Darkest Era interview (12/2022)
|Conducted by:||nikarg (e-mail)|
This interview happened without any planning at all. Darkest Era made a post on Facebook asking if any of their followers had them featured in their Spotify wrapped. I sent them two screenshots; one that showed that Wither On The Vine was my most played album of the year and that I was in the top 0,5% listeners of the band in 2022, and another one showing my five most-played songs that were "A Path Made Of Roots", "Tithonus", "The Collapse", "Floodlands", and "With Tragedy In Our Blood" (in this order). We exchanged a few PMs and I said that I was interested in doing an interview, and Ade Mulgrew, guitarist and main composer, told me to send a few questions his way.
Nik: Hello and thank you for doing this interview with Metal Storm. Can you briefly present Darkest Era for those who don’t know you?
Ade: We are a metal band originating from Northern Ireland. We’ve released 3 albums, several EPs/demos and have been around since 2007.
Nik: You describe yourselves as a ‘dark metal’ band. How do you mean that? What other bands would you put under that umbrella, for example?
Ade: We feel this term encapsulates our ‘sound’ best. Also we use it to encourage the listener to make up their minds for themselves. It’s not totally accurate to say we are only epic/doom/heavy/pagan etc, and each listener will likely take different things out of our music based on their own listening tastes. So it’s not a case of aligning ourselves with other bands, more a description that we feel works for us, while letting people decide the subgenre themselves.
Darkest Era in 2022
Nik: It took a while for the follow-up to Severance to be released. Can you tell us what happened in the meantime, and why there was such a big gap?
Ade: We did several small tours in the years after Severance, some small festivals and a few support shows with Amon Amarth. However we struggled to really gain momentum with larger shows and festivals so the profile of the band didn’t really grow much. We also had real life commitments at this stage which of course took priority. Around the end of 2015 we actually had studio time booked but we cancelled it. The material wasn’t coming together like we wanted and I wasn’t sure about the direction of the band anymore. And those next steps took a little bit of time to figure out, I considered maybe stopping the band at this point. Once a few songs were written and the vision came into focus however, to me it was clearly worth pursuing.
Nik: You also changed your logo. How did that come about?
Ade: Just a simple refreshing of the aesthetics and imagery of the band. It’s important for me that the aesthetics evolve along with the music.
Nik: It seems to me that you used all this time that you had wisely, because Wither On The Vine is, in my opinion, your best album to date and my personal favourite album of the year. And, in general, I see that the feedback from your fans and the music press has been very positive. Were you expecting such a warm reception, especially after having been away for so long?
Ade: I agree, I think it’s our best, however I definitely had some trepidation about the reception. I wasn’t sure anyone would give a shit; not just because we’d been silent for a while but because there is so much music being released, the scene is beyond saturation. I also felt we’d maybe lose some of the more conservative traditional metal fans, because this album is a step away from the classic metal elements in our sound. So I was fully prepared for no-one to be interested in the record, for us to self release it and for that maybe to be our goodbye to the world.
Wither On The Vine
Nik: Do you have any favourite song(s) from the album?
Ade: "A Path Made Of Roots" is my favourite of the new songs to play live, but it’s hard to choose an overall favourite. I think the first half of the record is especially strong, and the title track also one of our best songs ever, I think.
Nik: Can you walk us through the songwriting process? Who does what in the band?
Ade: The process for this album was totally different than all the others. Not least because a lot of it was written during the pandemic, but also we all live kind of far apart now. We aren’t able to meet up for writing sessions anymore for example. So this time I wrote the majority of the demos as complete as possible, then sent to the rest of the guys for input on arrangement, vocal melodies, general feedback etc. Sometimes I’d send just a riff or two to get a sense of what they thought. So this time the entire writing process was sending home demos back and forth and talking in whatsapp groups. It’s not how Iron Maiden did it in the 80s but it’s where we are nowadays!
Nik: Is the world and the current times as bleak as your lyrics describe? Could this turn out to be the darkest era for mankind?
Ade: I don’t think our lyrics could possibly ever adequately describe the darkness that exists in this world. But in terms of current times... There’s obviously a huge element of subjectivity and circumstance to this. On one hand, I can’t say that sitting in the warmth and safety of my apartment with food in the fridge etc. is as bleak as sitting in an apartment anywhere in Europe during WW2 for example, or in Ireland in 1845 during the famine. But in terms of the environmental crises facing the planet, these are unprecedented times and we haven’t been this close to destroying our only home before. When you add the other things happening right now, it’s hard not to feel that things are bleak.
Nik: You have your own sound that is instantly recognizable. But if I were to describe your music to someone who has never heard of you, I’d say that Wither On The Vine combines the dark folk of Primordial, the epic heavy doom of Atlantean Kodex, and the soulful super-memorable melodies of later era Amorphis. Am I on the right track or completely off the mark? Which bands or musicians would you say have influenced Darkest Era the most?
Ade: That’s a decent enough description. I read an interesting review recently that said ‘you will get out of this record what you bring to it’, meaning that each listener will pick up on different elements depending on their own tastes. Everyone seems to highlight different things based on this, the range of bands that people list when they draw comparisons is really big! This pleases me really, because it shows we are doing something that people haven’t really heard before, at least exactly like this. On this album there was a huge range of influences, I can mention Paradise Lost, Bathory, Candlemass, Rome, Agalloch, Mono, Led Zeppelin, Opeth, Enslaved.
Nik: Do you have any plans for live shows? If yes, can you reveal approximately when and where?
Ade: Yes, we are currently assembling live shows for next year, including a return to Athens [I told him in our message exchange that I am based in Athens and that I'm dying to see them live]. I’m not sure when that will be announced exactly, but hopefully soon!
