Washington D.C.’s long-running metal stalwarts Darkest Hour are approaching the 20 year mark as a band. Metal is a difficult style to excel in, and it’s even more difficult to conquer, but Darkest Hour has paid more than just dues during their rise. The quintet’s consistently solid output and laudable performances have garnered them acclaim and a solid fan-base the world over, and it’s all systems go for the group in 2014.
Featuring new drummer Travis Orbin, Sumerian Records will be releasing their latest album in 2014, and I’m not alone when I say we’re all looking forward to finding out the title of the album and a finalized drop date. Additionally, Darkest Hour are heading out on this Summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival alongside A7X, Korn, and many popular and crushing acts of today, so check the dates and take the day off. In fact, you should probably take the day after off as well.
I caught up with guitarist Mike Schleibaum over the phone to talk about Mayhem Fest, signing to Sumerian Records, new drummer Travis Orbin’s entrance to the group, and (if my experimental telephonic Sodium Pentothal transmission works), a title and release date for the new album.
G- Hi and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. What’s going on, man?
M- Hey man. Nothing much. It’s actually kinda nice down here in DC so we’re already a couple of beers in over here. It’s definitely been a good day over here so far.
G- Are you guys rehearsing or just hanging out today?
M- Well, we’re finishing up some tour pre-production. There’s a lot to put together and we’re 7 weeks out over here. We have to drive across the country to meet this circus, but we’re pretty stoked on it. And as you mentioned, we have the album coming out so we’re just tightening up and finishing stuff on our end, too.
The masters have been delivered. The album has been finished. I’m telling you there are 2 versions; There is a deluxe version that will have all the songs, and there’s a version that will only have 13. But I can’t give all the details right now, which I’d like to. I don’t want to jump ahead…
G- That’s ok, man.
M- I could jump ahead and answer all your questions at once.
G- I’m hear to listen to you talk, just like everyone who’ll be reading.
M- Well, the album is going to come out during Mayhem sometime. We don’t have the actual release date, but if you are at one of the shows, you’ll definitely be able to get one.
M- The digital age just moves a bit faster than it used to. It’s gonna be up there, I guess July is the month to burn in your brain, but my hands are tied with the album title. The powers that be want it done in a certain way, so I can’t steal that from them.
G- Those bastards!
M- Well, I told you how many tracks. Nobody else knows that!
G- (laughing) No doubt, but since you’ve mentioned a few things, I’m a vinyl guy and junkie, and I know a lot of other people out there are as well. Since you have 2 different versions of the album, what are the merch ideas you’ll be doing?
M- There will definitely be a bunch of different options. The cool thing about the album is we worked on this for a long time. There is a lot more stuff than a normal Darkest Hour album. We took a much different approach this time. The real thing we were going for this time… You were a fan of the band from back in the past when it was based around being thrashy. And also, for a long time we were credited, or discredited, for our obvious love for melodic European metal, and I think that this album is as much an American album as it is a European one.
M- You mentioned Travis, and we have a new bass player as well. His name is Aaron Deal. He’s really brought a lot to the fold as well, so there’s just kind of a whole new thing happening where we’ve catered it back to straight up Heavy Metal. There’s definitely some thrash, don’t get me wrong… It’s still Darkest Hour, but this is the 8th full length, you know what I’m saying?
M- That’s a lot!
G- Yes it is.
M- So, this one will definitely make an impact and it’ll either be the Black Sheep, or the next step. I guess that’ll be how the album hits you.
G- Another key bit of news comes with Darkest Hour’s signing to Sumerian Records and your upcoming album. You guys were on E1 last album, and you had a very long stint on Victory Records. How did the Sumerian label work out?
M- Well, apparently the owner… His name is Ash… He’s a big fan of the band from back when we were kids. But that’s a side story, because the really thing is we were locked on Victory for a long time, then we did our album with E1, which is how it was planned, and we were looking around for what we were going to do with the next album and we’d had a lot of working with the label owner and label in general. It just seemed like a nice fit. We were looking for somebody that would have some impact, that was a fan of the band, but could also help us shape it into something maybe a lot of other people couldn’t have imagined.
So, we really felt that the guys over there really brought that to the table. I think it’s been refreshing, and you’ll see when the album comes out and everything is in your hands. You’ll see the difference. This is definitely a forward thinking record.
