Against The Grain – John Henry and Mike Schleibaum of Darkest Hour

darkest hour albu, 2014

 

It went off without a hitch so you can’t ask for anything more,” said vocalist John Henry, talking about their first day of Rockstar Mayhem Fest in Devore, CA, while promoting their newly released self titled eighth album.

Reaching the eighth album is a milestone in this current musical climate and from Darkest Hour, they keep moving along and creating new sounds to keep fans interested in what they do. “You have to get better at learning how to change and compromise. It’s painful but…as old dogs, we’re trying to learn some new tricks,” said guitarist Mike Schliebaum, explaining their approach entering their eighth overall album.

Darkest Hour was released by Sumerian Records and the band has gone through a variety of changes since 2011’s The Human Romance. They brought in a new rhythm section of bassist Aaron Deal and drummer Travis Orbin, who replaced Paul Burnette and Ryan Parrish respectively. Guitarist Michael “Lonestar” Carrigan replaced Kris Norris in 2008 prior to The Eternal Return.

The two newest members were broken into the band during the band’s two recent tours supporting All That Remains and with Killswitch Engage. “The bass player brings a lot into the band. He knows a lot of music theory stuff,” explained Henry.

He brings a calming vibe as well. His demeanor – he’s a little older and a chill personality. It’s nice to have that,” added Schleibaum.

The drummer brings discipline. He’s very schooled. He practices every single day.”

When we first got together, he was like ‘I want to play everything in half speed and not ¾ speed or full speed. It totally blew by us. Now we do the whole set every day. It makes the whole band work harder,” he also said about his newest drummer.

Like every Darkest Hour record, the band has attempted to add new ideas to its ever evolving modern thrash metal sound and avoided sounding stagnant. The latest album shows their sound evolving and keeping listeners interested in what they are doing.

It was a lot of change up the formulas and writing and working with a newer producer. The idea was to make the ultimate Darkest Hour record. It doesn’t necessarily sound like any other one,” said Henry. “We wanted to break the thrash mold. Get out there and add some other types of shit. Add some groove, add some melody…you know what I mean? It’s the eighth Darkest Hour record, so there are a lot of songs to choose from,” added Schleibaum.

Bringing in a younger producer lesser known in the metal world also helped pushed the band creatively on this record. Going against the grain of picking veteran producers and engineers commonly know to work on a multitude of releases helped keep their sound fresh.

It’s a young kid named Taylor Larson, who works out of Bethesda, Maryland, which is close to where I live. I have a little consortium of producer friends around the DC/Maryland and he’s a young kid coming up, always asking everyone questions and booking studios. We needed a practice space so we started renting space from him. One thing led to another, and we’re like ‘ we need to work with someone who’s young and has new ideas.’ So it worked out.”

[He has] just a bit of a different perspective. The older guys are set in their ways. It’s awesome having someone younger who’s hip to every new thing that’s happening with technology,” said Schleibaum.

 

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While they have reached a new milestone within their career, Darkest Hour proudly hails the flag for the DC/Virginia/Maryland tri-state musical scene. Known for their somewhat rich musical history, they are proud of their accomplishments.

There’s a lot of great bands,” said Schleibaum. “We still have Pig Destroyer and Clutch is still active in the metal scene. There’s a lot of awesome metal bands from Baltimore too. Periphery is another band from the area. So I think we’re lucky to have a couple cool bands. They all sound the same from where we live. Now everyone comes from all over so we take influences from everywhere.”

 

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REI NISHIMOTO