Mourn the Light – Lament and Despair

Friday, 29th June 2018

While stoner hard rock/metal and its subsets garner a larger piece of the underground heavy attention, let’s not forget musicians who strive to cut their teeth from the Trouble/Candlemass cloth – where the riffs and melodies take the Black Sabbath foundation to even heavier, psychedelic, or classical dimensions. That’s where the latest southeastern Connecticut band Mourn the Light come from musically on their debut three song EP release Weight of the World – along with a bit of traditional and folk influences to create a sound that is unlike most of their local brethren. You can think of everything from King’s X to Night Demon, Blind Guardian to Swallow the Sun, beyond the obvious doom influences – opening up the band stylistically to wider possibilities of appeal.

Shortly after reviewing the EP, we put a call out to guitarist Dwayne Eldredge – who gave us the low down on his musical upbringing, the band’s activities, and how he juggles his duties working in many capacities behind the scenes in the music industry beyond the band.

Dead Rhetoric: What was your musical background like in your childhood – and how did you end up gravitating towards heavier music, picking up an instrument, and then performing in bands?

Dwayne Eldredge: When I was younger, I heard what was on the radio that my dad and my mom would be playing. And my dad was more of that Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles guy, the heaviest it got was probably old Alice Cooper. My mom was more of the Neil Diamond side of things, The Carpenters, and all that. But then as far as me discovering music on my own, the band that got me into the heavier stuff was seeing the video for Europe “Superstitious” off of MTV when I was 11 years old. My grandmother and mother drove me to Ames and I bought Out of This World on cassette. Through MTV, Headbangers Ball, and my older friend’s brother and his friends I started to hear King Diamond’s Them, Annihilator’s Alice in Hell, all that stuff and it got heavier. I got to hear Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Skid Row. That was the main thing. As I got older I got turned onto shred guitar players, with Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani.

I got introduced from there to M.O.D., Suicidal Tendencies, and Death through the Leprosy album – a lot of heavier stuff through school. I started my first band, it was more through the hardcore scene but with a metal sound, which was a little different because everybody was doing this straight ahead hardcore sound. We put that classic, traditional metal into it. I started from there getting into power metal, and underground power metal, progressive stuff. Dream Theater in high school was huge, progressive rock/metal is my favorite style I listen to. I listen to a lot of black metal and death metal as well- I’m into a lot of stuff.

I picked up the guitar – in junior high school I remember we had an exploratory class where there was a classroom full of guitars. I played an acoustic guitar- that was my first experience. I bought one, I took some lessons and by the time I was 13 I had an electric guitar with a set up. By the time I was 14 I was jamming with my first drummer and we were setting up our first band. I’m 95% self-taught, in the early days I did have some lessons from a local guitar guy in a metal band. He wasn’t that much older than me, in his early twenties, and he wasn’t teaching me the whole theory thing- it was more ‘hey- what do you want to learn?’. I wanted to learn Lynch Mob, Metal Church, he would learn by ear, teach me and show me. I would use that in developing my own songwriting.

Dead Rhetoric: Mourn the Light is a relatively new band – how did this specific set of musicians come together, and did you know straight away the type of genre blend that you wanted to achieve or did this grow organically through rehearsals together?

Eldredge: Greg Gates, otherwise known as ‘Lord’ Gates on his radio show Bury the Needle, he and I work together in entertainment over at Mohegan Sun, actually. We’ve done work together promoting things for S.C.E.N.E. Productions, and he’s helped with the New England Stoner and Doom Fest. We’ve been friends and meaning to do a band together for a couple of years. It’s just been busy between my work schedule, my other band Kill the Straggler, and my promotion work- it’s been hard for us to get together. We finally decided to go for it and do this.

When I started writing for Mourn the Light, I wanted something in the classic doom mold, Trouble and Candlemass, but mixed with the new wave of true heavy metal, like Night Demon. I wanted to have that sound – and I am a fan of melancholic parts as well, like Swallow the Sun, Trees of Eternity, stuff like that. Amorphis, Blind Guardian – throw the folk melodies in there too. Initially the main three bands I modeled Mourn the Light after were Candlemass, Night Demon, and King’s X- a mesh of those three.

