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Darkest Hour’s John Henry + Mike Schleibaum Discuss New Album, Mayhem Festival + More

Darkest Hour John Henry Mike Schleibaum
Kathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.com

Darkest Hour have put in the studio time and they’re happy to be out among the sun and tunes this summer as part of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Loudwire had a chance to sit down with Darkest Hour frontman John Henry and guitarist Mike Schleibaum during opening day of Mayhem Festival and they gave us some insight on their new self-titled album and shared their thoughts on playing the summer trek. Check out our chat below:

Congratulations, here we are at Mayhem, and there’s a new Darkest Hour album coming as well. Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do going into the album, and how close did you come to your original idea?

John Henry: I think we definitely went into this thinking that we wanted to kind of reinvent our sound a little bit, change it up, and you know, we have like two new members, and that’s really made a huge difference in all the new material. It’s just kind of everything influencing us. Everything from Pantera to …

Mike Schleibaum:Metallica to Slayer to Megadeth … you know, I mean, it was more like, you study the great thrash greats, you know what I mean? Like, Exodus, Testament, Death Angel, like there’s some awesome thrash bands, but it’s hard to break out of being just a thrash band. Sometimes it’s cool to own it, but like Testament teeters into different waters, especially now that they’re older, and Metallica is off the rails, so I think what we were really trying to do was break open the mold of just a thrash band or just a melodic death metal band. But to do that was really painful, and a long process, so I think saying it is a lot easier than doing it, so that’s what happened.

How much of the new album are you working into your set?

JH: We played two new ones today. We just released a song on YouTube, it’s called ‘Wasteland,’ and they’re going to be pumping the other ones out as they feel fit.

So tell me a little bit about ‘Wasteland’ and how that song came about.

JH: We started writing it a long time ago. Like four years ago, or something. It kind of got put on the back burner.

MS: Well, it was too different, you know? A lot of the songs on the album that came were around, and were cool ideas, but always got shot down because they didn’t fall within the strict guidelines. We had stuff where we wanted it to be. And ‘Wasteland’ wasn’t originally our pick to introduce the world to the record, but as the themes of the album developed and as people around us reacted, we realized we had to kind of just put something out that was like a definitive, ‘Hey, this is not a thrash song, but it’s okay.’

The heart and the soul of the band’s still there. To me that song sets up the entire album lyrically, thematically, so it’s a really good first impression, but the album takes you in a bunch of different places, so, I don’t think people should expect like a sludgy, like, Pantera-esque worship. That’s just our homage, that one song, I know.

Do you have any particular favorite tracks off the new album?

JH: The second one we played today, the ‘Rapture and Exile’ song, is maybe my favorite. I don’t know. It’s definitely the heaviest song we’ve ever written, I would say. I just think the style to me, it’s almost more like Pantera or like Integrity, or something like that. It’s just pure, raw… you know, anger.

MS: There’s another song that’s a duet, like John does and there’s a girl that sings on it, and it’s kind of like, got a little bit more of an acoustic feel and I think that’s a super cool song. That will be real different for people to hear. There’s one or two rockers that are kind of just mid-tempo, rocking, and then a couple of thrash songs. But, the one that stands out to me is the duet, I think that will be interesting for people. That would be cool to try to do live, but I don’t see that happening at like an event like this.

What’s opening day of Mayhem been like for you?

MS: It’s f—ing hot.

JH: It’s definitely really hot, but, a lot of energy.

MS: The bus AC’s broke … so yeah, I don’t know how the people handle it.

JH: I don’t know how people are out there moshing for like a whole set.

MS: They’re f—ing moshing their d—s off, that’s for sure.

JH: Yeah, it’s awesome.

Great lineup this year, a lot of different styles of bands. Are there any acts you’re most interested to see?

JH: I was stoked to see Body Count. And I’d like to see Korn, too, actually. I’ve never seen them before.

MS: Yeah, we have a lot of our friends are playing too, like obviously Veil of Maya, I’ll check out their set. Or Suicide Silence, I’ll check out their set. We partied a few times with different people from Cannibal Corpse, but never had the honor of getting our stripes…

JH: Oh yeah, I’m really stoked to see them..

MS: They’re in there, too.

JH: I hung out with George [of Cannibal Corpse] last night, he’s super … he’s like the nicest guy ever, it’s awesome. He’s like the friendliest dude I’ve met in a long time.

Our thanks to Darkest Hour’s John Henry and Mike Schleibaum for the interview. Their self-titled album is out now via Sumerian Records. You can order it now at iTunes. And look for the band on the Mayhem Festival all summer long at these locations.

Watch Darkest Hour’s Video for ‘The Misery We Make’

See Darkest Hour Photos From the 2014 Mayhem Festival's Opening Day

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