Darkest Era – Severed SurvivalMonday, 9th June 2014
Roughly three years ago, there was growing belief that Ireland’s Darkest Era were going to be an underground band to watch. Their The Last Caress of Light album received worldwide release via Metal Blade, giving the band’s broad, epic metal sound a solid base in which to build a fanbase and subsequently stake their claim as a supporting act across Europe and beyond. But the band steadily became a non-priority for the label, even in spite of strong sales numbers and rather unanimous critical praise. It was a classic case of geographic locale being a hindrance. Save for Primordial, few, if any, Irish metal bands have been able to make a significant international dent, unfortunately. Before the band knew it, they were back to square one.
2014, however, has given Darkest Era a new lease on life. They signed with respected Italian indie Cruz del Sur Music, acquired a new drummer, Cameron Ashlund-Glass, and managed to pump out their best work to date in the form of Severance. The album – a mountainous concoction of worldly, epic (there’s that word again!) metal and dreary melancholy – sets Darkest Era apart from the like-minded minions presently parading around the underground. And coupled with vocalist Krum’s soaring, emotive delivery, and what you have is one of the year’s best albums, bar-none. Here to chat it up about label changes, personnel shifts, and Severance, is guitarist Ade Mulgrew. Check it out…
Dead Rhetoric: To start, you had such a nice critical reaction to The Last Caress of Light. But, you parted ways with Metal Blade. What happened?
Ade Mulgrew: When we signed with Metal Blade we were given a fantastic opportunity, joining the ranks of some of our heroes and admittedly parting ways after one record wasn’t how we hoped it would go. You’re right – our first album was very well-received. We were relatively unknown with a couple of demos and some buzz in the European underground, but the album sold more than we, or the label for that matter, had expected. But the industry is unfortunately still in decline, bands are selling less physical copies and Metal Blade had to make a business decision and we respected that. The days of cultivating a hot new band and nurturing their potential across two or three albums are, sadly, long gone.
Dead Rhetoric: For a band based out of Ireland, is it difficult to be a priority for such a large label?
Mulgrew: Interesting question, I don’t think being based in Ireland directly affects whether or not a label would prioritize us. Rather, I think being an underground heavy metal band it’s difficult to be a priority. We would have been a success story for many other respected labels, but Metal Blade have artists on their books who have sold literally millions of records across their careers. They still have a relatively small team, so a band like Darkest Era just gets lost in the roster, and we weren’t the only band to drop off the radar I should add, there were more than a few.
Concerning being based in Ireland, what perhaps did hinder us is we can’t jump in a van and tour across the states and sell records a few times a year like US bands. Touring Europe is expensive and I think we needed a high profile tour when the album came out to really give us that push. We had offers of the biggest package tours on the table, but unfortunately, not the finances. As well as this, Ireland just isn’t a very cool place to be from, in heavy metal terms. Perhaps in a parallel dimension we’d all have been born in Sweden and be media darlings ha-ha. Regardless though, we are very happy with our time with Metal Blade, they did a great job on the first album and I think things have worked out for the best, we’re more than happy with where we are.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you learn any big “music business” lessons from this, or did you take it in stride?
Mulgrew: Being in a band is a constant learning process, we’re definitely older and wiser but we’ve never been naive. I was 18 when we signed our first record deal; we’ve got a pretty good understanding of the industry at this point. We’ve been careful in the deals we’ve signed along the way also. There are constant challenges but nothing we haven’t been able to overcome. The biggest lesson we learned is how truly dead the old music industry model is, and the changing dynamic in general between bands, labels and music fans.
Dead Rhetoric: Along those lines, you had some lineup changes since Last Caress. What prompted Lisa [Howe, drums] to leave? And, how is Cameron working out?
Mulgrew: It’s important to remember that we started this band at a relatively early age; most of us were still in school at the time. People’s goals and desires change along the way and essentially when things started getting lifted to a new level, when we did our first tours specifically, there was a clear divergence in the band. Lisa and David decided it wasn’t for them anymore, that’s more or less it. I think a serious pursuit of any artistic endeavor these days, especially being in a metal band, isn’t for the weak at heart. It really has to be in your blood. Our new members, Daniel [O’Toole] on bass and Cameron on drums, are working out great so far. By the time it came to recruiting them we knew exactly what we needed in the band
Dead Rhetoric: Hooking up with Cruz del Sur Music: How did it happen?
Mulgrew: I’ve been a fan of the label and their releases for many years now. I bought most of the stuff they put out by Slough Feg, Atlantean Kodex, Argus, While Heaven Wept, and actually I traded some stuff with the Pharaoh guys, so it’s a label I know well. We were put in touch with Enrico [Lecesse] once we finished up with Metal Blade and it went from there basically. They are a fantastic label who have stayed true to their ethos and have one of the most consistent outputs of any label. The stuff they were putting out in the 90’s pisses all over what the bigger labels were trying to shove down the throats of the metal world.
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