Dark Forest (UK) have been high on my radar since their demo days when I first caught them live in London one evening. Since then, record deals have come along and their general persona and musical talent has also grown; a worthy result for their hard work. With a new album out called ‘The Awakening’, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to speak to Christian Horton, the band’s main driving force and remaining founding member.
AN: Hi Christian, ‘The Awakening’ is a very apt title for your new album; you must be pleased with the response, what’s the best acknowledgment you have had from the fans and the press?
Hello, yeah the response has been really positive. Whenever you release an album you can never know how well it will be accepted but you have to not worry about that and just focus on creating music that you enjoy, that’s the most important thing. People are saying things like The Awakening is the first album of the year to really make an impact and also that Sons of England is the best Dark Forest song to date, which are both really encouraging things to hear. Perhaps the best comment so far though was a reviewer who said that “you will walk away after listening to this album with a more positive attitude than you had before.”
AN: ‘The Awakening’ sees a new Dark Forest line up, how did Josh and Patrick come on board? Patrick was from your first band right?
Well I play with Pat in an acoustic side project called Grene Knyght but he’s also been a supporter of Dark Forest and good friends with all of us for years, helping out behind the scenes with things like booklet graphics etc. When Jim left, Pat was the only person any of us could consider as a replacement. As well as being a quality guitarist, we needed someone who was as close a friend as Jim was and also someone who really understood what the essence of Dark Forest is all about and who could help out with song writing, Pat filled all those roles. Josh auditioned after Will left sending us home recordings of him singing our songs. We also knew Josh as guitarist in Wytch Hazel so were suprised when he contacted us, we didn’t know he could sing! He blew us away with the recordings though so we quickly arranged a proper audition where he showed us exactly what he was capable of.
AN: Did the new line up have any bearing on the direction of the latest material? I feel with Josh on board, the music has got a lot more epic and has grown immensely, I am just wondering if the new line up had enabled you to push the music further than previously?
The new line up certainly is pushing the music further currently. I’ve always been the one who writes most of the material but both Pat and Josh are also good songwriters and they understand the vibe of the band, so we’re all working together now on new material and sharing ideas with each other. It’s a really creative time for us at the moment with a lot of potential around. Going back to The Awakening, the album was already written before the new line up but we did re work some of the songs, changing parts and building on melodies with Pat and Josh adding their own touch and signatures to the material.
AN: Did you have a game plan, an idea of where you wanted to go with ‘The Awakening’?
Not really, this album happened the same way as the others did. Like I mentioned, we’re constantly writing new material, so when we’ve built up roughly an albums worth of songs we rehearse them solidly, build on them and perfect them, then head to the studio. The only plan was with the lyrical themes of some of the songs, I wanted to make sure a bulk of them had themes that related to each other based around “The Awakening” which is about a shift in human consciousness and transcending the global control system.
AN: Have you changed any of you backline or guitars/instruments for this release? There appears to be more clarity in the recorded sound?
We used different guitars this time but not much else was different with the gear. I think it’s more to do with the engineer we worked with has really got on top of his game and he also has a new studio and software. I guess we’ve learned a bit from previous recording experiences as well.
AN: Did the band have total input into the final mix and mastering of the album?
Yeah we had much more control than we did with Dawn of Infinity. Although to be honest, our Engineer, Ajeet, really does know what he’s doing. We rarely felt the need to interrupt him with the mixing and mastering, but we were carefully listening to everything and were completely free to correct anything we didn’t like. Happily though, as I say, we didn’t need to do that very often at all.
AN: Where did you actually record the release? It’s hard to gleam a lot of information from a folder of mp3 files!
It was at Hellfire Studios, the same place we recorded both our debut album and the Defender EP, although I don’t think you would guess that from listening!
AN: Dark Forest’s lyrics have always been more interesting and have actual meaning to them, creatively speaking; do you have a particular interest in history or any particular writer that inspires your creations? Is it fair to say that local inspiration plays a key part too?
Thank you, yeah I’m extremely interested in history, folklore and things of psychical nature. I have a bit of an obsession with the past actually. I find influence from reading into the old folk tales and also into areas like past lives, time travel, nature spirits, hidden esoteric knowledge, conspiracies etc. Nature is a massive source of inspiration as well and I’d say the countryside that’s close by is much more impacting on me than the traditional industrial side of the Black Country. Regarding writers I could mention Wentz and Yeats as influencing the faerie side of things, people like David Icke and Jordan Maxwell has influenced the new album, then you have Malory for the Arthurian themes and then there’s so much folklore that belongs to no author that has been an influence.
AN: Who did the artwork and what’s the inspiration behind this?
It was done by the artist Tawdry Piffle who also did Dawn of Infinity. The chap on the cover basically represents downtrodden humanity and it’s showing the point where the shift in consciousness starts to take place. He’s awakening to the realization that he’s a divine spiritual being, part of the infinite consciousness that animates the universe and is about the transcend all the darkness and misery that has control on the physical plane of existence.
AN: Do you agree with the labels that some folks place on your music? You know, traditional, power metal etc etc….to me its metal pure and simple, what about you?
Yeah I’d agree with you. We’ve had so many different labels put on us, it’s quite funny. We’ve had thrash, folk, power, epic, traditional, NWOBHM, etc but to us it’s just Heavy Metal.
AN: How was Brofest for you guys?
It was a brilliant time! There was a good crowd there for us, chanting the band name and going mad, the only downside was that it was all over so quickly, it happened in a flash. We had some amazing feedback afterwards as well from a lot of people and we also had a great time getting smashed!
AN: You have announced a show in Scotland later this year with Atlantean Kodex and Solstice, how did that package come about? It’s a perfect gig relating to the latest material.
Yeah we’ve wanted to play alongside Atlantean Kodex for a long time so this gig will be a lot of fun. We were approached by the organizer of the event but I’m aware that the boys from Kodex have also been keen to get us on the same bill as them also, the same goes for Solstice as well. I think you may be right, there are certain songs on this new album which could work well opening for bands like these. We’ll have to pick the set carefully!
AN: Do you have further tour plans that would include the UK, but are you off out round Europe or further a-field soon in support of the release?
We are trying hard to book what we can yes, there are a few things in the pipeline at the moment which will hopefully come to fruition and be announced in the near future, so keep an eye out for those!
AN: Finally, I saw that you recently brewed a batch of home brew, is that something you are going to market like Maiden, Hell or Motorhead (Wine) have done recently!?
I’m not sure at the moment! I brew in my spare time and also work for a local microbrewery which is why I decided to make a Dark Forest stout. Maybe in future we can do something with it though yeah!
Thanks so much for your time, I always enjoy Dark Forest’s music and I am really pleased with the new album, a fitting tribute for your hard work over the years.
Thanks very much mate, appreciate it!
(Interview by Paul Maddison)