal. Despite the lack of support from the country itself, because metal isn’t a genre well appreciated by the Portuguese, there are also lots of people who still fight against all odds to keep the music scene alive and to give a chance to bands like us and others to be able to perform and build their own path.

What do you think is essential for a new band to have/do to gain recognition?

Nowadays we think it all comes down to the work itself and, at the same time, the way you present it to the public. There are so many bands that it’s harder and harder to find one that stands out the most within everybody. And in an era when web technology is rising, marketing is essential to every band that wants their work to be acknowledged. But, most and foremost, it’s important to have a ‘’core’’, to have a group whose individual members have the same goal and work hard for it. The music industry is already hard by itself and it’s only getting worse, so if you don’t have a stable formation that goes the same way, it’s just not gonna work. Also, never neglect marketing or see it as non essential. Bands more than ever need to have skills in this area to be able to advertise effectively.

What are Dallian’s future plans?

Right now, we want to give as many shows as we can within the album cycle of Automata, until it’s time to release its successor. We would also like to be able to play outside of Portugal, and to do a tour as well, but those are plans that are still in the works.

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