Interview with Ade Mulgrew | By Eric May
Darkest Era is the new force in Irish metal, that’s for certain. They’ve crafted an absolute masterpiece of a record in Severance, combining almost black metal like atmospheres with the essence of folk and prowess of traditional and thrash metal to create a sound that is unmistakably their own.
Tell me a little bit about how you came together. Were you in any bands prior to Darkest Era?
We had been in some cover bands before but we were pretty young when the band started, (around sixteen or seventeen) so it was certainly our first serious band. The original lineup all went to schools in the same town, so most people who were in bands or into metal knew each other. We learned a few covers and started writing our own songs and things just went from there really. At that point there was no grand design; we just wanted to be in a band. You see these really young Swedish bands coming out and they already have the full package totally nailed; the sound, the aesthetic, the goals. We just wanted to play heavy metal; we didn’t think much beyond that for the first year or so.
How long did it take to write and record Severance and where was this done?
We had some idea of what we wanted to do with this record and a few riffs and things since after the first UK tour we did for The Last Caress in February 2012. However due to lineup instability we didn’t get down to writing until the end of the year. The bulk of the songwriting took place over ten weeks between November and December 2012. We went to a studio in the far south west of Ireland in Co Kerry, and we flew in producer Chris Fielding who did our first album. We were still refining the songs during the recording process; writing lyrics, honing arrangements and so on, so the whole process was very intense. Things had reached boiling point through the course of this record and had come close to being derailed complete on several occasions. The album became like a beast that we had to tame in the studio, working our asses off and trying to keep things together. When we emerged, it felt like the end of a battle. We were broken and bruised but we were clutching something we were very proud of. We were ready to rebuild the band and take it to the next step.
What is the concept beyond Severance? Many of the tracks seem to take a folky or mythological aspect, perhaps even Pagan in nature.
I wouldn’t say there are mythological aspects this time round but I guess some of the lyrics could be taken in a pagan context. Folkloric is more accurate probably; that is the kind of dark underbelly, the earthy, abstract and almost slightly occult aspects of the lyric writing. It’s not a concept album by any means but the main theme is the decay of all things physical and metaphysical. Time as an unyielding force of decay and how we deal with this is definitely running through the record. There is definitely a sense of desolation. There is also a large inspiration from the concept of solipsism and the philosophical implications of questioning one’s own very frame of reality. In a nutshell perhaps, the album is the sound of everything we know in the world being torn apart right in front of our eyes.
Who would you say helped to inspire or influence you in your musical journey?
The bands we loved when we started playing music still continue to inspire us. Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Warlord, Heavy Load, folk music… the list is endless. As you get older though I think you look at influences in a different way. Instead of trying to sound a certain way you begin to try and think a certain way instead, and you look at your songwriting in new ways.
What would you say are your top five favorite musical releases of all time?
1. Iron Maiden – Powerslave
2 Depeche Mode – Violator
3 Slough Feg – Traveller
4 Rainbow – Rising
5 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Be warned though if you ask me on a different day you may get five totally different answers, I simply couldn’t say definitively.
Let’s talk more about the lyrics. What is “Beyond The Grey Veil?” And please satiate my curiosity towards “Serpent And The Shadow.” There are truly so many very powerful songs on this record, that it’s tough to discuss only a few.
“Beyond the Grey Veil” is the thematic centerpiece of the album so really it encompasses all the themes I talked about earlier, particularly solipsism. In writing it I envisaged the grey veil as a physical symbol of the boundaries between what we know about the world and what we do not; a great and terrible truth beyond. “Serpent And The Shadow” is actually a kind of straightforward metallic number. It’s about the shadow of evil deeds personified like in so many cultures as the serpent and kind of continuing the thread a little bit from “The Morrigan” from our first album.
What kinds of things inspire your lyrics?
The usual: books, film, the world around us, a thought or feeling that festers until it has to be expressed somehow. Sometimes they come from just an interested phrase or a particular line. You can come up with a line, something about it will stick with you, and suddenly you find yourself writing everything else from this one source. It may seem random or disjointed at first but more often than not you find things end up making sense.
Where can we catch you guys live and what songs from this record might we expect to hear at the live shows? Any chance you’ll play here in the US?
We’ll be doing a UK tour in September and hopefully we’ll go around Europe again in the late winter or early spring. We would absolutely love to tour the US, I’m sure we will one day but it’s extremely difficult for European bands, the costs are insane. You may have heard about In Solitude running into difficulties last year on their US tour, and that was a high profile tour. Hopefully when we build things a little more on this side of the Atlantic we’ll be in a position to come play for you folks. I’m not sure what the set will consist of from this record but the opening four tracks will most likely feature at least.
What’s the best live gig that you guys can remember? Who have you been fortunate to meet while on the road? Being from Ireland, have you had the chance to play with Cruachan and Primordial?
I played with Cruachan while doing session work for another Irish band but with Darkest Era we’ve played with Primordial a few times. In fact we opened the show where they recorded their DVD so that was a really special occasion. We did a show in Germany with Portrait and Enforcer just before those bands broke which was quite cool. Probably the greatest meeting we had was with Bill Steer in London. He was playing in Angel Witch at the time before the Carcass reunion, and a mutual friend had brought him down to see us play and we went drinking together afterwards. He is a really nice guy too, a legend.
Purchase Severance here: http://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/