Something old, something blue

Now and again, something happens in life where you get pulled into a big nostalgia trip. This has recently happened to me.

Craig Daynes and I occasionally have a beer together, usually along with our respective partners. We all see each other maybe once or twice a month and it’s usually by accident more than design, which is kind of cool as the spontaneity often makes it a better night.

We used to be in a band together some 21 years ago and have been friends ever since. We probably see each other more than any of the other ex-members do to be honest as we are the only ones still permanently resident in Bradford. Craig is a drummer but sadly hasn’t played for many years. Consequently, his partner Sean, with whom he has been for around 15 years has never seen him play on stage.

The band we had was called Dark Embrace and was kind of our first “proper” band (I had done bits before but nothing much). In recent years, Sean has often suggested that we get together for a reunion which is something I have always pretty much refused. It was all a very long time ago and there were certain personal aspects of the situation which I did not (actually still do not) care to revisit. Some parts of the past should stay there.

Anyway, after months of him bringing the subject up, I eventually submitted and said that if everyone else was up for it then I reluctantly would be. Following this, I saw Simon Thorley who played guitar in the band. It was the first time we’d seen each other in years and we had a really nice catch up. Coincidently, a few weeks later, Tony Wildwood the band’s old vocalist turned up in town whom I had not seen for going on for a decade. Craig had a good catch up with him and to a lesser extent I did (it was a gig night for me so was too preoccupied).

Following this, Craig became especially nostalgic, which got us to thinking that maybe the question could be asked to the wider band membership. Although still reluctant, I wanted to proceed with it mainly because I saw how happy this was making Craig and I would very much like to see him play and play alongside him again. The question has been asked and thus far feedback has been fairly minimal but not negative.

Further to this, I went back and watched a very old video recording of us playing in 1995. The sound and video quality leaves a lot to be desired but I listened intently all the way through. There were some songs and musical passages I could not even remember doing but it sent my imagination running and wondering how whese songs would sound now with the benefit of experience and better equipment. Some of it has stood the test of time rather well and it invoked memories of a very exciting, creative time. I was 20 years old and full of youthful passion.

I also happened about this article, which was a fairly in depth review of our demo tape, along with an interview with bassist Daryl Parson. It was not long after I had left the band and in the biography section, it cites musical differences as to the reason for this. In reality, my reasons were not musical or even personal. The music was great and I loved those people like family. We were a pretty close unit at the time. Thinking back, I had no good reason to leave the band and to this day I cite it as being one of the few regrets I’ve had on my musical journey. I was also in another band at the time and I got caught up in the excitement of that. I had convinced myself that I could only manage one band and so foolishly sacrificed Dark Embrace. Reading through the interview amplified that regret and brought many memories and old feelings flooding back. It has been quite a strange experience. They went on to make some (from what I remember to be) phenomenal music with my replacement Rohan Lander, who was such a lovely sweet guy and a brilliant musician. I remember seeing how close they all became and remained after I left and how much I regretted my decision.

Still, it was over 20 years ago and I have been in around 10 bands since, currently happily managing to play in two bands.

So what happens next? Well, the jury’s very much still out. For all I have appeared to enthuse about the reunion idea, I am still fairly anxious about the whole thing. As it stands, Daryl is unable to play for quite some time due to an ongoing injury so this will give us plenty of time to ponder further. Nevertheless, the box has been opened.


Dark Embrace

Profile by Richard Stuart

 
Review of “Tears Of Pain” + Bonus

Dark Embrace play a gothic kind of doom metal… very noticeably English, although that’s not necessarily a negative thing. It’s going to be hard for me to avoid the usual cliches such as “melodic, gothic, well executed, impressively tight,” etc… because they all apply to this band. Of course, the production isn’t overly crisp, since this is just second-generation demo quality… but given a decent studio budget, these tunes could really shine. Daryl tells me in his letter that the band have improved musicially since this demo, which was recorded early last year. I have no doubts that this band could become Peaceville’s new lovelies, or something. Obviously the music isn’t up to Dominion’s standard quite yet, but the potential is definitly there. This easily rivals what I’ve heard from The Blood Divine, though, IMO. Dark Embrace are recording a new demo later this year, “Under The Veil Of Winter” (sounds like the sort of title Thus Defiled would use) so watch out for that.

