An Interview with Darkest Era

With the current recession going on and constant shifts taking place in the Metal World, it makes one wonder about the fate of fresh young bands popping up on the radar. What do they think about the future for themselves in music? How concerned are they for the chance to follow their dreams? Even if they get signed, what’s next for them?

Thankfully, I was put in touch with someone who could help answer those questions and give me a better idea of the situation.


Enter Ade Mulgrew, guitarist from one of Ireland’s freshly signed exports, Darkest Era.

Being Irish and living in Ireland, I imagine that this did help in a way to getting Darkest Era noticed by Alan Averill “Nemtheanga” (Primordial, Blood Revolt); before being picked up by Metal Blade.

What were your initial reactions, when you landed this deal?

I guess it helped in the sense that we were already acquainted with Alan, and he knew about the band. Being Irish, it was inevitable that we would run into each other on gig bills at some point – we played with Primordial at a festival in Cork and after that were invited by the band to support them for their DVD recording in Dublin. So Alan had seen the band and was already a fan!

Before he started doing anything for Metal Blade, we were in contact about band matters; for example, he helped spread the word about our first EP.

But it certainly wasn’t the case of helping a band just because they were Irish – he isn’t the kind of person to put his word against something he doesn’t believe in!

It was big news for us when the deal went through, obviously. We were very happy to be working with a label with such a legacy, who seemed so interested in the band. We actually had several offers from other labels on the table, so we knew that one way or another we would be recording our album for a label soon. But when it came down to it, there was no question over which one it would be.

Tell me about what you hope to achieve as a band, with your debut being out on Metal Blade for audiences in Europe and North America to check out this year.

Well, our first goal is already achieved – we wanted to record and release a record that we could be extremely proud of. That was the realisation of our artistic vision for the past few years; since it’s not realistic to expect a career from metal these days.

We just want to release great metal records and keep exploring our sound, since we have a lot of music in us! We also want to tour as much as possible. Playing live is what we love to do best, and the songs are at their most powerful in this environment. So with Metal Blade ,we want to play in front of as many people as possible; and just keep moving forward as a band.

For those of us living outside of Ireland, it seems that our understanding of the metal scene over there is mostly represented by polar opposites Primordial and Gama Bomb.

Based on your own experiences, how diverse would you say that the Irish metal scene is?

Those are probably the two most successful Irish metal exports, and they are quite far apart. There is a lot of diversity in the metal scene here, considering the Island is so small. Our total population is half the size of a major European city, but we still have many bands in most sub-genres. It’s not uncommon to find a gig bill with thrash, death and doom all on the one night.

That said, we are still a little under-represented internationally in certain sub genres; for example, there are lot of great death metal bands but none seem to have really made the leap onto the international stage. I wouldn’t say there are divisions as such; there aren’t really enough people into underground metal here to sustain that kind of thing, haha!

In general the scene is pretty open minded, but also critical of it’s own. If a band is shit, it’ll be called up on it and no one buys an Irish CD just to support the scene. It’s probably why a lot of Irish bands are pushing the boat out further these days: going to foreign studios, working with name producers for their EPs, and so on.

Listening to ‘The Last Caress of Light’ album, it shows that there’s a strong love of old school metal in this record.

Since Darkest Era seems to be a considerably young group of people, what do you think about the state of heavy metal today; and what do you make of the current crop of modern, mainstream metal that’s become so omni-present of late?

We grew up just as file-sharing was taking off, and all kinds music were becoming widely available on the Internet. So we were easily able to explore old metal, without being forced to settle for whatever is the current trend.

The way I see it – since we were younger and started getting into music and metal, there has always been some mainstream shit in the media; whether it was nu metal or whatever. People go on about the state of metal today, but there has always been shit in the mainstream and killer underground bands still flying the flag.

As metal fans, we’re not concerned with what’s in the media but what we enjoy. For me personally, metal in 2011 is Enforcer, In Solitude, Primordial, Destroyer 666, While Heaven Wept, and many other bands of different genres releasing killer metal albums. That’s all that matters!

In the music video for ‘The Morrigan’ which the band filmed prior to your Metal Blade deal, you’re all shown dressed up to re-enact the story present thoughout the song.

Often there is the misconception that any band which does this fall immediately into the folk metal category; which is currently popularised by groups like Korpiklaani and Ensiferum.

