Darkest Hour – Mike Schleibaum (Guitars) and Mike ‘Lonestar’ Carrigan (Guitars)
It’s a hot, sunny day in Orange County, CA as I pull up to The Grove in Anaheim to pay witness to all things heavy at The Summer Slaughter Tour 2009. Black T-Shirts run rampant across the mostly male crowd and I never really understand the need for people to wear the shirt of the band that is playing that night. We know you’re a fan, so why else would you be here right? I get through the gate and make a phone call to MIKE SCHLEIBAUM (guitar) from DARKEST HOUR to arrange our interview. He states that he’s backstage jamming some SUFFOCATION songs on guitar but will come out and meet me. He meets me in the photo pit and we quickly dart backstage into the dressing room where we grab a couple of drinks and MIKE ‘LONESTAR’ CARRIGAN (guitar) as we head outside to find some quiet area to have a quick chat. We had already started talking before I press ‘record’ so here’s what ya get as this seemed more like a few people sitting at a table as opposed to an official interview.
Do you guys feel being the odd ones out a little bit on this tour?
M: Ya know, we’re definitely not a classic, American sounding Death Metal band. To me, DARKEST HOUR is pretty much Swedish Melodic Metal which to me fits right alongside of SUFFOCATION, DYING FETUS, ORIGIN and extreme metal bands because to me it’s the same as that death metal. But to people who aren’t as obsessed with death metal music as we may be, the three of us, probably won’t get all of those nuances. Then there’s the purists, people who only love SUFFOCATION style death metal, you can’t please them no matter what because we don’t sound like that. In the past, we did a tour with SIX FEET UNDER and we got crushed. We did a tour with DYING FETUS in 1998, the band didn’t fit in, DARKEST HOUR was weird. Now, it’s really nice to know we go on tour with a ton of death metal bands and fit in and have people respect it and like it. I don’t know if we got better or the songs got better since 98, but something happened where now, we can tour with death metal bands and it’s a great time.
Do you think maybe people’s minds opened up a little bit?
L: I think it’s a little more closed mind perspective. It’s like do you like Doom? Grind?
Can’t we all just listen to metal?
M: Yesterday we were trying to figure a new name for what we could be because it seems that Metalcore is a bad word because there’s so much bad music. But to me, metal and hardcore is fine. Hardcore like MINOR THREAT and metal like SLAYER combined sounds bad ass. But it didn’t turn out like that so now we have this term [metalcore] that defines a style of music that’s not very good.
You got people wearing makeup on top of it.
M: Now it’s like dude, I like metal. It’s not even the same type of music. We were trying to think of something different.
L: I say Melodic Thrash.
M: When we destroy the term metalcore with something new and much cooler we’ll let you know.
Maybe that’s what sets you apart on this tour because you have the chanty parts of the choruses.
M: We’re definitely a little more melodious than most of the bands. Most death metal is about the sick riffs, low vocals, and stripping melody out and making it as brutal as fuck. And DARKEST HOUR has been always about being pretty melodious musically and aggressive vocally and rhythmically so I think that’s where we fit in but also where we differ.
L: We’re a lot more epic.
It’s not to say that one’s better than the other. Any style of death metal done with sincerity and thought usually turns out much better than the predecessors that are just copies.
Is that what you grew up listening to?
M: No, you know what’s funny? Ryan, our drummer, fucking loves SUFFOCATION. He grew up loving this. And the thing is I never really liked that style death metal, it never grabbed me. That’s why I was so in love when I found AT THE GATES and IN FLAMES. Now that I’m older and really a connoisseur of the genre I love and appreciate that style of death metal. The style that I liked is the style that DARKEST HOUR is. These tours are getting more open minded. Look, we got DYING FETUS on tour with WINDS OF PLAGUE on tour with AFTER THE BURIAL on tour with SUFFOCATION. So it’s a pretty open minded tour. You have fans that are opinionated.
L: If I had to sit and listen to the same band 15 times in a day I’d go crazy.
So far so good on the road so far?
M: Yeah! It’s funny we finished recording the record, then 7 days later we were in Europe touring with BLEEDING THROUGH for 6 weeks. Come home for 2 weeks and all of a sudden it’s a couple of weeks before the record’s comin out and you’re back on tour. So it’s been a long time that we’ve been on tour so it feels like we got our groove and it’s good to be on the West Coast. We’ve been on tour for so long now it feels natural to be doing it everyday.