Nik: Has Brexit affected the business side of the band?
Ade: It would have been easier to answer this a couple of years ago but now there are so many factors affecting bands and touring that it’s hard to say what is the biggest issue. I know bands have big problems coming to Ireland now due to the increased paperwork and things required. For me the most noticeable issue has been the customs charges on sending packages to Germany. We have sent very few merch orders to Germany lately, normally we would have sent hundreds but the huge customs costs there means it doesn’t make sense to order from the UK if you live in Germany, sadly.
Nik: Which is the best place to perform live in terms of audience? Is there a show you remember more fondly than the others?
Ade: We’ve had plenty of good shows over the years. We played Ragnarök Festival in Germany where we had a great reception. We also played the night of Primordial's All Empires Fall DVD recording which was a great night. But for sure our 'Up The Hammers' show in Athens in 2009 was really memorable. The crowd were very open minded and welcoming to us, and very enthusiastic. It was a wonderful atmosphere.
Nik: What kinds of music do you prefer listening to nowadays, and do you find that your personal taste has changed significantly through the years?
Ade: My taste has widened of course, I am listening to everything from synthwave, classical, folk music, 80s pop. But metal is still 100% in my blood, and it is what I listen to most of the time. I think my obsession has only grown over the years, not waned. I still spend lots of time checking out new bands.
Nik: What is the format of your choice for listening to music (physical / digital / streaming)?
Ade: I prefer to sit and listen to vinyl when possible, but usually most of my listening is from streaming services on my phone or laptop.
Nik: Are streaming services fair in what they give back to musicians? Is there a platform that you find to be fairer than others?
Ade: I think the consensus is they absolutely are not fair, particularly Spotify. However we are such a small band that our streams are inconsequential anyway. Our small fanbase is quite generous and we get a lot of support on Bandcamp for example with people buying digital copies of the album, merch etc. If Spotify had better integration with our own merch stores then this would be great but the current Shopify system is not good.
Darkest Era’s Spotify numbers for 2022
Nik: Is it possible to make a living as a metal musician these days?
Ade: Yes, in the same way that it is possible to make a living by winning the lottery. There are some doing it, I know some people in full time metal bands, but the chances are very small. 99% of metal bands will not earn a living. I consider music to be art, and the art is the most important thing. The goal should never be financial gain.
Nik: Which album would you take with you on a deserted island?
Ade: The Chemical Wedding by Bruce Dickinson.
Nik: And which book?
Ade: The Lord of the Rings.
Nik: Which album would we be shocked to see in your music collection?
Ade: I still have the first albums I bought when I was a small kid, which include a compilation called Reggae Heat Reggae Beat, and I still love all the songs on it!
Nik: Can you recommend us any new bands from your area?
Ade: There is a death/doom band named The Crawling who have some pretty cool stuff out. Also Terminus (Solstice, Twisted Tower Dire) though that is sadly now just a studio project. Also a new band called Haint from Belfast who are doing some cool stuff!
Nik: Can you name an active musician or band that you would love to collaborate with?
Ade: I’m friends with Mikko Lehto of October Falls and various other side projects, I’ve been meaning to collaborate with him in some capacity but we’ve yet to do so. I’d love to write songs with Gregor from Paradise Lost, or even just be in the same room while he is writing. I think he’s a genius, personally.
Nik: If you could choose any director, living or dead, to shoot one video clip for Darkest Era, who would it be and for which song?
Ade: David Lynch would do something interesting I’m pretty sure! Ken Russell directing a video for something like "Wither On The Vine" would be pretty incredible too, I bet.
Nik: If you could have any painter, living or dead, to do an album cover for the band, who would be your pick?
Nik: If I interviewed your bandmates instead of you, how would they describe you as a person?
Ade: Stubborn, single minded, determined, but also I hope reasonable, caring and compassionate. I’m not sure they would be this kind really hah!
Nik: Do you have any interests or hobbies outside of music?
Ade: I love retro video games from the 90s, I collect games for the Mega Drive and SNES. I also try to make time for books but it’s increasingly difficult. I enjoy sports and working out also, it helps clear my head and boost my energy levels for other activities.
Nik: Can you name three things in your bucket list, not necessarily relating to music?
Ade: Visit Japan, build a house, release a poetry book.
Nik: How do you see the future of Darkest Era? What do you dream of doing with this band?
Ade: The future is really tough for bands of our size, fighting for attention. My dream would be for the band to have enough fans that we could do a decent tour once a year, even supporting a bigger band, and a handful of good festivals. I would like to keep writing albums too but if it feels like there is some sort of audience there, it can be a lot more encouraging.
Nik: I believe you also have another heavy metal project called Ironborne along with your vocalist, Krum. Is there a chance we might have something with that in the future?
Ade: Yes, it’s just a case of getting the time for this. There was also a case of figuring out what exactly what we wanted to do with this project. The main reason for existence is just to have fun playing classic style heavy metal that gets our hearts pumping. But of course, there are a huge amount of bands playing ‘traditional’ metal nowadays and not all of it is remarkable… and we didn’t want to just add some more to the pile. We released a cover during lockdown which has some interesting different elements, so we think we have the basis for doing something exciting here but that is also 100% heavy metal as fuck. So I’m definitely planning an album, it’s just a case of when.
Nik: Thank you, Ade, for taking the time to answer all these questions in writing. I hope I catch you soon live, and have the pleasure to interview you face to face. Anything else you want to add yourself or say to our readers?
Ade: Rock and roll must never be allowed to die. Hail satan.
If you haven't listened to Darkest Era and/or Wither On The Vine yet, waste no time and visit Bandcamp. I will be brainwashing you until you do anyway.
||Posted on 08.12.2022 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!|
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