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8th July 2014
When Darkest Era's Ade Mulgrew last spoke to Metal Discovery, in 2011, their debut album, 'The Last Caress of Light', was about to be unleashed on Metal Blade. The future looked promising for this young bunch of Irish metallers. However, dropped by the legendary label, three years on and they're back with a new deal, new album, and a revised lineup. Ade provides the answers once again on recent changes in what now genuinely does seem to be the brightest of eras for the band...
METAL DISCOVERY: Your debut album, 'The Last Caress Of Light’, came out on Metal Blade - can you explain why that relationship did not continue and how you feel about your new label Cruz Del Sur?
ADE: What can I say, it’s the nature of the music business these days. In the time between signing with them and then working on our second album, things had deteriorated to the point where they had to streamline and dropped about a dozen acts. I can’t say I blame them, they had to make a business decision. The only irksome thing was the record did actually sell more than they had anticipated. 20 years ago a label may have been willing to look at the potential of a band over a couple of albums and sort of build their investment but those days are gone really. We feel very at home with Cruz Del Sur – they have an absolutely killer roster and we are very happy to be a part of it. Enrico has a very forward thinking attitude to the industry which is on the same page as ourselves.
(Ade Mulgrew on new album 'Severance')
"...I think on this record, especially more than the first, we’ve carved out our own sound and people have trouble pigeon-holing it, which I think is a sign of the uniqueness of the vibe on there."
Darkest Era - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Peter Marley
Interview by Rick Tilley
Darkest Era Official Facebook:
The Journey Through Damnation EP (2008)
Albums & EPs
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
The Oaks Session EP (2010)
The Last Caress of Light (2011)
Severance (2014)
Darkest Era Official Website:
MD: Also since the last album, there have been some lineup changes within the band and you now have a new rhythm section. What led to these changes, and can you tell us about the new members and how they came to be a part of Darkest Era?
ADE: We started the band while we were pretty young and it’s just natural for things to change shape along the way, to be honest. Once we had our first record out and we started going on tours, Lisa and DJ decided it just wasn’t for them and we respected that. With Lisa in particular, she just had totally different ideas to how a band should be run than the rest of us. But she plays in her covers bands now and I think she’s a lot happier doing this. The new guys came about by simply putting the word out for new musicians. Daniel (bass) actually came into the fold in the middle of the recording process and brought a lot to the album. Cameron (drums) was recruited afterwards and he is a really excellent drummer. It’s the strongest and tightest we’ve ever been I think.
MD: Coming from Ireland, your music seems to be heavily influenced with a Celtic sound, and the Thin Lizzy and Primordial influences in your music were immediately apparent, as well as many Iron Maiden comparisons. Would you say that was a fair description of your style?
ADE: I think it’s fair but often way overstated, particularly the Primordial comparison. There is a certain melancholic, ‘celtic’ atmosphere that we share with Primordial but in terms of what we’re actually doing… we’re coming from a much more heavy metal place than them. Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden are of course big influences, and always have been. But I think on this record, especially more than the first, we’ve carved out our own sound and people have trouble pigeon-holing it, which I think is a sign of the uniqueness of the vibe on there.
MD: The songs on the album feel quite sad, musically and lyrically. Was that a conscious decision or have recent circumstances played a part in how they sound?
ADE: It was never a conscious decision but it is something that has been present in our sound more or less from the beginning, I can’t really account for it but it’s there. Something intrinsic to us just brings this atmosphere to the surface. The circumstances of the album I think led to the shift toward a darker and more aggressive tone than on the first album.
MD: How have press reactions been to the album so far?
ADE: Really good, we’re glad to say. Most reviewers seem to have understood the album and given it enough time to sink in. It’s hard for us to be objective about these things, especially as it’s been a while since we actually recorded the album, but the reviews have been very encouraging.
MD: What I very much like on the album is the production which sounds modern but real. I think many bands over produce these days, use too many tricks and end up sounding processed because of it. Can you explain your choice of studio and producer, whether its location also had any part to play in the emotions of the tracks and how happy you are with the end result?
ADE: We had a much clearer picture of what we wanted to achieve in terms of the production this time round. We enjoyed working with Chris Fielding on our first album, we knew we wanted him for the second but he was moving from his long-term studio so it was a case of finding a suitable studio in Ireland and flying him over. We found a residential studio in the far south west of Ireland which was perfect. It was a very stormy location, facing the Atlantic Ocean, and we worked basically 10am until 2 am every day. All of this found its way onto the overall vibe of the album in my opinion. As well as that we stripped the guitars back to just one rhythm track each, as opposed to many double-tracked lines and this gave things a much grittier sound overall.
MD: One of the things that really stood out for me on the album is the complexity and excellent playing of Cameron Åhslund-Glass who uses drums as a proper instrument rather than just keeping a beat. As a new member, has he brought these ideas to the table or have the drums always been an important part of Darkest Era's sound?
ADE: In actual fact, the drums were recorded by Lisa on this album just before she left the band. Drums have always been an important element for us, as you say straightforward beats would not contribute much to the atmosphere we try to create. As songwriters, myself and Sarah have always had very strong ideas of the role the drums play in our music. We are very much looking forward to writing and recording with Cameron though, he is a much more technically developed drummer than we’ve had before and he has a very impressive grasp of drumming within the context of metal. We felt we shifted up a gear in terms of live performance with him behind the kit too.
MD: I have seen it said elsewhere that you initially weren't sure about several tracks, one of which is 'The Scavenger', which is actually my favourite song on 'Severance'. It's always difficult as an artist to look at your own music objectively and it's rare to find a band so openly honest about certain aspects of a new release. What was it about those particular songs that worried you?
ADE: Yes, if there is one thing I have learned with this album it’s that it is impossible to be objective. There is a lot of variety on the album and I think some people prefer faster, straight up stuff and others prefer the epics. Considering the songs were put together quite quickly there are always parts you would have liked to go back and spend more time with, but I suppose the question is, where do you draw the line? – you can overthink these things too. In the case of ‘The Scavenger’, I was worried that it sat too far apart from the other tracks. But people don’t seem to think so, which is great obviously, heh.
MD: ‘Severance’ is not an 'immediate' album as it takes time to properly digest, and has been growing on me more and more with each new listen. Some people won't give an album a second chance if it doesn't click initially, so how do you personally approach writing new material and do you regard your songs more as ‘growers’?
ADE: Again, as with being objective about the songs, I really can’t say anymore. We had set out for this album to be a bit more instant and less meandering, and while we cut the fat from the arrangements people still see it as a grower. Things seem to just take on a life of their own along the way. You can have a rough idea of where you want to go with songwriting but it seems to me that you have less control over it than you’d imagine, as silly as that sounds.
MD: Now that 'Severance' has been released, what are your touring plans for the rest of the year, are there any places or countries you would specifically like to visit to gig with the album, and would you prefer to get a bigger support slot to a more established band or go on a smaller headline tour?
ADE: It depends really. For instance, we’re going out on our first headline tour of the UK this September because the time is right for it, and people are now hungry enough to hear a headline set from us. In Europe, it’s a little more difficult, especially as there are much bigger overheads involved and you can’t afford to risk too many shows with smaller turnouts. Our main priority now is touring, though, so we’ll be doing everything we can to get to as many places as possible. Supporting a bigger band around Europe would be great, if the band and deal was right.
MD: Finally, what are your aims and aspirations for the future of the band?
ADE: To keep making albums that satisfy our artistic aims and to push the band as far as it can possibly go. We live for this, and we give it everything we’ve got.