What would you say to metal fans out there, who would be more than willing to write you off as another folk metal band; despite your clear interest in a very different vein of music?

I would say to actually listen to the band, because it becomes pretty obvious quite quickly that we aren’t strictly a folk metal act. That video was a lot of fun, and we made it for about £200 which is absolutely nothing. We thought it would be good to try making a video early in our career, because you learn from everything you do.

Of course, now it’s probably not entirely representative of what the band is or where we are at. Some reviewers have even written us off as Finntroll soundalikes, etc.; but obviously these people either haven’t listened to the record, or are simply morons!

Certainly there are folk elements in our music, and we do draw from fans from the folk metal genre. But we do not use folk instruments or sing about drinking and so on. We are doing something completely different.

Like other Irish bands before Darkest Era, rather than draw upon Nordic mythology for your material you use Celtic myths and legends.

How relevant are these particular stories for you all, and what lead to the decision to take them as inspiration for your music; rather than say Greek or Roman mythology?

Some metal bands write about Greek or Roman mythology, because it fits with the fantastical nature of their music.

For us, we wrote songs concerning Celtic mythology because that is what inspired us, and it’s all around us here. We find it inspiring because it is part of our country’s cultural tapestry and folklore, which we all share. We weren’t inspired by Greek mythology so it would be a little forced or fake for us to feign inspiration from it.

Having said that, we only have one song on the album which is explicitly about mythology. The others are more inspired by the type of imagery and content found in mythology; though our songs are actually written about other matters, themes and expressions which transcend culture or race.

We are inspired by Celtic mythology, but we don’t seek to retell it through all of our songs; as we’d rather say something that is more vital to us. If we do write around a myth, it’s because it contains something allegorical of other themes – for instance, lines in ‘The Morrigan’ may represent something else entirely!

What’s your opinion on how Norse mythology and Vikings are usually taken as a staple for most metal based on folklore or historical epics?

I think it’s to do with the over-romanticization of history. People seek to identify with something, and lately you will see a lot of people at festivals running around with drinking horns and Thors Hammer necklaces. Which is fair enough I suppose; as when you have bands like Amon Amarth singing about this sort of stuff, it’s not surprising that people buy into it in a big way.

It’s also because Viking history is just pretty heavy metal! The battles, the war, the pillaging just fits into the heavy metal aesthetic very well. Though I do think it’s unfair to say that Norse mythology is the staple for most of these bands – you have a lot of bands singing about their own culture and their own history; like Latvia’s Skyforger and Switzerland’s Eluveitie for example. But there’s certainly a case of “Viking-chic”, right now!

As an underground band who have succeeded in getting this far in a relatively short amount of time, what are your own current feelings about the conditions of the music industry?

Well, it seems like a case of saturation – there are so many bands now looking for a piece of the pie, and the pie is only getting smaller! There are more and more bands releasing records, but less and less people are actually buying albums.

In terms of making any kind of money in a metal band, forget about it! It’s going to be very difficult for bands like ourselves, because we don’t have a fanbase which we can rely on to buy our records; and it’s more difficult to earn money from touring and merch now. Money is far from the motivation to be in a band, but I can see it getting to a point where people simply can’t afford to put any more of their own money into their art any more.

Having said that, it is a volatile climate right now and it’s going to be very interesting to see how things turn out. I mean, in terms of the changing patterns of music consumption and how people get their music. The music industry has to roll with these changes; it couldn’t keep up before and tried to fight them, which has been very costly.

I can see things shifting now, where people are more inclined to legally download music, because it’s much cheaper and very quick. You can get a new album instantly for £8 now, which I think is very reasonable. Following this logic, we could see the death of the CD in 5 years! Sounds crazy, but stranger things have happened.

Do you have any final words to the readers out there, before we wrap up this interview?

Thanks for the interview. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook for tour dates and news.

See you on the road, later in the year!


Ann Sulaiman would like to thank Ade Mulgrew and Darkest Era for taking the time to do this interview, and Metal Blade for helping to make it happen.


  1. I haven’t been this excited by a new metal band in a long, long time. Thanks for doing this! Also, that sketch is very cute.

    • The more who read this interview, the better. It offers a good insight to what it’s like to start a metal band in today’s climate!

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