What’s in a name?
So in my travels over the last few years, I’ve heard on more than one occasion that people wished that Dungeon was still around. For those of you new to LORD in general, Dungeon was the band that I started way back when, and we were around for about sixteen years before I disbanded it and put a proper LORD band together in 2005. You can check out www.dungeon.cd to find out more about Dungeon.
Now, on the surface it looks like we just killed off one band to focus on a new one but it’s not quite as simple as that. To a lot of people, the change meant that the band that they used to like just simply stopped and we started working on very different music, and it’s certainly not quite as simple as that!
I think it’s time to officially put some myths and half-truths to rest once and for all (well when I say once and for all, at least from our perspective – we know that no matter what anyone says, people will believe what they believe. We’re OK with that if you’re OK with being wrong. 😉 ).
The short version of this story is: LORD is the same band as Dungeon, just with a different name. That’s it. End.
And now for the long version!
When Dungeon started, we had all kinds of absolutely ridiculous names for the band. Some I forget (mentally blocked out?), others I choose not to repeat! HAHA! The name Dungeon came about from us being unhappy with everything we’d come up with so far and it was a throw-away comment from our drummer at the time who noticed a pile of Dungeons And Dragons manuals in my room (I was pretty heavy into RPGs at the time) and he goes “Hey, why don’t we call the band Dungeon?” and I go “Pfft, sure, why not?” and just ran with it, expecting it to change in a few weeks anyway. At this point, Dungeon was about three months old and we weren’t even sure it was going to be a proper band at all anyway.
Well, the next thing we know is we have a live show if we wanted it, and it was just a few weeks away. Panic! Quick, gotta learn a set, gotta learn to – you know – actually play our instruments properly, gotta get our gear sorted out for a live situation! We were so frantically working on everything (and personally I was freaking out because this was the first time I’d ever sung or performed live), the last thing we thought about was the name of the band until we saw it turn up on promo posters and in the local paper. “Oh crap, that’s right. We’re called Dungeon. Oh well, so be it!”
We did the show, it went great and that led to more shows, radio airplay for a pretty awful home-recorded demo (we were ecstatic about it, mind you) and it had taken on a whole life of its own. There were some lineup changes but we expected that to happen. Eventually we were left with just me and our new guitarist Dale Corney (now the singer of the band Soulforge) and we headed off to Sydney to record our first proper demo. We did it, it turned out OK for a couple of clueless kids doing their first real recording (and we did like seventeen songs or something – totally insane!) and before we knew it we had great reviews for a preview tape in local papers and we were in meetings with record companies.
By this time, the idea of changing the name Dungeon seemed out of the question. It started as a throw-away idea but now that there was so much legacy attached to it, we would be potentially losing a heap of ground by ditching it, so it stayed.
Already it was causing us problems. This was the mid-90s by this stage and in Australia you had either grunge representing mainstream rock or extreme metal representing the metal side of things. We would get confused with some kind of grunge band or death metal band constantly when in reality we were somewhere between Dokken, Iron Maiden, Helloween and Megadeth. Tricky trying to explain that to people who had already made up their mind about what we were supposed to sound like.
But we pressed on.
Lineups changed. The sound evolved. We were incorporating more thrash elements into the sound due to the influences of some new members (much to my delight! A bit of trivia: I was against doing Dungeon in the first place because I was actively trying to form a thrash band which was a cross between Slayer, Onslaught and Kreator but couldn’t find anyone else able to play that in Broken Hill). We were losing some of our glam/melodic rock sound though, which I regretted because I thought it was a part of our identity, but it did help focus what we did into more of a power/thrash band and was easier to market.
By the time the mid-2000s came about, Dungeon was pretty much on top of the heap when it came to the Australian metal scene. We were getting international supports constantly, we had great endorsements, touring internationally, record deals and by that time I think we had about four official albums and a DVD out. The lineup was constantly changing towards the end – such a highly stressed creative environment where people would be constantly pushed to sacrifice time, money, or even exclusivity over their piece of the pie for the greater good of the band would stretch everyone to breaking point, and often beyond.
Again, the sound had evolved as much as the lineup did. There were elements of melodic death metal, thrash, power, trad metal, and parts of the melodic rock sound that we discarded in the late 90s were starting to return. The band was very diverse.
By then, there was no really distinct “classic” lineup of Dungeon, as much as there was no one style we played. It was all down to what lineup you connected with best (be it the first “kids” lineup of Dungeon in 1990 in the outback, the version of the band with Dale, Juz, Stevo and myself that first hit the Sydney scene, the lineup of me, Stevo, Dakk and Stu that first did Japan, the very volatile and short-lived union of half of Dungeon and Infernal Method, or the 2005 lineup of myself, Stu, TY and Glenn that did the final European tour with Megadeth). Every single one of those lineups were Dungeon, regardless of who had their face on the promo poster or were standing on the stage next to me.
Time and time again we were getting reviews from Europe saying that they thought our songs about dragons and swords and mighty forests were cheesy and dumb. We could never quite work that out. The only song that was directly a fantasy song that we did in the entire sixteen year history of Dungeon was The Legend Of Huma, and probably Netherlife (Black Roses Die) to a lesser extent although I went out of my way to avoid any direct fantasy references in that. Labels and magazines would see the name and just assume we were a fantasy power metal band without even hearing us. Those that actually weren’t lazy and listened to the album were baffled that the music they heard just didn’t live up to the expectation. We didn’t sound like a poor Rhapsody or Hammerfall clone, this stuff was diverse and far heavier in places.
