Greetings to Darkenhöld! Your second full-length album, ‘Echoes from the Stone Keeper’, is soon upon us! Tell us a little of this great album in your own words!
Aldébaran : Medieval hails, thank you for your interest in Darkenhöld universe ! Yes, we are impatient to have the final product in our hands. I am glad you like it, this album can be representative of what we expect when creating Darkenhöld, to play an ancient atmospheric Black Metal with epic melodies in a sincere way.
‘Echoes…’ is an entirely new collections of songs, yes? Tell us a little of the preparation for this album. How long have you been writing and recording the material?
Cervantes : Yes, there are only new songs, but we must say that “Mesnie Hellequin” was initially composed by Aldébaran in order to appear on the fourth opus of Artefact, his former band. But the story of Artefact came to an end, and so Aldébaran decided to take with him the early version of this song. He took the time to finish it and to give the song a more atmospheric and old spirit which characterizes the Darkenhöld musical identity. He also enriched it with some arrangements to offer a complete new version. Concerning the other songs, Aldébaran started to work on them quickly after the release of “A passage to the towers”. The recording session demanded a long time. We recorded the drums and the bass guitar parts in the Cox In Hell studio, but the guitars, the keyboards and the vocals were captured in the little own home-studio of Aldébaran, the Cryptic Studio. It was a tough and exhausting time for both of us, but this work gave “Echos from the stone keeper” a special
What were some of the goals you had in mind when writing the material? The notes of the album mention that all music is by Aldebaran…where their certain things you wanted to do that had not been previously attempted? Why or why not?value.
Aldébaran : Yes, with this one I wanted a more personal and singular album with an artisanal sound. “A Passage To The Towers” was already in this vein but I wanted to go further more in this way. I intended to explore a more cavernous and mineral feel but also with contrasts between brightness and darkness.
I thoroughly enjoyed the layered sound of the guitars and keyboards, where many people are turned off by such sounds. Did you spend more time on one instrument writing or performing than another? How do you balance the writing or recording process when you are responsible for so much of Darkenhöld’s sound?
Aldébaran : Personally, I spent hundred of hours in the writing process and shaping the sound of our music. I also took the initiative to record (except for the drums and bass) and mix by myself the album (mastering was done by NKS from Aorlhac). As Cervantes said, It was a great challenge even I’m not pretending to be a professional sound engineer. I thought that for this album we did not need to pay expensive studios sessions for an artisanal sound ever we were satisfied with the previous production done by Neb Xort of the Drudenhaus Studio and if possible we could go back there. As for the use of keyboards in our music, I know we are not very much in the actual tendencies like “raw black metal”. We respect those who love that style but as we are concerned we do exactly which convey to us, and don’t care about “trve black metal” considerations that banish keyboard. We appreciate these dreamlike atmospheres although we do not deny it demands a subtle balance with the guitars. We know we must keep enough roughness, and we should not to cover the latests. Each parameters require the same attention, so it takes lots of time !
Much of the material on the album, such as the title track, is extremely well-written and progressive, keeping the listener engaged throughout. How do you feel that Darkenhöld has evolved since the first release?
Aldébaran : This new album is much more refined and enhanced compared to the first one, it is at the same time more old-school/vintage in terms of sound and the arrangements are much more rich and subtle, with more technical patterns.
Cervantes : I agree. We wanted to give birth to darkest and bewitching atmospheres, like a painting of oniric and savage landscapes, from the cavernous atmospheres of “Chasm of Asylake” or the title track, to the travel through forests and mountains like on “March of the sylvan beasts” or “Nightfall and the fire doom” and the nightsky thundering of “Wyvern solitude chant” or “Mesnie Hellequin”.
A few previous releases included split album with fellow French artists. If there were to be another Darkenhöld split, who would you like it to be with and why? What gets your attention from another artist’s music, etc.?
Aldébaran : I don’t know artists which fit for a split with us nowadays, maybe a little collaboration with the norwegian band Wallachia. Those splits should be seen as demos and not official releases, I’m not very satisfied with them regarding our parts though I am glad to have the opportunity to start the band and make us known a little bit in the scene, as well as sharing a partnership with musician friends like Fhoi Myore.
Cervantes : As far as I’m concerned, I remain satisfied with the split-cds, because it was a good and special opportunity to present to the world our vision of Black Metal, deeply anchored in the 90’s, and that’s the reason why we decided to cover some great names from the past, maybe unknown from the people who didn’t grow during this golden years for Black Metal. But after the two split-cds, our involvement in the tributes to Emperor and Enslaved, and the french Black Metal compilation “ La maisniee du Maufé”, an adventure which gathered Aorlhac, Ossuaire, Ysengrin and our band, I think it’s time for us to focus on “Echoes from the stone
keepers” and the third opus to come ! But if there were to be another Darkenhöld split-cd, it would definitely be a great pleasure to work with Wallachia, yes ! Lars, the composer and soul of Wallachia, is a very talented musician and a great and passionate guy ! I should appreciate to share a split-cd with Aorlhac too : I’m a big fan of their Medieval and Epic Black Metal, rooted to their ground, a land of old legends !
