The tides of a touring band

By Alexis Tomrell

Melodic death metal band Darkest Hour has been going since 1995, and according to guitarist Mike Schleibaum, they aren’t planning on stopping anytime soon. 

The band, from Washington D.C., has released six full length albums and seen their fair share of band members come and go.  

The Oakland Post got a chance to talk with Schleibaum about their current tour, lyrical content and the originality that sets them apart from other bands.

The Oakland Post: What aspects of this tour are you most looking forward to?  

Mike Schleibaum: It’s been a really long time since we’ve toured with Dillinger Escape Plan, it’s really cool because so much of the music industry turns over so fast and trends fade so often that we find ourselves on tour with new bands all the time. 

It’s nice to be able to go on tour with a band that we’ve kind of grown up alongside and always seems to push what they’re about. The other bands are super cool, like the first band, Animals is Leaders, is some people from D.C. which is very rare that we’ll tour with anybody who’s from where we originated. It’s a really exciting lineup to be a part of, which is kind of rare in today’s rock world. 

The Post: What sets Darkest Hour apart from other bands? 

Schleibaum: I think it’s definitely a pretty unique sound as far as metal, the combination of metal and punk. We were formed originally around the mid-’90s. There were a couple bands that started with a similar style, like Shadows Fall came out around the same time, and then soon after there was Unearth and God Forbid and there were some bands that emulated mixing American style metal with what the Swedes were doing. The unique thing about Darkest Hour is when people say metal-core they talk about the mix of metal and hardcore, but to me our sound is a true mix of metal and punk, and if you understand the genres of music you can understand what the subtle differences are. We’ve got a little niche in the extreme music world. 

The Post: What drives your lyrical content? 

Schleibaum: All of the songs are about a lot of different things. For the entire history of the band we’ve tried to have what we considered to be intelligent metal lyrics. They’re not really about ripping off your friends face and eating it or something like that, but usually about relationships or politics or life experiences. I think lyrically we’re open to many things that metal bands, especially death metal bands, wouldn’t touch.  

The Post: In an interview last year you mentioned your latest album, “Eternal Return,” came out of a difficult time for the band. Have things gotten better? 

Schleibaum: It just came out of a hard time in the sense that we were at the end of our Victory contract, we’d been with that record label for 10 years. When you’re part of the record label model, it’s kind of important to how things operate in the band and the contract was pretty much at the point where everybody knows it’s going to be over soon it just really becomes impossible to make a creative energy and put it out there for the world. 

“Eternal Return” is always going to be this tortured little creation that never got the same chance that all the other records got. I know that some of the other guys in the band, including myself, feel like it is their favorite record and every time we play the songs they have a special meaning to me because of the journey that it took to get them and the journey that they took when they came out. It’s like having a kid that ended up in jail. You still love him, but it’s the tortured one.  

The Post: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your experience with Darkest Hour? 

Schleibaum: It’s definitely the records. I mean even the older records I could list every flaw I have calculated in my brain and believe me, as an artist you’ll cut yourself up all the time. What I consider mistakes — in the end those mistakes are what make the band have personality. When I talk to people that like the band and connect with the music it’s those things that give it character to them. 

The Post: What are your five-year plans? 

Schleibaum: I hope that I still feel proud of the records that we put out; I hope that there are still the same guys around me and I hope that we can still connect to people and find happiness doing music. I think if you hope for anything else, you always get caught up in realizing that you’re hoping for the wrong things. I think the only thing to shoot for in any five-year goal is just to continue to be happy, proud of what you’re doing and moving forward. 

Darkest Hour play the Eagle Theater in Pontiac Thursday, April 1 with Dillinger Escape Plan, Animals as Leaders, Iwrestledabearonce and Wilson.

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