John Hansson who was doing all my shirts for the events, he was a bass player. I wrote the tunes, we started recording the EP, and John’s schedule didn’t work out with ours because he’s in Fear the Masses also. He moved on, we’ve replaced him with Jorge Vargas, who didn’t play on the EP. I decided that I wanted to concentrate a little bit more on guitar when we do go to the live setting, and I didn’t want to dumb it down at all. I’m not extremely good at singing and playing guitar at the same time, so I put up that we were looking for a singer. I had 7-8 people reach out, auditioned over the already recorded material. Andrew Stachelek, ex-bassist for Age of Embers, he was looking to do some singing and I liked the voice, thought it went well with my vocals. He’s worked out really well, he re-recorded the lead vocals over the EP and now we are getting ready for hitting the stage and working on more songs for another EP release down the road.

Dead Rhetoric: Weight of the World is the band’s debut three song EP. What can you tell us regarding the songwriting and recording sessions – were there any specific surprises, obstacles, or challenges that took place, and how do you feel about the final product?

Eldredge: We went to record with a close friend of ours, Rob Birkbeck at Project 7:06 Sound Services. He’s done some live sound for us at shows, he’s been in the local scene and in bands. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s really good with what he does. He’s laid-back and easy to work with. It went pretty smooth. We did the basic tracks in a short amount of time- I can’t think of too many challenges we had. Other than realizing after we were done recording, we wanted to go with another lead singer and we went and re-recorded after that.

Dead Rhetoric: You obviously kept your background vocals on there – as it seems your voice is more in that Crowbar mold, would that be a fair assessment?

Eldredge: Yeah, a lot of people when hear those gruff vocals, they compare me to Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger. Which is cool, because I’ve always been a fan. I’ll be doing that stuff live too, to have that nice full sound. But I wanted a guy that could take charge vocally and let me hammer those riffs live. Andrew’s smoother approach with the vocals and my rougher approach, they blend together really well.

Dead Rhetoric: And how did the guest solo from Mike Kerr for the title track come about?

Eldredge: I’ve been a fan of Mike Kerr’s for a while. We’ve done shows with FirstBourne and the Mike Kerr Group. We did a show where I got up on stage and did some vocals with him, a Dio cover. We had some fun, I really like his style and we had that bridge part in “Weight of the World” that I thought was screaming for a solo, and I asked him and he absolutely did it. I really like what he came up with. I would say my favorite metal band of all-time is Savatage, and I thought he had some pretty cool Criss Oliva sounding lead stuff going on there. I didn’t ask for it, that’s just what he came up with.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ll be performing your first live show in September, opening for ex-Corrosion of Conformity singer Karl Agell’s band Leadfoot. What can the people expect from Mourn of Light when it comes to a live performance – and will the set contain other originals yet to be recorded, or possibly a cover or two to fill things out?

Eldredge: The set will include all three songs on the EP, and two other songs that we haven’t recorded yet that will be on the follow-up EP. I would expect a pretty close interpretation live of what we did on the EP. I don’t think it’s going to stray too much from that. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ll be getting on stage as a guitar player. Guitar was my main thing for years and years, and through not being able to find singers, I ended up starting to sing and basically was singing on everything I was doing. This is my first time in 15 years that I’ll be playing on stage in front of a live audience on guitar.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as the biggest advantages or disadvantages in building Mourn the Light in terms of a following as a newer band? How do you use social media to broaden your promotional/public presence against the thousands of other artists fighting for the same consumer attention?

Eldredge: It’s not too bad. With Mourn the Light I think I have some advantages because I’m a local promoter, so I have regular customers that come to the gigs week in and week out. That audience is built in, people that I’ve met throughout the years because I’m 41 years old, I’ve been around doing this for a long time. There’s a lot of people out there on social media that I’ve kept in touch with over the years that I’ve met through playing all over New England. We use Bandcamp, that’s a really good tool. We are doing a physical release and a digital release.