Tell me of the cover art to ‘Echoes…’. The amazing painting is by Claudine Vrac and appears to be the same artist that created the cover for your first full-length, ‘A Passage to the Towers’. Is this so? How did your relationship come about with this artist and how does their work relate to your own?
Aldébaran: Yes it is the same artist for both, we begin to have a little trademark with the covers. I know the artist since a long time, we think her art could fit well with Darkenhöld universe, although her usual production is not in the Metal field. I think the cover is perfect and fits very well with our music.
Your work tells dark tales of high fantasy, exploring ‘Subterranean Corridors’ by ‘crackling torchlight’ and the ‘March of the Sylvan Beasts’. What really intrigued me was the mention of the lapis philosophicae in ‘Under the Sign of Arcanum’. Tell me what this precious symbol means to you and how it factors into your great work, if you will, of course!
Cervantes : “Under the sign of Arcanum” is a song about the alchemy, which included the search for the philosopher’s stone, known as “lapis philosophicae”. To say the truth, it’s such a narrowly targeted and complex discipline, it should demand a whole album just to chisel an outline on this subject ! So my will was not to be disrespectful to a knowledgeable audience. I only wanted to half-open a door on such a vast question, which concerned people from the oriental, arabian and occidental lands, maybe since the 4th century AD. In my lyrics, I concentrate my attention on the transmutation of base metals in noble metals (silver and gold), for the purpose of fulfilling the “Magnum opus”, and also the search for the “Panacée”, known as the elixir of life. But these goals should not hush up the fact that the alchemy also includes a deep philosophical and mystical approach, especially since the Renaissance period. So many things to say and discover… so, I would be glad if this simple track could relate to this discipline…
This is your first production with Those Opposed Records, yes? How did the relationship come about? What plans are their for future collaborations?
Aldébaran : When we had enough material to present to a label, I decided to send unfinished tracks to Noel by the web. It seems he liked our first effort so he was curious to listen to it the second and finally appreciate the whole album, it was done in a very simple way. We already know some bands in TOS like Aorlhac, Sühnopfer, Nehemah… and we thought his signatures conveys with Darkenhöld genre. We like its integrity in the Black Metal field and seriousness regarding his work in the underground. We have no other plan with him for the moment except for “Echoes from the Stone Keeper”.
I assume that Darkenhöld performs live, is this correct? Tell us what a live Darkenhöld ritual is like or, why one does not currently exist!
Aldébaran : We respect bands that wear normal clothes like jeans and baskets during their shows but we prefer putting our universe on stage with black cloak, torches and gladiator boots and other artifacts…
Cervantes : In my opinion, a Darkenhöld’s live should be an immersion in our world. So we pay attention to the set and the clothes, in order to open the doors of our medieval-fantastic universe and involve the audience in our musical journey through the undergrounds, deep forests, majestic mountains and castles haunted by the breath of old times. With the passing time, we will add some artifacts and pieces to our clothes to our live shows, to please ourselves and the audience, of course !
Which do you feel best conveys your musical message, the studio release or the live ritual concert? Why?
Cervantes : At the moment, the studio releases of Darkenhöld may convey our musical message the best, because we can take the time to unfold our atmospheres, using keyboards and samples to enrich the song. Our choice of production, far from the modern approach which favours clear, clean and clinical sounds, also contributes to give our band a kind of a signature. We try to sound as organic and pure as possible, especially concerning the drums, and the studio releases show it. And of course, we still need to gain live experiences to offer the audience better shows ! But the answers to the previous question you asked demonstrates that we really take care about live. As far as here, we played live without keyboards, so we often selected the songs which did not demand too many keyboards parts to spread their wings, and it was a kind of a limitation. But with this new album, it seems clear to us that we need to enter stage with a sixth member, on keyboards, just to reproduce well the atmospheres of the new songs, and also to play the songs from “A passage to the towers” in the way they were engraved.
What does the future hold for Darkenhöld? What are your immediate plans to follow?
Aldébaran : We hope to play live in different festivals and to tour in France for May with Angmar and Fhoi Myore, I wish all of this could be possible. As for myself, I am working on the next effort which should be in the vein of the two first albums.
The last words are yours!
Aldébaran : Thanks for the attention and wish you the best with Forbidden Magazine, stay tuned with our future projects and medieval hails !
Cervantes : Thanks for this very interesting interview and for paying interest in our band ! It was a pleasure to answer you. All the best for your webzine and readers, and keep up the flame ! Hope we’ll see you on stage!