Long, long ago, in the age of wonders…
Once upon a time in a garage somewhere in Belgium, two young friends called Domien and Olivier decided to tell fantasy stories and record them on tape, using the junk collected in the garage to add sound effects. To add a flavour of grandeur to their hobby, they decided to call themselves DreamGate Studios.
That first story, created as long ago as 1997, was called De Oude Tijden van Felinon (translation from Dutch: The Elder Days of Felinon). Set in a world where a peaceful catlike people called Felinors were at war with the brutal Orks, the story was told entirely with the voices of the two boys.
They had so much fun making this that they later on decided to continue their stories of Felinon with a longer, more epic audio drama. De Saga van Felinon (The Felinon Saga) turned the fantasy into something more futuristic. Set 3000 years after the original story, the Felinors still battled the Orks, this time using spaceships and laser guns rather than just spears and swords.
After the Felinon stories were done, Domien and Olivier decided to try something new. Necropolis was a science fiction tale about 5 soldiers sent to investigate an abandoned and ghostly city planet. There they encounter a curious new life form. Heavily influenced by James Cameron’s Aliens, the story was a lot of fun to make.
In the following years, more voice actors were added and several new audio dramas were made.
De Fantoompijnen (translated The Phantom Pains) was a Star Wars parody where princess Gizella, leader of the rebellion, fell in love with General Asbak, a three-eyed fish monster.
De Kathedraal van Crimsitha (translated The Cathedral of Crimsitha) marked a return to fantasy as well as a technological advance for the small team. Now recording on a computer, with sound effects added in postproduction, a lot more became possible in terms of realising the environment. Inspired by Arthurian legends and the medieval architecture of their native city of Antwerp, The Cathedral of Crimsitha told the tale of a noble knight, his naive servant, a sarcastic wizard and a cynical mercenary as they tried to win back the city of Crimsitha from a demonically possessed statue and its summoned army of undead criminals.
After all the high adventure, the team desired to try out a new kind of tale on a smaller scale. The year 2000 saw the release of the much darker What Evil Lurks in Darkshire, the first entirely English-spoken audio drama. Featuring only two voice actors, it was a more intimate tale. The style was gothic, but it was closer to gothic drama than gothic horror. Set in the year 1782, What Evil Lurks in Darkshire chronicled the journey of a lonely coach driver as he transports a mysterious prisoner through a forest rumoured to be haunted. There, he encounters a being of enormous power that tempts him to give up the unhappy life he is living in exchange for a cursed but glorious existence.
What Evil Lurks in Darkshire met with such enthusiasm from a small group of devotees that the team decided to continue the adventure in Dolor and Bloodhood and And The Twin Angels Fell, released in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
In 2004, Domien yearned for more light-hearted fun and set out to write a ridiculously over the top space opera, full of wisecracking anti-heroes, motorcycle-driving mutants, dinosaurs and giant robots operating on human brains. The Archbishop was a return to the epic style with a dash of silly mixed in. It was also the first audio drama to feature the voices of Stephanie Cuyt and Niklaas Reinhold, a trend that continues to this day.
Things became more quiet around Dreamgate after The Archbishop. The team decided that it was time to take it to the next level and create something truly special: an audio drama created with as much professionalism as they could, including an original music score. This audio drama eventually became De Wezens van het Woud (The Will of the Woods). Before it was released, Olivier left the team to focus on other projects and the name changed from Dreamgate to Audio Epics.
De Wezens van het Woud, a magical fairy tale for all ages, featured original music by Peter Van Riet and Vincent Pichal. It was finally released in 2007 and distributed on a small scale on CD and received very positive reactions in Belgium and Holland. There was even a school that centered its Halloween activities around this audio drama, with teachers dressing up as characters from the audio drama.
After De Wezens van het Woud, Domien decided the time had come to get to work on a creative dream project: a dark fantasy epic in a detailed, highly atmospheric universe called Witch Hunter. By far the most complex and ambitious writing project he had tackled, Witch Hunter took a while to get made. The final production, backed by rich sound effects and an incredible music score by Peter Van Riet, was at last released online in episodes, under the new title The Witch Hunter Chronicles.
In 2011, The Witch Hunter Chronicles received an Ogle award, it was featured on various podcasts and was broadcast in Canada and the USA. It also made The Audio Drama Directory’s staff recommended list
In 2013, Audio Epics released The Will of the Woods. It was more than just a translation of De Wezens van het Woud to English. The script, music and sound effects were all altered and improved and the original cast was brought back to speak their parts in English, with a few new voices added into the mix as well.
In June 2013, it was announced by Great Northern Audio’s Jerry Stearns that The Will of the Woods had won the Gold Ogle award as the year’s best fantasy audio drama production. The Will of the Woods has also been broadcast on internet radio stations and podcasts such as The Sonic Society, Radio Drama Revival and Midnight Audio Theatre.
Audio Epics never stops making quality fantasy audio drama. We are now preparing the script for The Word of Wolfen, the sequel to The Witch Hunter Chronicles. Other projects include a collaboration with Jack Ward called Flight of the Airmen, a new fantasy series that will take place in outer space and a possible remake of What Evil Lurks in Darkshire. Keep watching this space!