Darkest Era Sign to Metal Blade Records

Having signed to the legendary Metal Blade Records, the unisex outfit from Fermanagh see their future in Celtic mythology

Formed in Enniskillen in 2005, originally under the name Nemesis, five years later the band now known as Darkest Era became the first signatories from Northern Ireland to the legendary Metal Blade Records – the LA-based label almost single-handedly responsible for launching the thrash movement, and along with it little known acts such as Metallica.

Since the release of their massively acclaimed The Last Caress Of Light debut album in 2011, after a series of exploratory EP and demo releases, it has been fairly nonstop for the five piece, with successive UK and European tours helping them to spread their particular brand of Celtic-inspired blackened metal much further afield, and establishing them as one of the forerunners of the re-emerging Irish metal scene along the way.

Darkest Era recently completed yet another massive trip around the continent. Before that, however, we sat down with drummer Lisa Howe and guitarist Sarah Wieghell to find out a bit more about the band, their overt Celtic influences – and what it’s like to be women in the male-dominated world of heavy metal.

So, how has it been going for a wee band from Norn Iron, signed to one of the world’s biggest record companies and getting out there and doing the business?

LH: It’s been pretty unbelievable. We’ve been very, very lucky, especially at our ages and with the band having been going for a few years really. To be touring round and doing stuff that you could only dream of – it’s been great, and we’re loving it.

SW: It’s definitely been a crazy experience. One minute we’re just getting on with our everyday lives and our jobs and the next we’re going on tour and playing all these really cool venues.

While women have always played a prominent role in rock and metal, it’s unusual to have two female members in a band, with a few notable exceptions, such as emerging English act Triaxis. The idea of the strong female making her way in a man's world was also reflected on your last album with the track 'The Morrigan', named after the Irish mythological goddess...

LH: Maybe the Irish are more open minded about these things – or maybe the women just get out there and do it. It’s just what our mates were doing. We’re from Enniskillen, which has a really healthy music scene, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a guy, you’re not really looked down on [for being female], whereas sometimes, outside of Enniskillen, you would get a few strange looks, like "What are you doing here?" kind of thing. It just seemed natural back at home. We weren’t picked for the band because we were girls, we were picked because there was nobody else! (Laughs.)

SW: When we were looking for a new drummer we had a couple of drummers audition, but Lisa was the best, you know, so that’s why we picked her. Plus, it is cool to have another girl in the band.

The testosterone on the road, and especially at gigs, can be pretty overwhelming, as anyone who has been to a metal concert will testify. It must be a relief for both of you to have someone with whom you can take some time out.

SW: Yeah, it’s cool. Plus, it usually means that if there’s only one double bed available then we get it. There is a bit of chivalry among the men. Not much, but a bit.

Back to the music. Songs such as the aforementioned ‘The Morrigan’ seem to echoing the trend of Scandinavian and Finnish bands to draw extensively on their cultural heritage. Irish mythology provides a rich vein of inspiration for your output. How did that come about?

SW: Right at the start, when we first started writing songs, such as ‘Battle Of Cul Dreimne’ [written at the band’s very first rehearsal], they had that atmosphere, and we liked that atmosphere from the stories. We have stayed with that, but we’re trying to move away from the stories themselves and take the atmosphere and take things like the landscape of Ireland and other bits and pieces and put them into lyrical form, rather than just retelling the old stories. But, it’s good to have those influences there, because they are a really good starting point. We just want to be a bit more subtle.

You're about to return to the studio to continue work on the follow up to The Last Caress of Light. How do you feel about recording that difficult second album?

SW: I’m personally really excited about it. It’s going to be heavier, faster, more aggressive – a good step forward. Our last album was the result of three years of writing: hopefully this one will be a lot more focussed.

LH: It’s definitely going to be different from the first album. Not bad different – I hope it doesn’t disappoint people who are expecting the second album to sound a certain way. Personally, I think a band should always progress and not sound the same on every album, and I’m really chuffed with how it’s moving along. I think it sounds more complete, heavier, a bit darker.

Even darker than The Last Caress of Light, which while heavy, was also very melancholic?

LH: Yeah, the first album was more pessimistic in its approach. It was all "There’s a battle, everyone’s gonna die!". This one is more "F*ck everyone, we'ree gonna win!"

Darkest Era’s as yet unnamed second album is due for release in early 2013, again on the Metal Blade label. Visit the Darkest Era website for more information.