I’m pleased to report that their keyboard player can actually play. So many bands these days simply incorporate synths into their sound in a last hope for atmosphere, and think that two alternate “oohs” on a Casio will suffice. Thankfully, the synth here is of a higher standard. There are some piano sections which remind me of Theatre Of Tragedy, and a full synth fest (either the outro to the song “Dark Embrace,” or a whole track in itself… things got vague as to which song was which around this point) reminiscent of the mighty ‘Filth. The guitars are also well played, not as Maidenesque as many melodic metal bands are these days, yet still peppered with delightful chord changes and what have you. The drums seemed fine too, although the band now have a new guitarist and new (temporary) drummer.

The vocals are mostly the typical doomy style… thankfully not moaned and groaned so much as “sung whilst spoken” in a David Bowie fashion (pun intended although not very amusing). There are also some death vocals, which don’t half remind me of Anathema’s “Serenades” album. The clean singing could be improved a tad, although the guy’s hitting the right sounds. The spoken style often contributes a rhythmic catchiness which is also a typically British trick of the trade.

“Lost Dreams” is one of my favourites here, if anyone’s interested in standout tracks. It’s melodic and incredibly well executed, with a great piano and drums outro. I think this demo will appeal to people who like My Dying Bride and what have you… although Dark Embrace, despite the songtitles etc, aren’t as slow and depressing as many bands of this ilk.

 
Information
 
Biography

(provided by the band)

Formed during a cold Spring of 1994 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Dark Embrace are a band unafraid of bringing as many diverse influences as possible into their sound. Each member of the band has their own individual set of influences, ranging from My Dying Bride to Marillion to Dream Theater to Emperor, and everything in between!

Dark Embrace started life as a three-piece consisting of Tony, Craig and Daryl. Guitarist Alec and keyboardist Emma were to join later, the full line-up to be rounded off by Simon, also on guitars. With this line-up, Dark Embrace have had a string of successful gigs, supporting such luminaries as Anathema, Napalm Death, Solstice, Hecate Enthroned and Cradle of Filth.

However, musical differences were to rear their ugly heads and Alec left, to be swiftly replaced by Rohan on guitars. The current line-up remains strong to this day:

Tony - Vocals
Rohan - Guitars
Simon - Guitars
Daryl - Bass
Emma - Keyboards
Craig - Drums

Dark Embrace have already released one demo, the critically acclaimed “Tears of Pain”, a powerful showcase of their unique blend of epic doom metal, gothic overtures, and progressive majesty.

Dark Embrace are currently working on their long awaited second demo, “Under the veil of winter” which they hope to have ready by the Winter Solstice, 1996. Supporting this, they will be playing as many live dates as time allows.

Dark Embrace have high hopes for the future, and hope to bring their original musical style to as many people as possible!

 
Interview

(with Daryl)

Sure, England is overflowing with melodic doom bands with gothic tendencies, but this band truly does have a unique approach to their music, without sounding totally off the wall. Being the inquisitive man I am, I thought an interview with this promising band was long overdue, so here it is…

First of all, why the bandname Dark Embrace?

Well, we didn’t start out with that name. When there were just the three of us; Tony, Craig and myself, we decided on the name ‘Bitter Existence’, half of which we got from a beermat! Later on, after we learned how to play, we chose the name ‘Dark Embrace’ because it sounded cool!

More seriously, we like to think that the concept of a ‘Dark Embrace’ is reflected in our lyrics as well as our outlook on life. We’ve all been in a ‘Dark Embrace’ of sorts; be it on the verge of suicide, in a loveless relationship, in a shit job, being stuck below the poverty line, being betrayed by people you trusted as friends, and many other unhealthy situations. Surrounded by an ever encroaching black hopelessness that seeks to engulf us all as we search for some sense of meaning in our empty, hollow, lives…

Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

Do you think your band has anything unique to offer the listener?

Most certainly! Our strength is in our diversity! Each member of the band has their own far-reaching individual musical tastes. These influences become apparent during song-writing, as we’re brave enough to have an open mind and try anything! As long as the music comes naturally, we’ll play it!