Selling the band was next to impossible. Labels wanted to change what we did to help push us into their little box to help market us – entirely missing the point in the process – and magazines would constantly get confused and score us down because of that (which, to be fair to the labels, they were trying to fix by trying to make us play a style that magazines would understand… but that wasn’t what we did and it would be selling out everything we were about).
By the time the last lineup change happened in 2005, I was sick of it. There was already the idea that there was some kind of malevolent dictatorship happening inside the band and I was hiring and firing people at will (which wasn’t the case – see above for highly stressed environment, and when you add in hardly any money to pay people to stick around, unless this was your baby or you believed totally in it, why would you stick around if you weren’t enjoying it?) and constantly having to explain ourselves was just wearing thin.
I’d already wanted to do LORD as a side project by then and bring back even more of the elements from the early days of Dungeon, and keep expanding on what Dungeon was doing, but because we were so stuck in a rut with Dungeon just trying to make labels and the media happy, and getting new members up to speed, we weren’t really actively thinking about a way forward. I wanted LORD to be the band that Dungeon should have been but without trashing the Dungeon name in the process since we’d held onto it for so long. LORD was actually more Dungeon than Dungeon, in essence.
In the press release announcing the end of Dungeon, I’d said that it just didn’t feel like this was Dungeon anymore and I stil stand by that. The name – which was already problematic – was being associated with a transient lineup, dragged through the mud by one or two disgruntled ex-members all across the internet, and the band as a whole was crumbling around our feet due to several parties pulling in different directions. It stopped being about the music and it started to be about the drama, marketing, pure cold business decisions, maintaining momentum and putting out fires. In short, it wasn’t fun and the music – the whole point of it all – started to take a back seat.
So as I said, enough was enough and I finally pulled the plug on the name Dungeon. This LORD side project thing would become the main band, and the members who were set to replace the outgoing members of Dungeon in 2005 would now be the LORD band rather than the 2006 Dungeon lineup. The final Dungeon album was actually recorded and released after Dungeon had officially disbanded, using members of the 2006 LORD band. The idea being that we would use the name Dungeon to help launch LORD, even though it was the new band that appeared on it.
When we did the Ascendence album, we went out of our way to pay homage to the classic moments of Dungeon to try and reassure older fans that it was still the same band. If anything, Ascendence was more like “classic” Dungeon than even One Step Beyond or The Final Chapter was. But people were lamenting the fact that the band had changed and didn’t sound the same. These same people were fans of Resurrection, A Rise To Power and One Step Beyond – three VERY different sounding albums – and if Ascendence was released under the name Dungeon around the same time as those albums, it would no doubt be received in the same spirit as the others. But because it’s under a new band name, it sounds different or not as good in some people’s eyes.
Set In Stone was really the first album where we just did what felt right for the band at the time. We weren’t trying to pay any homage to anything, we were just taking all of our influences thus far and making the best album we could have done, much like we did in A Rise To Power. It was the next step of the band’s development and you could hear the progression from Ascendence to Set In Stone, just like you could hear the progression from Resurrection to A Rise To Power. It was a band evolving in a natural way.
And LORD continues to evolve. New faces have come and gone, new influences have come into the mix, older ones have been rediscovered and reintroduced. The only thing that’s different to what we’re doing now as compared to what we were doing ten years ago in Dungeon is ten years of extra life experiences and a name. If we’d kept the name, it would be exactly the same thing as we’re doing now but ten years on. Same lineup changes, same progression, same ideals. Still the same band.
LORD is Dungeon.
We still play most songs from all of the albums, even going back to the first song we ever recorded in 1990, “Don’t Leave Me”. On this new tour we’re wheeling out some classic Dungeon favourites that haven’t been played since 2003. Obviously a band needs to introduce new material into the set or you end up becoming a nostalgia act but we see everything we’ve done since 1989 as one and the same artist. We’re proud of everything we’ve released and enjoy playing it all for you, no matter what product name is on the booklet (or ID3 tag).
So don’t lament the passing of a band. If you do enjoy stuff from a certain era, that’s great – we absolutely don’t want to take that away from you, and since we’re playing stuff regularly from EVERY era then there’s a good chance you’ll hear your favourites played live more often than not. If you don’t like what we do now then Dungeon 2012 (if we’d kept the name) would also not be for you. Enjoy the older stuff. We’re proud of it and we’re glad you like it!
But if you write off the band entirely just simply because the name is different then you’re missing the point. Not enjoying a band that would have had exactly the same progression, members, songs and live show simply because they’re not called the same thing as you remember them to be ten years ago is just dumb. It’s like loving chocolate and then one day the chocolate company brings out a product called Chokkas which is made exactly the same way as the one you used to love but you don’t enjoy it anymore because the name is different. Did you like the product or the name of the product? Did you like Dungeon’s music or the name Dungeon? Same thing.
Hopefully this puts a few myths to rest and tells the story from our perspective. Again, we understand we won’t be able to convince people who have absolutely made up their minds – that’s fine – but this is our side and hopefully will give you something to think about.
ADDENDUM: Just one last thing that I thought I might add – this blog may give the impression that where we are now with LORD is entirely down to me alone. Now while I have been there from the start and was/am usually the one guiding the ship, the sound of Dungeon and LORD is definitely due to the invaluable contributions from past and current members over the years. Even members that have been short lived and actually counterproductive to the band as a whole have had some hand in shaping how the path of the band evolved. To each and every one (including the rare ex-members that I would rather set myself on fire before working with again), I say thanks! The fact that LORD is still playing music that you’ve had a hand in writing speaks volumes about what an important part of the journey you’ve been! Cheers!