Published Mar 21, 2017"As a band, there's nothing that feels better than when your core fan base says, 'Yes! Thank you!'" Darkest Hour founding guitarist Mike Schleibaum has every reason to be excited about the band's ninth album, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora (out now on Southern Lord). As he tells Exclaim!, here are five keys that led to the success of their new — and as Schleibaum puts it "best" — album.
1. Fans Paid For It
Without any label obligations, Darkest Hour sought to crowdfund the recording last year, raising over $70,000 (U.S.). In addition to giving fans a more direct connection to the album (and some pretty rad perks), it allowed the band to make the record they wanted — including finally recording with longtime friend Kurt Ballou.
Schleibaum adds that they waited a full calendar year to get time with the Converge guitarist in GodCity Studio. "We've known Kurt forever; Darkest Hour and Converge have played together for two decades in various ways, and has been on our list of guys to work with, but each record label has their opinion about who you're going to work with, and there is always a bit of a compromise. This time, when we were given the choice, it was a no-brainer."
2. They're Back on Southern Lord Records
Despite recording the album with the intent of a "very DIY, underground release," the band reconnected with longtime supporter Greg Anderson (Goatsnake and Sunn O))) guitarist, founder of Southern Lord) and decided he could help take the release to the next level.
"We've just come full-circle," says Schleibaum of the band's relationship with the label that released their debut, The Mark of the Judas, on vinyl. "He was just part of the trinity — management, crowdfunding and Greg — that together pulled this album to where it is. Southern Lord had no idea how good the album was until they heard it for the first time, and that was when they decided to put it out. This wasn't in any way a traditional relationship; they enjoyed it, and that was awesome because in the past it's been a whole different kind of relationship."
3. Southern Lord Isn't the Only Reunion Here
Darkest Hour invited former guitarist Kris Norris (2001 to 2008) to collaborate on the new album. "We're not going to open this up to letting any motherfucker come in and co-write," Schleibaum says. A decade since the band delivered the last entrant in the Norris trilogy (2007's Deliver Us), the shredder delivers a solo and "mini-melody" on "Beneath It Sleeps" and "Enter Oblivion," respectively, both of which he co-wrote, in addition to "None of This Is the Truth."
"I always try to tell people [to] imagine a world that exists where people leave a band, but they remain friends. Kris is a lifer on guitar. It's what he's all about. Melodic death metal is all he's into. As we were writing the album I think Lonestar, who's the other guitar player in the band (also named Mike, which is why he has a nickname), kind of came up with the idea and was like, 'You know, let's just bring Kris in come up with some new ideas because the internet seems to think it's a good idea.' At this point, he's written enough Darkest Hour songs and I've written enough Darkest Hour songs that the egos were put to bed and it was more like 'Let's just have an album that has a lot of different flavours.' Kris did not write the whole album. I think it's just there's nice flavour of each kind of riffer in there, and I think it makes the album really feel expanded."
4. Core By Any Other Name
Metalcore has become something of a curse word since it drifted away from an organic mashup of metal and hardcore into something more convoluted. Darkest Hour don't view it in a negative light at all.
"To me metalcore is not a bad word. I like metal: Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera. And I like hardcore like Chain of Strength, Uniform Choice, Minor Threat, you know? When you combine those things, you make something awesome. Unfortunately, once it became a genre, that idea and the style spun off. But I think Darkest Hour might be one of the most classic examples of the combination of those things, and we're not talking about the aesthetics or the sound of the band; we're talking about the soul of the band."
5. It's A Concept Album If You Care; If Not, No Big
The lyrical soul of the band has run the gamut from political to personal, but this time around vocalist (and cofounder) John Henry wanted a narrative to run through the songs. They were careful, though, to ensure a dual meaning — the songs also needed to stand on their own.
"If you don't buy into this sci-fi thing we got cooked up, I don't want that to just sink the album, and I think John did a good job of walking the tight rope. In this story [there are] two main characters: the Godless Prophets, who could either be the main character of the story — could be us, could be whoever's in charge of what the fuck's happening in the world today — and you have the Migrant Flora, which could be, in the story, a Mother Nature personified, a plant-like humanistic thing, or it could be the other forces that are warring against the kind of things that are happening worldwide, so there's a lot open up to interpretation. Either way, the story has two main characters that struggle against each other and against themselves."