Darkest Era: Stunning Metal Artistry from Ireland

Darkest Era is a metal band from Ireland whose stunning musical artistry is a dramatic amalgamation of bands such as Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy mixed in with the passions of a modern day Primordial.  Brought to the attention of Metal Blade Records by Primordial’s front man Nemtheanga, the revered label signed the band and had them in the recording studio in no time at all.  The resulting effort is The Last Caress Of Light, a thrilling magnum opus of sound that will surely appeal to all adventurous musical type.  Here is a recent interview we conducted with one of the Darkest Era members to find out more about this amazing new collective…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Darkest Era, and how long the band has been together.
I am Ade Mulgrew, guitarist of Darkest Era. The band has been together since 2005, originally under the name Nemesis but we changed to Darkest Era in 2007. So this current incarnation is almost 4 years old, and we have an EP, a limited promo digipack and our new debut album to our name!

Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We’re all originally from Enniskillen which is a small town in a fairly rural part of Northern Ireland. 2 of the guys still live there and 3 of us now live in Belfast, which is where we rehearse generally. Belfast is the centre of the Northern Irish music scene, because of the population size more than anything else. The scene is pretty good; there are a lot of good local bands coming through in all sorts of sub genres. We don’t have a strong enough scene to support the likes of a heavy metal bar, but we’re getting touring bands here most weeks, which is great. We have Iron Maiden playing the city in the summer for their Irish date, which is great as well.

How did you wind up being signed to Metal Blade Records?
We released a promo called The Oaks Sessions in March of last year, which we intended to use to find a label for our debut album. Around this time Alan Averill of Primordial started doing A&R work for Metal Blade. He pitched us directly to Brian Slagel along with a number of other bands. He really liked what he heard.  Over the following few months we worked out a deal and were in the studio 3 weeks after it was announced! We had a number of offers from other labels on the table actually but in the end Metal Blade was the best choice in terms of understanding our ambition for the band and helping nuture our artistic vision.

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title The Last Caress Of Light?
The title is taken from the song “The Last Caress Of Light Before The Dark” and it was chosen because it pretty much sums up the tone and themes of the record. The kind of imagery it conjures up is that of changing times, changing seasons; the turning of the tides, the last rays of warmth before the coldness and uncertainty of night. This imagery is pretty much representative of the topics and themes that are written about on the album so the title works well in this regard I think.

Where did you get the ideas for some of the lyrics? Please cite two songs in particular and tell me what inspired the lyrics.
The ideas come from the same places that most writers will cite; looking at the world around us, looking inward on ourselves and being inspired by literature, other music etc. “The Morrigan” is based on an old Celtic mythological, and is about unrequited love and vengeance in a fantastical war setting. “Visions of the Dawn” is basically about letting go of ghosts from the past, and shaking off whatever demons the night brings.

What could one expect from a live Darkest Era show?
You can expect an intense, powerful and engaging performance. When we play live, we perform the songs with a kind of vigour and vitality that lets you know that we mean every single chord and every single word. We let the music create the atmosphere and try and draw the crowd right into the heart of our songs. We are probably at our best live, it’s where we love to be and if the audience leaves having been affect in some way then we’ve done a good job. We’ve put a lot of work into our shows to make sure the atmosphere of our songs translates well to the live environment.

Has Darkest Era ever played in the States or plan to do so in the future?
We haven’t played the States but it is without doubt something we plan to do so in the future. We’ve had a lot of support for US-based fans so far and we would really love to play live for them. I’ve never traveled to the US before so I think it’d be a really cool way to see the country; on tour with the band!

Do you think Metal Blade might re-release The Journey Through Damnation, and what do you think of that recording in retrospect?
At the moment there are no plans for this. It might end up on a vinyl release with the Nemesis demo or something but at the moment there is nothing in the pipeline. We are still proud of that release; obviously we thought it was strong enough to re-record the first two tracks for our debut album. For an MCD I think it’s a good record, the production probably isn’t how we would do things now. It’s a little too digital with not enough warmth or mid range body. I don’t think the drums sound particularly good on it either, but as I said the songs are strong and we stand by it. You learn from everything you do, it’s a good document of where we were at that point.

Who are some of the bigger bands you have opened for in the past and what was that experience like?
I guess the biggest band we have opened for would be Diamond Head, but we’ve also shared bills with Enforcer, Portrait, Watain, Nifelheim, Dark Quarterer, and countless other great bands. Our favourite support slot was probably supporting Primordial for the recording of their DVD in Dublin. That was a great night for us, playing in a sold out venue in front of a ravenous crowd!

Who did the cover art of The Last Caress Of Light and how much input did you have on it?
Paul McCarroll is the artist; he is an Irish artist who is extremely talented and has a great track record of doing art for metal bands. We had a lot of input, we were constantly exchanging emails along the way, sharing ideas, refining the concept, and trying to find something that really worked. We only had a rather vague idea of how the art should look initially, but Paul helped us figure out exactly what would work best, and then created a killer piece of artwork for us. He based the entire piece around the opening line of the opening song, which is “Goddess of War, Serpent of Doom.” Paul really understands that artwork has to mean something as well as look good, and we have something that I think fits the tone and mood of the record perfectly, but that will also stand out on shelves.

What is your favorite Irish beer you could recommend and why? And do you like American beer at all?
We’re not very good at brewing beer in Ireland. “Harp” is Belfast’s signature beer for example, and it tastes like it was brewed in someone’s anus. Stout is more our thing, obviously a well poured Guinness is hard to beat, and Murphys stout is very nice too. Irish whiskey is very good as well. I’m not really a fan of American beer to be honest but I have to admit having a love for bottled Miller, or a nice pint of Coors Light. I’m sure there is much better beer to find in America than the mass marketed Budweiser and so on!

What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most after hearing The Last Caress Of Light for the very first time?
I think it’s proving to be a grower for a lot of people, the kind of album that intrigues on the first listen and then reveals more and more on subsequent spins. I suppose if they get a sense of the kind of melancholic atmosphere and heavy metal power of the sound in general, then they’ve understood what we’re going for. Obviously if a few of the hooks and choruses are spinning round their heads as well then that’s cool!

Any messages for metal fans here in the States?
Thanks for all the support so far! Keep an eye on our website and Facebook for updates and we hope to see you on the road in the States before too long!

Darkest Era is Krum on vocals, Ade Mulgrew on guitar, Sarah Wieghell on guitar, David Lindsay on bass, and Lisa Howe on drums.

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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