Having reached the Metal To The Masses semi-finals, and with their gig schedule easing off over the summer, prog metal maestros Darkeye are are once again feeling the restless pull of the studio.
Known and respected among their peers as one of the tightest and original bands on the unsigned circuit, Darkeye are forever trying to broaden their horizons. They have been compared to the likes of Gojira and even Machine Head, but when asked how they describe themselves things become a little more complicated.
Photo by Magda Wrzeszcz
With a ‘no rules’ policy and a commitment to musicianship, Darkeye love what they do. They can’t wait to get writing again and test new sonic territory.
Lead singer and guitarist Dean said: “Plan is to do an album. We have the Metal To The Masses coming up. If we get through the final is on June 1st.
“After that we have a gig at the 229 Club in Great Portland Street, and that’s in September. Apart from that we have nothing else, the plan is to just write the next album.
“We are hoping to get ten or twelve tracks together for another album.”
Displaying a cheery patience with this writer’s lack of familiarity with the diversity of sounds in an ever-changing and, it seems, controversial metal scene, the band explained the challenges of defining themselves. Whatever their sound is called, they never fail to get a reaction.
Lead guitar player Dave said: “People either really like us, or they don’t really know what to make of us. You can’t quite pin us down.”
The band feel this may be the key element in their draw, and what has marked them out in an increasingly competitive scene.
“One thing I find,” adds bassist and veteran of doom, Jeff, “is that when people come up to us afterwards we get such a really varied level of feedback.
“Some people say, ‘Oh you sound like Gojira’ or ‘You sound like Machine Head,’ – it’s never the same. Everyone has their own interpretation, which I think is really cool. Because there is nothing worse than every person labelling you as the same thing as someone else.”
The mystery factor that makes this band such a compelling live act and fresh addition to the circuit, is their libertarian approach to song-making and the openness of the relationships within Darkeye.
Whatever the tribalism that may surround the various styles within metal, these guys have no fear when it comes to experimentation. Their common tastes bring them together but the unity lies not in a rigid loyalty to a particular genre, but in putting the musicianship first.
Filmed, recorded, mixed and edited by Peter Junge
Dean explains that the only rule is that there are no rules when comes to writing new material.
“We try to write songs that we find interesting as well as the audience,” said Dean, “otherwise everyone just gets bored. When we started the rule was there are no rules. We can take it in any direction and it doesn’t matter.
“If you label yourself, like, ‘we are a thrash band’, then you limit yourself quit massively. If that’s what you want to do then fair enough.
“We also have quite a large set of influences, I mean Jeff’s a massive doom fan, we’ve done really technical stuff, we’ve done some really heavy grindcore. Oh, yeah, and Frazer’s [the drummer] a massive raver as well.”
Jeff doesn’t take the labelling dilemmas too seriously. In his view there’s enough going round for everybody.
He explains: “That’s the thing, it is all metal, you take what you like and leave what you don’t.”
Agreeing, Dean added: “If you don’t like it then sorry, we do and we’ll keep playing it.”
So when finally confronted with the question of where they would place themselves, lead guitarist Dave gives a prompt answer: “More prog than anything else.”
However, in a scene that is expanding and fracturing into constantly new and wonderful tribal sounds this answer raises its own difficult questions, as Dean explains:
“There are probably more prog elements in it than anything else, but again when you say prog, you probably think of Dream Theater. But it depends on where you stand and where you are coming from. We don’t sound anything like Dream Theater. Prog as a label covers a pretty broad range of sounds.”
Despite their being held in high acclaim by fellow musicians, and despite their unique and single-minded commitment to making fresh and genre-busting tunes, Darkeye remain surprised by their consistent triumphs in the Metal To The Masses competition, which may see them playing a set at Bloodstock.
“We are in the semi-finals,” said Dean. “Every time we have gone through we never expected to. Ever.”
Dave added: “It came as a great surprise to us. We never expected to get passed the first round, so every time we made it through, for us it was just a bonus. That’s the way we look at it, and it’s probably to our advantage.”
“It’s huge for us. We are just four guys from London, making obscene noise.”