DARKEST ERA are a Northern Irish metal band, formed under the name Nemesis in mid 2005. They combine influences from folk music, black, doom and true metal to create a unique sound which is an epic, dark, celtic heavy metal. In August 2010, DARKEST ERA announced that they had signed a worldwide deal with Metal Blade Records, and wasted no time in entering the studio to record their highly anticipated debut album. The result is ‘The Last Caress Of Light’, a record which mixes the melancholy and atmosphere of Irish Folk with the epic might of heavy metal bands such as Warlord, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. The album stands out from all else as a record of intense emotional power and honesty; holding the listener within a dark heavy metal storm and not letting go until the last chords have rung out.
…and some weeks ago I had a pleasure to chat with the band’s guitarist, Ade Mulgrew.
Hi Ade, I’m Tarja. and welcome to Metal Shock! How’re you doing today?
Hi Tarja, I’m pretty good! Busy as always but busy is good. Got some Black Sabbath on in the background, ready to answer your questions!
To start, would you like to represent the Darkest Era members?
Sure, we’re a 5 piece epic celtic metal band; Krum – Vocals, myself and Sarah Wieghell on guitar, David Lindsay on bass and Lisa Howe on drums. We’re all in our early 20’s.
In 2005 the band was formed under the name Nemesis, but in 2007 you changed it to Darkest Era. Can you tell me why this choice?
Yeah, there were about 400 other bands using the name Nemesis hehe. In fact Candlemass were even called Nemesis before they changed their name. As the band started to get more serious and we started to gain some interest in the underground, we decided that to move forward we would need a name that no-one else is using. However we also felt that Nemesis didn’t really fit with our sound and this point, so we wanted a new name that would reflect the changing direction of songwriting, and that would fit the tone of the music we were writing. Darkest Era was perfect for these reasons.
I read from your bio that you take your influences from Doom, Black, and Pagan Metal. How has your sound changed in these years, and what can we expect your music will be in the future?
When we formed as Nemesis, we were very young, aged around 16-18. We wore our influences on our sleeves which at the time was mainly NWOBHM. But after a quite a short period of time we started to express more of ourselves in our music, and we took in a wider range of influences. The main difference is that the material became darker, with a more epic and melancholic edge. There are some doom aspects, and some of the riffing style is not far removed from black metal. But there is also the celtic, melancholic atmosphere of Irish folk music. The songs are more ambitious with more epic structures and generally more mature sounding. We’ve really found our sound I feel. How our sound will develop is hard to say. We have no intention of releasing the same album twice or remaining stagnant. There are many different threads running through our music that we could explore more. It will always have the epic heavy metal and celtic darkness that are key to our sound though.
Let’s talk about your new album, The Last Caress Of Light, which will be released on 11 february, via Metal Blade. It includes 8 songs. What can you tell me about its writing process and themes?
6 of the 8 songs were written between January 2010 and August 2010, and we worked on some of them quite a bit in the studio as well. The Morrigan and Visions of the Dawn were taken from our EP “The Journey Through Damnation” from 2008. Myself and Sarah have a kind of songwriting partnership so most of the songs will start from guitar pieces that one of us has written. We build the song up from there, generally jamming with the whole band to find drums parts and experiment with different vocal melodies. It’s quite a natural process, but each song is different. The themes running through the album are that of inward reflection, the battle of strength against weakness and watching the turning of the tides of the world, and how we face this change. There’s more to it but that’s it in a nutshell.
If it were YOU to write its review, what would you write on it?
I would say that it’s the greatest metal record ever and that everyone should buy it haha! No I would say that it is an emotional and powerful record of stormy, epic celtic metal. It mixes the heavy metal power of Iron Maiden, the Irish romanticism of Thin Lizzy and the sombre darkness of folk music to create something truly unique and who engaging. Anyone who appreciates music from the heart may be interested to hear it.
You recently shot a clip about the making of The Last Caress of Light which got premiered exclusively via noisecreep.com. Why this song was chosen to be the first song released from the album? any story behind it?
The Morrigan was released first for the same reasons that it is the opening track on the album. It is straight to the point, very immediate and gives the listener a good indication of what we are about. I really like the structure of Iron Maiden albums that have a snappy, strong opening track that normally gets released first, so I suppose we wanted to follow this idea. The Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of war. In the old story “Táin Bó Cúailnge” which is a legendary Irish tale, she professes her love for the warrior Cú Chulainn. He is mind is weary with war so sends her away from his sight, so she returns to him in 3 different forms in an attempt to kill him. She then prophecises his death. The song is about this story, but it is also allegorical of the other themes that are explored on the album.