We hope that people listening to our music can appreciate the wide range of influences we have, and accept us as being something a little more original than whatever ‘flavour of the week’ the masses are following.

“Suicide,” “Bitter Existence,” “Desireless…” some typical examples of your chin up cheerful songtitles! Are you all manic depressives?? Why are you so attracted to the doom and gloom side of things, like many other English bands?

Have you ever tried living in Bradford? It’s crap!

Although we hail from the Doom capital of England(tm), we’re not really as miserable as our song-titles would lead people to believe! Our lyrics aren’t necessarily a direct reflection of our lives, but are more like ‘stories’ reflecting the darkness within us all. There may be a lot of misery and anguish in our lyrics, but we never let it overwhelm us.

In all reality, we find that the ‘darker’ side of life is a hell of a lot more interesting to write about. We’re aiming for a more atmospheric style these days, which means we’ve rehearsed in candlelight more than once, and we do wear black most of the time, but that doesn’t make us ‘morbid’, does it?

There are six people in the band… is this an advantage? Are there many arguments and creative differences? Do you ever meet each other on a purely social basis?

Yes and No. How’s that for a cryptic response?

Yes, we argue and squabble, but it’s good-natured. We don’t have any fragile little egos to worry about getting bruised. I suppose the main reason we keep ourselves sane is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously as people. We DO take the band and our music seriously however. Together, the band is far greater than any one of us. Each of us is willing to yield for the greater good of the band.

I’ve never had much faith in bands that boast that they’re “The best (insert sub-genre here) metal band ever!” Once you reach that level of overconfident bullshit, the music is bound to suffer. Sure, it’s nice for any of us to be told that we’re good musicians, but we’re not perfect! Confidence doesn’t come from forcing how wonderful you are down people’s throats. And without the ‘fans’ (for want of a better word, we’re not THAT popular yet!) listening to and appreciating our music, we’d be nothing! We’re a very sociable and approachable band, and don’t have any sort of ‘rock star’ attitude stifling our creativity. And we never will!

Remember: If you think the sun shines out of your arse, then the shit’s gonna have to come out of your mouth!

We all get along pretty well together in the ‘real’ world. We’re not the sort of band that can’t stand the sight of each other, rehearse for a few hours, then go our separate ways until the next rehearsal. We always get on well with each other outside the band. We’re like a big family really, scraps and all!

How would you answer certain critics who say that keyboards have no place in metal music?

I put this question to Emma and she gave a simple answer: “Bollocks!”

I think that keyboards certainly have a place in the type of music we play. We’ve got the raw power of our twin guitars which could easily become overwhelming were it not for the finesse of our keyboards. We’re always striving to find a delicate balance.

In a way, we’re lucky as we’ve got a keyboardist that knows what she’s doing! There’s far too many bands out there who add some simplistic synth bits as an afterthought, just because that’s what everyone else is doing. We’re a bit more advanced than that, and write our songs around the combination of all musicians equally. This only means trouble in the short run, as three and four part harmonies are becoming the norm. But, once we’ve all worked out what we’re doing and when, the music sounds a hell of a lot better for it!

The keyboardist is the only female in the band. Does she ever feel outnumbered?? Is everyone’s role in the band equal?

As stated above, we’re all equals. We have to be, otherwise we’d only end up driving each other crazy!

As far as Emma’s reproductive plumbing goes: That’s not a problem. We’re a band of equals, which means everyone gets a fair say, regardless of gender. Certainly, when she started out with us two years ago, she wasn’t as cynical and foulmouthed as the rest of us, but in time she’s fit in quite nicely! (And can normally drink most of us under the table, more’s the pity!)

You’ve supported Cradle Of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, and similar bands. Do they live up to their image in “real life,” or are they basically “normal” people? Are there any bands you would refuse to share a stage with?