Take it back to Europe, what kind of stuff we’re you playing with BT?
M: We were trying out 2 new songs, “No God” and “Devolution Of The Flesh” Playing a new song before it comes out is fucking always hard because nobody knows what to expect, don’t know the words.
You fuck up you know that nobody is going to notice, ya gotta look at the plus here! (laughs)
M: It really worked out since Mike is relatively new. We did one Thrash n Burn tour together then it was like, Bam, you’re in the studio, everybody write together. Then 8 months later it’s like, Bam, the touring machine starts again, get in the groove. It’s great when you hit the ground running here. I’m confident now that if people come see DARKEST HOUR now, it’s going to be the bes DARKEST HOUR they’ve seen.
Tell me about this, you went back and used BRIAN MCTERNAN again who you worked with earlier in your career. Your album sounds darker this time around.
M: That was intentional. Brian would be every metalheads true champion. He was not saying we need a radio hit. He was saying, we need to bind what makes DARKEST HOUR a band, and amplify it to make it the sickest DARKEST HOUR record, not try to make it something else by make it more melodic or more brutal, just try to make it what it really is and that was his greatest influence.
L: I think he made some of the songs a little brighter. They were a lot darker when we first came in.
M: It was going to be a really ugly record. But I think that the kind of balance of the changes we made and the vibe going into it made it a DH record. On DELIVER US, we weren’t only thinking of making one thing, we were thinking epic, and melodious, and “Demons” was pretty poppy, it’s way more out there than the songs that are on this record. So we were going to make it violent, make it sound pissed off, make it feel pissed off, and I think we achieved it but I think we achieved it with a little bit of balance of melody and that’s greatly due to Brian’s ability to be the judge and jury. You get 5 dudes in there (insert arguing comments and screaming comments with humor) “I don’t want to change that riff!”
L: Then you listen to it the next day and it’s like, “oh yeah, that’s a good idea!”
What do you [Lonestar] think you brought to the band this time around and where’s your background at musically?
L: I’m a big PANTERA fan, SLAYER, MEGADETH, classic metal basically. I thought maybe I’d try to throw a little something like that in there, the solos have a bit more classic feel. Different direction than the Neo-Classical which is awesome.
M: There’s some of that on the record too. The guitar vision was to have different stylistic stuff, there’s Neo-Classical shit, bluesy type, very Dimebagesque / Van Halenesque. We never did that before. This now makes the band sound more rounder and more classic.
When I first heard “No God” online, I heard the opening riff and it felt like SOUTH OF HEAVEN era SLAYER and some of the songs on the last album were poppy.
M: We feel like reserve the right to go poppy at anytime and reserve the right to go pissed. We also like to do what people enjoy.
What’s have you heard lately that you like musically?
L: I love MASTODON!
M: I know it’s stupid as it’s been said everywhere so why waste print on MASTODON? They took that craft, blew it up, did metal awesome, and they did it in a way that they totally remained themselves. Awesome guys, killer band! Then you got SKELETONWITCH who are really awesome guys playing a sick style of metal that’s kind of innovative if you really look into it.
L: A little throwback though, like MUNICIPAL WASTE is a throwback.
M: Which I like! DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN keeps putting out records that sound fresh and new. TESTAMENT’s THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION. I’m probably going to get crucified for this shit, but I like the last IN FLAMES record.
L: [A big sigh of air full of sarcasm.]
M: Whatever, Lonestar, Whatever you can have your opinions. (laughs). I’ve watched them put out tons of records and I was a fan of the earlier ones. But you go on a creative journey as an artist and maybe the fans don’t always follow you certain ways and I’ve watched them the whole time and this last one I was stoked on! I think the new GOD FORBID is sick. Those guys really pushed it, took it to a place where Doc and Dallas took it out to some progness.
What’s the next 6 months like?
L: Go to Europe for a week and a half, then we do TRIVIUM and SUICIDE SILENCE.
M: Kinda crazy weird places. I think we’re even playing a state we never played before. Montana I think. Ryan could tell you. It’s Montana and Mississippi. There’s a tour in Europe with KATAKLYSM. We’re gonna tour on this record. It’s kinda the Victory era of the band, we finished our record contract. We’ll see, it’s interesting to see where we’ll go.
By Mark Thompson