The British heavy/power metal band Dark Forest are back with their fourth full-length album Beyond The Veil. Guitarist Christian Horton fills us in on the new record, tour plans, his musical background and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: How did the songwriting process for Beyond The Veil compare to your previous albums?
Christian Horton: It was pretty similar, really. A song usually starts from a core riff or melody and then we gradually add to it. We like to make the songs interesting and full of music, so we’re always writing little ideas and storing them for future use in songs. It’s all about finding melodies that fit the atmosphere of the rest of the song, every melody, riff and vocal line has to make sense within the song as a whole.
This is the first time you’ve had the same lineup for two consecutive albums. How did that affect the creation of the album?
Yes, it’s something I’m very happy about! We finally have a solid lineup and it’s working great. It’s the most comfortable and also the most creative the band has ever been. In the past there were some disagreements and the classic “musical differences” which resulted in some tough times. But now everyone shares the same vision, so we’re really pulling together to create the best music to our ability.
You worked with producer Ajeet Gill again on this album. What does he bring to the table?
We’ve been working with Ajeet for the past eight years now and we’ve seen his skills develop as a producer and engineer and the quality of his equipment gets better all the time. We have total confidence in him when we enter the studio and know the result is going to be great.
What’s also very important is that he’s so down to earth and friendly, never getting stressed even when the band’s emotions are running high after sixteen hour recording sessions! It definitely makes all the difference. It creates fond memories of the studio experience and the creating of an album.
How do you and Patrick go about dividing the guitar parts? Is it strictly one does lead, the other rhythm, or does is vary from song to song?
We both play lead and rhythm, so it varies. It usually depends on who wrote what, so if I come up with a lead guitar melody I’ll usually be the one who plays it and vice versa. Sometimes if one of us has written the majority of a song then we’ll divide the lead sections up with each other so we both get to play an equal amount, otherwise the song would become a little boring to play.
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed on this one?
I think it’s definitely bigger, also more intricate and complex. I probably say that for every album we make, but it’s true, each time the sound naturally develops into something bigger and better. There’s more music generally on this album. Each song is crammed with melodies and changes, we want every song to be the best it can be. Having said that, the roots are still very much there, you can still tell it’s Dark Forest when you listen to it.
Is there a lyrical theme or concept?
It’s not a total concept album but, as we’ve done before, there are a lot of songs which carry similar themes throughout the record. Beyond the Veil is about the “other side,” the realms that exist beyond this material world. The realms of ghosts, fairies and magic. Some songs go heavily into this idea like “On the Edge of Twilight,” “The Wild Hunt” and the title track. There ares other songs which borrow from this theme, but generally deal more with folklore and the old ways like “Blackthorn,” “Autumn’s Crown” and “The Lore of the Land.”
What are your expectations for the album?
We would love for this album to reach the audience that we think it deserves. We’re extremely proud of what we’ve created here. It towers over everything we’ve done before and we’ve put our heart and soul into it. We just want as many people as possible to hear it and enjoy it, anything else that comes from that is a bonus.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
At the moment we’re organizing a special album release gig which will be held at a venue local to us and we’re also playing Hell Over Hammaburg on March 4, 2017. There are other gigs in the pipeline too, so watch out for those.
What has been your most memorable Dark Forest live show?
Definitely when we played in Bavaria at Castle Theuern with Atlantean Kodex last November. The venue was beautiful, the crowd was amazing both nights and we just had the best time of our lives!
How did you get started in music?
I’m just self taught. I’ve never been able to read music or anything, I grew up listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Deep Purple and decided to buy a guitar and teach myself to play it. I must have been about fifteen or sixteen at the time. I started writing music straight away and taught myself how to play along the way. I formed Dark Forest in 2002 when I was seventeen.
Who were your early guitar influences?
Ritchie Blackmore has always been my favorite guitarist. Deep Purple were the first rock band I got into, so his playing was always special to me. Other names I’d mention as influences are Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Tony Iommi, David Gilmour and Phil Cope.
What’s the best concert you’ve attended as a fan?
It has to be my first time seeing Maiden. It was Donington in 2003 on the ”Give Me Ed ‘Till I’m Dead” tour. Nothing will beat that memory.
Describe Dark Forest’s very first live show.
We played a jam night at a local venue called The Rock Cafe in Stourbridge, West Midlands. It must have been around 2003. We were the last band to go on stage, and nearly everybody had gone home by the time we came on. I remember forgetting something, probably my guitar lead or strap and having to rush back home then back to the venue.
It was a dim, dingy place, but the stage was quite large. I think I remember the four or five people who watched us enjoyed it, or pretended to at least. I don’t remember actually playing, though. I think I was so scared I mentally blocked it out.
What are some of your non-musical hobbies and interests?
I spend a lot of time reading folklore and have quite a collection of antiquarian books on the subject. I love the unexplained, paranormal, conspiracies, mysteries, all that kind of thing. I enjoy going into the countryside as often as possible to connect with nature. I brew ale and am a huge advocate of real ale and heritage pubs. If I‘m not in the pub you’ll usually find me up the woods.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thanks to everyone who’s supported us over the years, hope you enjoy Beyond the Veil! I’d like to plug the following: Batham’s Best Bitter! the best ale in the world; and my friend’s work, Essays and Reflections On The Work Of Colin Wilson.
(interview published August 26, 2016)