Interview: Darkest Era

Darkest Era, a Northern Irish five-piece metal band, returned to The Classic Grand on Saturday 27th September for the fifth date of their UK and Ireland tour. The band’s heavy, melodious sound, energetic performances and stirring lyrical themes have earned them a loyal following amongst metal fans in Glasgow and further afield. Qmunicate caught up with guitarists Ade and Sarah before the show.

Welcome back to Glasgow. Is it good to be back in The Classic Grand after headlining North Of The Wall here last March?

Ade: It is. Glasgow’s become a bit of a second home for us.  It’s the city we’ve played the most outside of Belfast.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s a great venue, and all the people who come here are great to play for, with the way they interact.

With the release of your new album and your first UK and Ireland headline tour, this must be an exciting time for you guys. What’s been a recent highlight?

A: Well I guess the most recent was that we did two gigs with Amon Amarth in Belfast and Dublin at the end of August. It was kind of last minute, but they’re a band that we’ve wanted to play with for a while because we share a similar kind of fan base, and they’re a band that led us to a lot when we were growing up. So those were really cool gigs to get. Dublin was sold out at The Academy, and The Limelight in Belfast did pretty well too. And before that we had our album out in June. That was a long time coming, so it’s been great to get that out and play some shows. The last six months have been really busy.

So let’s talk about the new album – it has quite a melancholic feel. What kind of themes did you want to explore with it?

S: What was that word you said?

A: Uh, decay of all things physical and metaphysical?

S: But what was the word that meant that? (Laughs.)

A: Was it impermanence? Or solipsism…

S: Solipsism! That’s it.

A: Yeah, well, the seed for some of the themes of the album was the philosophical idea of solipsism, which is the idea that you can never be sure of anything outside of your own frame of reality, and of stripping away these kind of structures that people have intrinsically as humans to make sense of the world and existence, to reveal this new, terrible truth. It’s a slightly Matrix-esque sort of thing. We went from there really. Some of the songs paint that picture in a post-apocalyptic, Cormac McCarthy way – songs like ‘The Scavenger’. There’s the theme of time as well.  I’m very aware of how quickly everything flies past, so the song ‘Trapped in the Hourglass’ is about being frozen in fear because the force of time decays everything. That also fed into the song ‘Blood, Sand and Stone’, which Sarah wrote the lyrics for.

S: It’s about the physical confines of your body and your past. Basically it’s this idea of carrying – you’re like a big Greek stone that holds up these massive pillars, and you stand there through time, and everything else turns from stone into sand and back in to this statue and it just goes on and on.

Where does the album title Severance come from?

A: It’s kind of an umbrella term for all those themes that are linked in little ways. It basically means the severing of everything that you know and hold dear I guess. It is a little bit enigmatic because there’s not one main theme in the album so the atmosphere that that title evoked was appropriate.

S: We were playing with a couple of album titles and that just really suited with how we were all feeling at the time. We had such a hectic time recording the album because we came back off tour for three weeks round Europe and then we had like ten weeks to write the album and it was just kind of crazy. So after we finished it, it was one of those things like: “did that actually happen”, you know?

You’ve been described as a “Celtic Metal” band – how does Celtic heritage influence your work?

A: Hm, not as much as people might think – people can have a misconception that all we write about is Celtic mythology or history or whatever, which is really not the case. With the first album we’ve one song, ‘The Morrigan’, which is directly derived from mythology, but the rest isn’t really. We draw from the imagery in those myths and legends but no more than we would draw from the imagery of Tolkien, or romantic poets, or heroic fantasy. It’s not a huge part of our aesthetic either. The Celtic Metal tag is something people use because they have difficulty pinning down our sound, and there is a melancholic atmosphere to our music which is a Celtic element I guess.

S: In saying that, Irish bands who are influenced a lot by Celtic mythology have affected our music. Like Thin Lizzy, I’ll come out and say it, we love Thin Lizzy. And there’s definitely something there from all the old jigs and reels. It’s an Irish sound I suppose.

A: Yeah, there’s a certain way of playing. It is undeniable, you have bands like Mael Mórdha, Mourning Beloveth,  Primordial – a bunch of bands that are completely different genres and sub-genres, but there is a certain atmosphere to those bands which people seem to tie down as being from that particular area [of music].

So do you find it reductive when people try to put you in a particular box, and have preconceptions about what kind of band you are because of that Celtic tag?

S: Well I think it’s hard because we’ve got so many “tags”. We’ve even been called Power Metal, Doom, Folk Metal, Prog [Progressive Metal]… I don’t really mind Celtic Metal because it’s a catch all term really.

A: It is suitable – we’re an Irish band, the music has a Celtic sound. So when people refer to us as that it’s not really miles off. I tend to say it over “Heavy Metal”, but that’s just to do with my view of Heavy Metal in general. But it just annoys me then when people don’t listen to us because of their preconceptions of the word “Celtic”. They think oh, it must mean Folk or drinking music, so it annoys me if that shuts them off from discovering us. But it’s unavoidable, I mean I’m sure some bands get attached to other sub genres like Thrash or something, and people don’t listen to their stuff.

S: Oh yeah, it happens to everyone – genres are always evolving and changing and delving deeper into lots of different styles.

A: We get too hung up on classification.

Finally, what can fans expect to see from Darkest Era in the future, and what are you looking forward to?

A: We’re looking forward to the rest of this tour. It’s gonna be awesome. I think after this tour we’re going to be starting to write again. Severance is an old enough album for us, even though it only came out in June, because we had it written and recorded eighteen months previously, so the songs are a little bit old for us and we’re more than ready to move forward,  especially with the new line-up, so we’re working away in the background in the meantime. But also, we’ll be playing gigs in Europe in late Spring. There’s an area, particularly Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, that it’s definitely time for us to hit properly because we’ve never really toured there and it’s where an awful lot of our fanbase are. So that’s one of the things we’re going to get on when we get back from this tour.

[Cat Acheson]

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