Dark Forest – To Tame a LandTuesday, 25th March 2014
Playing a type of non-ruffled shirt, devoid-of-drawbridge epic metal, England’s Dark Forest should make those fond of climatic twin guitar harmony duals quite happy on their third album, The Awakening. The band, who formed in 2009 and have undergone some recent lineup changes, willingly bestow the graceful ebb of mounds of guitar harmonies and melodies, some of which are immediately impactful; others, rife with sorrow and reflection. They’re in accordance with the concept behind The Awakening, where the band urges civilization to wake up to the fact that they are “one” with nature, something we all should be privy to given the state of the world’s affairs. Nevertheless, it’s a fitting plot, all executed with subtle restraint and an eye on what counts the most: Good songs.
With such particulars in tow, we grabbed founding member/guitarist Christian Horton for a chat of the electronic variety, where indeed, the aforementioned guitar action was discussed, as well as the band’s lineup change, and close ties to the country they call home. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: To start, I will freely admit that some of the harmonies on The Awakening remained lodged in my brain for days. When did the band become such masters of melody?
Christian Horton: It’s just something which has developed and grown over the years and as we’ve become more experienced at songwriting. We’ve always been melodic, but in the early days the songs were a lot quite simplistic. These days we like to build on songs and get as much music and melody out of them as we can.
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously, you’re a band from the U.K., and the band that first comes to mind is Maiden when using twin guitar harmonies. But, are there any other bands that have inspired you in the harmony department?
Horton: Maiden are probably the biggest one, yeah, but there’s all sorts of other bands and genres of metal which have influenced us from power metal to NWOBHM to folk and thrash. Twin guitars are just a staple part of heavy metal, and music wouldn’t be much without harmony, it’s just something that we’ve always done and I suppose it comes naturally to us.
Dead Rhetoric: Moving along, you have two relatively new members in Pat [Jenkins, guitars] and Josh [Winnard, vocals]. What do they bring to the table?
Horton: Well, firstly, they’re both very skilled in what they do and it’s also great that they’re both songwriters. Pat was friends with the band for years and we also knew Josh for quite a while as the guitarist in Wytch Hazel (we had no idea he could sing!) so the fact that we were all already close friends really helped. They also both understand the essence of Dark Forest very much and we’ve already started writing new material together. I’d say that this line up is easily the strongest one yet both in terms of musicianship and creativity
Dead Rhetoric: Finding the right vocalist for your style of music is certainly not as easy task, so what made Josh the right guy to supplant Will?
Horton: We didn’t have any specific voice in mind when we were holding auditions, we were open to anything that we thought suited the music. Like I mentioned, we knew Josh as the guitarist in Wytch Hazel so we were surprised when he contacted us wanting to audition for vocalist. He sent us a demo recording first singing our songs and we were really impressed so immediately got him down for a proper audition and again he blew us away. He has the ability to sing incredibly high but also very soft and melancholic which can give the music another dimension that we never had before. We tried a few more people out after Josh but none of them came close and, to be honest, as soon as we heard him we knew he was the right choice.
Dead Rhetoric: As for The Awakening, what was the goal in terms of songwriting this time out? The album is a step up from Dawn of Infinity…
Horton: The songwriting is a constant ongoing thing in this band. It’s not a case of sitting down and writing a new album with any specific goals in mind, I’m always writing music and what happens is, when the time comes for another album, I get together all the material and we choose the best ones and then re-work and build on them a bit more until they work together as an album. I agree that it’s a step up from Dawn of Infinity just as that album was a step up from the debut and that’s simply because of the ongoing songwriting process, you just get better and more experienced as time goes by.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s more variety this time, especially with the mood and atmosphere. What brought this on?
Horton: Yeah, I think the album has a bit of a brooding feel at times. I guess it’s to do with the way you’re feeling at the time, the songs capture a certain period in your life. Also some the subject matter that the album deals with lends itself to that kind of atmosphere, though there are also a lot of uplifting moments as well, of course. Again, most of this is more subconscious for me, I just let it all come out and see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: Working with a running thread through the lyrics…does that make life easier when putting the album together?
Horton: It can do yeah, although not all the songs on this album have a common theme. It’s similar to Dawn of Infinity where there are a number of songs that link together lyrically and then other songs which stand alone. That’s not an excuse to less imaginative either, I think it’s because the theme for this album has a lot of aspects to it and it needed separate songs to explore them.
Dead Rhetoric: The fact you recorded in 444hz is sure to turn some heads. For those without the knowledge of sound frequencies, what’s the easiest explanation you
Horton: Standard tuning is 440hz and if you research into the origins of that, you’ll find it only recently became commonplace and was the result of the Rockefeller Foundation. That frequency creates discord and emotional distress, whereas we’ve tuned to 444hz which gives you a C chord of 528hz, one of the solfeggio frequencies. The solfeggios where used by the ancients and resonate with us in an extremely positive way, they balance and realign us with the universal life force energy.
Dead Rhetoric: This begs the question: How much research and time do you put into this pursuit?
Horton: A lot! I think it’s important to read into everything and set yourself free with the knowledge. There’s no excuse in this day and age to be ignorant and dumbed-down, there’s information out there which, until now, has been secret and closely guarded and therefore allowed the few to control the many. It’s time to break the conditioning, educate ourselves and take the power back.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve been to England (Cumbria to be exact) and fell in love with its surroundings. So, how much of an influence is Black Country for you?
Horton: My family have lived here for generations and I am very interested in the local history, in fact I feel more connected with the way of life a hundred years ago than I do today, but at the same time there’s something which I don’t like about the Black Country. It’s mentioned in the lyrics of Sons of England “Where wild roses grow, far from the industrial glow, there lies the land that we know.” The Black Country got its name during the industrial revolution because it was so heavily polluted. The saying was “Black by day, red by night” and people worked like slaves. It’s where Tolkien got his influence for the chapter in The Lord of the Rings called The Scouring of the Shire. I don’t feel that that is anything to be proud of but do think it’s important to remember and understand. I’m more influenced by the surrounding countryside.
Dead Rhetoric: No doubt some of the structures in your area are thousands of years old…we don’t have that in the States. Do you find yourself curious about these places and their history?
Horton: Yeah, as well as the countryside as I mentioned, I love to visit and walk around historic places. I have a bit of an obsession with the past and like to surround myself with it as much as I can, trying to escape the modern day.
Dead Rhetoric: Some people think extolling the virtues of one’s homeland gives off this unfavorable degree of nationalism. What’s your take on it?
Horton: “Sons of England” is about being a free man and living by your own standards, not recognizing the laws and regulations enforced by the ruling powers which have usurped us (and almost every other country). It should be something that everyone can relate to no matter which country you’re from, to be sons and daughters of your own country but at the same time remember that humanity is all one. There’s a push at the moment towards a one world government, world wide tyranny, people need to go back to their roots and reclaim their sovereignty. It’s not about one country being better than another or anything like that, it’s a celebration of your own culture and heritage which is something that you’re conditioned to frown upon these days for the same reasons I just mentioned. You can’t grow without your roots and the powers that be want to sever them so that they can guide you in the direction that suits them.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on deck for the rest of 2014?
Horton: As well as the gigs, we’ll be continuing to work on brand new material which will result in another studio album in the near future!