What are you expecting about this new album?
We are very proud of it, and it satisfies our vision for what we wanted to create. So in that sense, it has already met the most important expectation. Other than that, we are hoping that it will be heard by as many people as possible, and that those who are interested in our kind of music will enjoy the album. We do not stay still for long though, and it is only our first real step in our career. Hopefully it will be a strong foundation for the band to grow artistically and enable us to play live to as many people as possible. We just want to keep moving foward now.
And now, you’re heading up to promotour? do you know already which countries it’ll hit?
At the moment we are making plans to tour heavily in the Autumn and Winter. We are talking with a number of different parties concerning tours, maybe we’ll announce some details soon. It’s hard to say at the moment but we plan to play in as many countries as possible. We really can’t wait to get out on the road with this record!
Some years ago you’ve played in various European festivals including Fist Held High in Germany, Up the Hammers in Greece and Made in Hell in Italy. Which have been the best act, among these and other venues where you’ve played, up till now? Some nice memories you can share with us?
We have played with so many great bands over the last few years. At Fist Held High we played with Enforcer and Portrait who were both fantastic. In Athens, Isole, Ereb Altor, Titan Force were great. we played with Crowning Glory once in England, they were great. We have played with Primordial a number of times, most notably for their DVD recording in Dublin which was fantastic, they are always great to watch. Recently we played some shows around Ireland with Mael Mordha too, who we really enjoy playing with. Lots of great memories of course, and some interesting situations! In Germany we got stranded in the industrial district of Wurzburg. We were lost with nowhere open for directions and no phone number for taxis or help. The only place open was a brothel. We were stuck for ages and there was nothing we could do, we almost froze to death in the snow! When we finally made it to the hostel, we had missed our check in with nowhere else to stay! Anyway the guy at the hostel made some calls and at 2am we finally found somewhere to stay. It was a bit of a nightmare! Then a few weeks later in Athens there was teargas on the street we were staying on, as the festival is right next to where the riots were taking place. Just another day in a metal band haha.
Do you have any traditions or rites on how you prepair yourself to a concert?
Not really, but we do like to make sure that we have at least 15 minutes to ourselves backstage, where it is quiet and we can get focused. We haven’t toured extensively yet but I imagine after a few nights on tour we would find some rituals for luck! We try and channel the emotion of the songs during our live performances, so you must be in the right frame of mind before the show. On the way to a show I like to listen to bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, because they stir within you the energy that inspires you to become a musician in a metal band in the first place.
And while playing on stage, what is your report with your audience?
We try to engage with the audience as much as possible, to try and put across the intensity and fire that we feel when we play the songs. It’s like an exorcism when we go on stage. We grasp hold of the audience and don’t let go until the end of the show. When I go see a metal band I want to be transfixed from the start, and I want to raise my fist in the air. We try and stir up this energy and reaction from our crowds. The live environment is where our songs are at their most powerful, and where we are most content. When the audience has chills down their spine, and really feel like they’ve experienced something, then we’ve done what we set out to do.
And what about the future… any plans, a new album or else?
As I said we are making plans to tour right now, all our will is bent on playing this album live to as many people as possible. Later in the year we will have a think about our second album; how we want it to sound and we will start bringing some ideas together. We just want to keep moving forward as a band and expressing ourselves. There is a lot of music in us, we feel.
How do you see the Irish metal-scenes, comparing it to the European one, as well as World wide?
I think there’s a good scene here, considering the population size, as obviously this is a very small country. There is maybe not as much variation in the kind of bands we produce when compared to a country like Sweden, for example. This is a cultural thing I guess. But there are bands like Gama Bomb, Primordial, Cruachan, Altar of Plagues, Mourning Beloveth all making waves internationally. Metal really is underground here, it receives no mainstream press whatsoever! There are no dedicated metal bars or metal magazines. So it can be difficult for Irish bands to get off the ground initially. But I think all things considered we’re pretty well represented.
Now the last questions, what would you say to all of your fans and to those who read this interview?
I’d just like to say thanks to those who have supported Darkest Era and have bought our CD’s and sent us messages! We really appreciate it and we hope you enjoy our debut album, it has been highly anticipated by both the band and the fans I think. We can’t wait to play live in front of as many fans as possible!
Thanks Ade for this interview! Wish you all the best for this year, and hope to see you soon on the road!
No worries Tarja many thanks, yeah we look forward to that!
Interview by Tarja Virmakari – Photos: Darkest Era Official Facebook
Darkest Era “The Morrigan”