G- That’s good. Sumerian Records is a real big label right now. They’re fresh, they have very good signings, and it’s nice to see that. They’ve got a whole nuhc of stuff coming out on the label soon.
M- Yeah. I mean, we’re gonna be sharing a bus with Veil of Maya, and they have an album coming out as well. There are tons of band in the genre. That’s where we fit in… We’re an American Metal band that rose from Punk Rock/Death Metal.
G- Now, we’ve got to talk about Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this Summer. I’m digging the lineup. and this year is looking to be one of the festival’s best years to date. I’m sure you guys are very much looking forward to sharing stages with some of the bands… Who are you most excited to get to check out everyday while on the road with the festival?
M- Well, we have a lot ofold friends on the fest, so there are a lot of people I’ll try to steal beers from everyday. We’ll be on the bus with Veil of Maya, so we’ll be stealing their beer constantly. Then, I’m gonna go to Suicide Silence. They’re definitely on the list and I will have akey to their bus because they’re all friends. Then, I’m gonna make rounds and go over to Upon A Burning Body because I know they’ve always got some beer. Then, I guess, apparently, Body Count is going to be on all of the dates. I thought they were just special guests, but I’m stoked about seeing them.
But there are a bunch of bands we’ve never toured with. Like, I’ve never seen Korn and I want to see what it’s all about.
M- Yeha. The generation of Metal I’m from was very polarizing when that all came about. Now it’s years later and all burred together, and I’m interested to see what they’re all about.
G- (laughing) The funny thing is I heard of Darkest Hour around the same time I first heard of Korn, maybe a year later.
M- Yeah. We were underground in a different world. When Headbangers Ball was playing Korn, we were all listening to Integrity and Snapcase and Earth Crisis, that East Coast heavy stuff.
G- No doubt. To reiterate, I’m calling from Syracuse, NY and I’m 36 years old, so those hardcore matinees at The Lost Horizon with Bloodlet and all of that…
M- Oh yeah you’re in Syracuse! Destroy The Machines, man. That was the album. Once Earth Crisis put out that album, Syracuse was on the map.
G- Damn right! It’s still a great album… Killer riffs!
But I’ve already interviewed Earth Crisis! What are we talking about them for? (laughing)
Tell us… What is your favorite track off the record thus far, man? Or give us 1 song that’d you’d give to someone who’d never heard of you before from the new record?
M- Well, we’ve toured countries a lot, and I mean the whole world. We’ve played songs forever. This tour, we’re probably going to play a classic song or two, but we don’t have a lot of time to fuck around. This is about the new shit, so we’re just gonna play the first couple of tracks right off the album. I don’t know if we’ll play them all in a row, but it’s about checking out the new shit this time.
M- Yeah it’s like fuck it. You know we’re coming back to do a headlining show, and we always like to celebrate the back catalogue, but we’ll be playing almost all new shit, and I’m gonna say it. We’ve gotta to it. You’ve gotta see this madman play drums, man. Travis Orbin.
G- Yeah man how was the transition and his first foray into the studio with Darkest Hour?
M- He’s a madman about his tempo and everything. Once you get in a room with him and jam with him, you’re like ‘Godammit!’ It’s awesome! He showed us how we could practice differently and leave room to execute some of the super hard shit. And dude… It was like night or day all of the sudden. Now, when we execute a song, we can do it just like we recorded because the way we rehearsed it brought us to a different level.
G- Nice. Well, good sell on the record and show! I’m pumped for the performances!
And just one last question for the day. We’ve gotten into some history and you guys have been in this band for a long, long time. It’s hard work, but it’s definitely worth it.
For some of the kids and acts who want to be in a touring metal band, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
M- I would say first, get your fucking life together. Make sure your personal life doesn’t interfere with you being able to rock. A lot of people don’t get that rule.
The second thing is if you ever think you’ve rehearsed enough, keep rehearsing. People that rehearse enough are so addicted to it don’t even think that way. I think that is what the two biggest things are… You have to make sure your life can sustain the way it goes down trying to be a Rock pirate, and you have to get your shit together because you only have so many chances to get people’s attention.
G- I think you pretty much nailed it and we appreciate it. That’s all I’ve got for you today so I want to say thank you again for speaking with Live High Five. I’m pumped for the shows, and travel safe when you’re on the road!
M- Alright man. Bring a 6-pack and let’s kick it!
G- Corona’s on the way!