Interview: Darkest Era

I already wrote it a few weeks ago on our Facebook profile: For months Aidan has been telling me that I really had to check out Darkest Era’s latest release Wither on the Vine more intensively. This would be one of the best albums of the year. My young colleague was right – and I consider the Northern Irish band’s third full-length one of the brightest gems of 2022. Reason enough to talk to Ade Mulgrew, guitarist and founding member of the band, about this album and all sorts of other things. As you can see from his music tips, he is extremely Epic Metal Blog-compatible…

André: Thank you very much for taking the time for us. How are you?

Ade: Very good thanks, enjoying the snow and beautiful cold clear days we’re having here at the moment.

André: How would you actually classify yourselves stylistically? The Metallum says heavy/celtic folk metal – do you think that fits?

Ade: I don’t think celtic folk metal is accurate at all really although I see why people make those connections. This is always a great matter of debate when people talk about us. We call ourselves “dark metal“ and leave it to the listeners to argue about whether we are doom, epic, heavy etc.

André: Which bands have influenced you the most?

Ade: In the early days it was traditional rock and heavy metal like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, and a celtic rock band named Horslips. We were also big fans of doom metal like Warning, My Dying Bride etc. Also Viking-era Bathory. These are the general collective influences however to be honest the range of influences and inspirations is very wide.

André: Your latest album Wither on the Vine was released in September. In your opinion, does it differ from previous releases in one significant way? And what do you personally consider to be the most remarkable aspects of the album?

Ade: I think the songwriting/style on this album is more cohesive than the others, and the identity of the band is stronger. Therefore to me it’s the most “complete“ sounding. I think the overall combination of the dark melancholic atmosphere, the clean singing and the riffing style is what might make it stand out against other records or other bands.

André: Let’s say someone asks you for a play recommendation: Which song would you highlight? Which track is particularly representative of Darkest Era in the year 2022?

Ade: I think “Floodlands“ is a good representation of where we are now, and it’s one of the main reasons it was chosen as the first single off the record. Aside from that, “The Collapse“ also contains a lot of our signature elements in one song.

André: Anaïs Mulgrew designed the artwork for your album. Did you discuss within the band exactly how you envisioned the cover? Or did Anaïs work alone and present her proposal to you?

Ade: We gave Anaïs a lot of freedom in the execution of the art, we trusted her and wanted to have someone interpret the themes of the record in their own way. She did a kind of mood board initially, which meant we could agree on a rough style and direction. But in terms of the actual composition it was entirely her vision. She also wrote and directed our music videos, so there is this thread of consistency and artistic vision running right through the art and videos which is really great.

André: How important are the lyrics to you? And how do they usually come about? Is there always the music first – and then the lyrics? Or can it also be the other way round?

Ade: I’m a language lover, I enjoy reading great lyrics and also read poetry as well. So lyrics are quite important, however consider myself to be quite a mediocre lyricist. On our previous album they were quite abstract and image-heavy, and this time I wanted the meanings to be a little clearer, and maybe a little more meaningful. On Wither on the Vine all of the lyrics were completed after the music, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. We’ve done it differently in the past.

André: Are you planning to perform live in 2023? Are there already fixed dates that we should note in our calendars?

Ade: Yes we’re planning to do a select number of shows across the UK and Europe in 2023, including a couple of festivals. These will begin to be announced in January time so keep an eye out then!

André: On our blog, the focus is always on underground bands. What can you tell our readers about the underground metal scene in Northern Ireland? Are there many exciting bands and enough opportunities to perform, to name two points?

Ade: There are plenty of local bands around right now, and also still lots of touring bands coming to play shows here. Some newer bands who are making great noise here are The Crawling, Haint, Corr Mhona. Overall I don’t think the local band scene is as strong or exciting as it was 10 years ago, but thanks to the hard work of the Belfast and Dublin promoters metal fans here are still spoilt for choice when it comes to going to see shows. If anyone is travelling to the north or south of Ireland for a weekend holiday, chances are there will be a cool metal show to see as well.

André: 2022 is slowly coming to an end. Which albums released this year did you particularly like?

Ade: There were a lot this year. I really enjoyed the new Blind Guardian album, the first single off that is maybe my song of the year. There was also great doom metal debuts from Thy Listless Heart,  Arð and MMXX. In fact those 3 records really complement each other well I feel! The new Dark Forest EP was also really cool, and I also really enjoyed the Sonja debut album. Lots of great stuff!

André: Do you have an insider tip for our readers, an album that they should definitely check out?

Ade: I’m not sure about insider tip but I recently became obsessed with the Fvneral Fvkk album that came out a couple of years ago, Carnal Confessions. Also Mikko Lehto from October Falls has a really great side project called Wooden Throne which is worth checking out. Lastly, if I can give an obscure heavy metal recommendation it’s I have played rock and roll by Kassu Halonen. An amazing lost album from 1986, in pure Dio fashion.

André: Last question: On our blog, we mainly deal with music that can be said to have epic elements. How would you define the term epic?

Ade: If the music takes you on a journey, if it seems larger than life and would be the perfect soundtrack to walking up a mountain in dramatic weather, then I guess it’s likely to be epic!

André: Ade, thank you very much for your answers! I wish you and your band colleagues a relaxing end of the year. Maybe we’ll see each other live in 2023!

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