S.C.E.N.E. Productions, we did a compilation last year for metal bands in CT, a free compilation, and that was received really well so I wanted to do a label thing and Mourn the Light will be the first release on that label. We have some things in the works as to where this will be available. Being a band that fits into the doom category, it helps that I recently did the first Stoner and Doom festival in New England with Scott Harrington of Salt of the Earth Records – a partnership that we started with shows and grew into a festival. Through doing that, people I’ve met, and with Scott’s network, I feel that we are at an advantage to be able to capture a wider fanbase than I have previously.

Dead Rhetoric: You work in many facets of the entertainment industry outside of the bands that you are involved in. What can you tell us about your work that you do for Mohegan Sun in addition to your duties for Scene Productions – do you believe this has shaped your outlook and passion more to benefit your own personal band endeavors?

Eldredge: It definitely has shaped it. I’ve been at Mohegan Sun for a number of years, I do a lot of the behind the scenes thing. Getting into entertainment as a tech, you see the other aspects of it. As a promoter, which I had started about 7-8 years ago, I’ve been able to take a look at the whole package from what goes on behind the scenes to what goes on with planning, putting on the events, dealing with everything that goes on as well as being a musician. I’ve been the guy in the band, I’m the guy that’s booking the bands, I’ve had a part in all of that. It’s been a really good experience all around- and I’m still learning every single day.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts regarding the CT heavy music scene? There seems to be a wealth of talent in a variety of genres, but often struggles to gain acclaim over people that would rather attend shows in New York City or Worcester, MA…

Eldredge: Right. That’s where S.C.E.N.E. basically started- it’s an acronym for Southeastern Connecticut Entertainment Networking Events. I started in that in the New London County area. We have a bunch of people that had to drive two hours to Boston or an hour to Providence for shows, before I started to put these events on. There wasn’t a lot going on around here. I’m giving them something to go to, a couple of times a month anyway, and it’s become a regular thing for a lot of people. There’s a family vibe, the scene has really grown in the last couple of years here. I have always thought the scene was pretty good in the western side of the state- whenever I visited there, there is a pretty good thing going on there. And Providence and Worcester as well. Hopefully the CT scene continues to support each other, and help each other. The more support, the more success we all have.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider five of your top albums of all-time, as well as favorite concert memories that will stay forever embedded in your brain?

Eldredge: Top five albums of all time. That’s really hard- and I’m not going to say they are my favorite of all time, but the albums that changed my life significantly. Europe – Out of the World, that really started it. King Diamond- Them, took me into the whole heavier genre thing. I remember when I first heard Dream Theater- Images and Words, that blew my mind. Also, Spock’s Beard- Don’t Try This At Home, the live DVD and album they put out. I was floored by that. I really enjoyed Night Demon, and then Savatage on top of that is one of my all-time favorite bands. Everything they’ve done throughout their entire career, be it the Zak Stevens on Jon Oliva eras.

Favorite concert memories. My first concert was Def Leppard and Ugly Kid Joe, that’s a good memory. I can’t even count how many shows I’ve seen. When I’m booking a show or playing a show, I’m at a show. When Avantasia came to NYC I was there, and they played 3 ½ hours of mindblowing, amazing live music. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show quite that good.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see things developing for the band over the course of the next two-three years? Do you have a long-term vision of the group?

Eldredge: We definitely want to continue writing the music that we enjoy, and putting the product out there. I like the creative part of being in a band, and the new stuff. I love the live aspect- but we are not going to be going crazy and playing live shows all the time. We will do the right shows and spread it out- we all have careers and families and other things, and some of us other bands. You won’t be able to see us every single week. We have three shows lined up – the other two will be announced shortly. You wouldn’t expect to see us live more than once a month. I would like to explore other markets as well, rather than just sticking with the local CT scene.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Mourn the Light over the rest of 2018 into early 2019 as far as shows, promotion, videos, and future output?

Eldredge: We are in the works of planning a lyric video and an official music video. Those should be coming to fruition within the next month or two, I think. We are in pre-production and writing mode for the next EP, which I would imagine would see the light of day before the end of the year as well. And then the live shows we are doing to get our feet wet as far as that is concerned. And hopefully we get some decent press out of it, people like it, and it will open some doors for us.

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