If the constant influx of overly-polished ‘screamo’ bands encroaching on metalcore territory are making you feel ill, then you need Darkest Hour in your life.
These five Washington DC natives are giving metalcore a new lease of life with their punishing mix of hardcore brutality, intricate guitar work and raw-throated vocals, and released one of last year’s finest records in ‘Undoing Ruin’. Alex Gosman caught up with guitarist Kris Norris and drummer Ryan Parrish shortly before an absolute stunner of a show at London’s Camden Underworld.
Hey guys, how are you doing? This is part of a full European tour, right?
Ryan: Yeah, this is the last of our UK dates. It’s been really good; we’ve had a lot of fun – it’s been like a non-stop party for about a month now!
You also played at the Download festival – how was that for you?
Kris: That was awesome – we’d never done any really big festivals over here before; that was our first, so it was a great experience for us.
Your last album, ‘Undoing Ruin’, seems to have won you guys a lot of new fans, especially here in the UK. Are you happy with what it’s achieved?
R: Yeah, absolutely – we were very excited about it, and it’s done a lot better than we thought it would, actually, especially in the UK.
K: When we wrote it, we weren’t trying to make a record that would win us new fans, we just made the record we wanted to make – and that’s really the best you can do.
Compared to your previous two records [‘So Sedated, So Secure’ and ‘Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation’, both also on Victory], ‘Undoing Ruin’ seems to have a far more personal slant to it – was that intentional?
R: Yeah, definitely – I think that where we were at in our lives at that point was pretty crazy, so we figured that the best way to vent it was to write it down, and that’s how the lyrics came together.
K: Especially John [Henry, DH vocalist], he had a lot going on in his life back then, and he needed to get it out, so that was the best way to do it. He writes most of the lyrics anyway.
You seem to have been compared to a lot of Scandinavian bands, and you certainly seem to have more in common with the likes of At The Gates than with your average ‘metalcore’ band. Who would you say are your main influences?
K: [laughing] Well, put it this way – if you took an encyclopedia of metal, you could list just about every Scandinavian band as our influences! It’s not really any one particular band; we wouldn’t say that we’re influenced by, say, In Flames or At The Gates, it’s every band from there.
R: We grew up listening to those bands, and at the time, hardly anyone in the States knew about them – but we managed to get hold of some records, and it went from there.
K: It’s like, just as our parents grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, we grew up listening to bands like At The Gates and Dark Tranquility.
There are a lot of bands mixing metal and hardcore influences these days; would you say this is a good thing, or is it resulting in an over-saturated scene?
R: Well, yeah, that’s what gets you popular these days! Right now there’s so much happening with it, it’s unbelievable – it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on, because there’s just so many new bands. Not that that’s necessarily bad for the metal scene, but for a band like us – we’ve been around nearly ten years – we’ve definitely been ‘covered up’ by a lot of the newer bands. And you have to wonder how long those bands are gonna stick around!
K: Metal will always be around, but different genres of metal tend to dry off after a while; they’re fads for a while and then they’re gone.
R: For a while, everybody thought that nu-metal was here to stay, but it died after a few years…
Do you think the better bands from these scenes ever get the recognition they deserve?
K: No, I personally think that the best bands are very underrated and hardly anyone notices them. The bands that become popular are usually popular for the wrong reasons! There are some bands that are getting popular off the metalcore thing, that are busting their asses off to get where they’re going to – and that’s fine, but then you’ve got the situations where someone wakes up one day, decides to start a metalcore band, and sells 200,000 records.
R: They write the record that they think everyone wants to hear, next thing you know, they’re on all the magazine covers everywhere -that seems to be the fad these days. And where’s the longevity in that?
You seem to have built a reputation for yourselves as a band that likes to party – what would the ideal Darkest Hour night off entail?
R: We’d probably start with a cook-out, drink as much as possible before it gets dark, then go find a disco or something, and go to that – or, if a band that we know is in town, we’d go see them, hang out with our friends for the rest of the night…and then wake up the next morning wondering what happened!
K: That’s pretty much what Download was all about! The best nights are the ones you can’t remember…
R: Especially a night that you can’t remember, but still have pictures of! Like when you read a magazine, and there’s an article with pictures of you partying in it, but you can’t remember a thing!
So what are Darkest Hour’s plans for the near future?
K: Well, this is the last of the UK dates, then we’re doing a few festival dates in Europe before heading home.
R: We’ve got a lot coming up, actually – we’re doing six dates in the States with Shadows Fall, on the East Coast and Mid-west, then we’re heading to Canada wth Misery Signals, and then we’re touring the States with Soilwork for about six weeks. It’ll be December by the time we’re done, so then we’ll have to start writing the new record, which should hopefully be out in summertime next year.