Before I answer this question, I’d just like it on the record that ‘Dark Embrace’ are not a band that takes any pleasure whatsoever in slagging off other bands in the scene. When all’s been said and done, we’ve all got to stick together and support each other, because there’s far too many people out there who want to see the whole metal scene wither and die, without us doing most of the backstabbing ourselves…

However, we can certainly say that we will NOT be supporting CoF for a long time to come. Although they are bloody successful in what they do, and have brought extreme concepts to the imagination of the mainstream, their newer fans have a disturbing single-mindedness that makes supporting them an uncomfortable position.

They’re a good band, just not one we’d like to play with again…

Without naming any other bands we’d refuse to share a stage with, it goes without saying that we wouldn’t want to be on the same bill as any band that promotes intolerance, arrogance, or outright hatred.

Conversely, we’d really love to do gigs with bands like Dominion, Amorphis, The Gathering, Orphanage, and Therion. I suppose it makes things a lot easier for us all if we’re playing the same style of music!

What do you think of religion in general, be it Christianity, Satanism, Paganism or Buddhism?

Well, each of us have very different views towards religion. There’s one thing we all agree on though, and that’s to live and let live. We’ve got no time at all for these idiots who have to force their religion down other people’s throats…

They’re one of the reason’s that city life’s so crap these days! If you’re walking down a typical high street and someone approaches you with a smile on their face, you’d think they either want some money off you, or they’re going to tell you how wonderful whichever ‘God of the week’ they believe in is…

You wouldn’t for a minute think that maybe they’re just being friendly, or are interested in you as a person. It’s all false smiles and outright lies. They think they’re getting closer to their god by irritating as many other people as possible…

And regardless of belief, it’s these zealots that do their cause far more harm than good…

Are you interested in ghosts, the paranormal and all that lark?

In a sense we all believe in the supernatural, in one form or nother. There’s a lot ‘out there’ that we don’t understand, or can’t explain rationally. We’ve all got a healthy interest in the unknown, and have even written songs about it!

Personally, I’m convinced that H.P. Lovecraft knew a hell of a lot more about the supernatural than what he left us in his writings!

Ideally, how popular would you like Dark Embrace to become? Are you content with keeping a reasonably low profile in the music world, or would you like to reach a wider audience than just the underground metal scene? (For instance, I’m sure that some David Bowie fans would find something of merit in your music…)

Hey! Enough with the David Bowie already!

Sure, it’ll be nice to be really, really popular. To have hordes of groupies ready and willing to succumb to our every peverse desire. To have our own range of fully-posable action figures and video games. The usual ‘big star’ gumph! But if that means having to change ourselves from the people we are now to something a lot easier to market, then I’m afraid we’ll have lost far more than what we’ll have gained.

What I’m really trying to say is that yes, we want to be popular, we want our music to reach as many people as possible, we want to break through this wall of bullshit that the masses put up against anything slightly ‘metal’. But if that means changing the style of music we play, ‘selling out’ for want of a better phrase, then it’ll be a hollow victory.

Like us for who we are, not for who you want us to be.

And we’re certainly not going to wait around for the next bandwagon to come rolling along. Although if more kids start wearing ‘In the Woods…’ T-shirts instead of ‘Offspring’ ones, then maybe the world will be a better place after all!

Who is the “son” who’s mentioned in the song “Sleep?”

The song ‘Sleep’, and ‘Suicide’ in general, is about a person that has lost the will to live. His inner voice, his ‘conscience’, has become so polluted with angst and self-hatred that he’s trying to convince himself that it’ll all be a lot easier if he turns his anger and frustration inwards and destroys himself.

The ‘Son’ is his inner self, locked away in a cell of his own making. Looking through the ‘bars’, he can see that the world’s still going on out there, regardless of whether or not he makes a contribution or not. So ‘thoughts of death’ cross his mind, and when he tries to comprehend the future, there is no escape from this torment.

He takes a gun, and points it against his head. In his final search for inner peace, he realises that this is the only answer. The only way out. He pulls the trigger…

At that last split second, on the brink of death, he realises just how precious life is, for even in misery, he at least has his humanity! The walls that he’s built around himself finally come down, and he wants so desparately to live. Of course, by this time it’s far too late, and he is killed instantly…

The moral of this story? Manic depressives and loaded firearms don’t mix!

That last bit isn’t reflected in the version of Suicide we’ve got on our demo. We added another section to it after the original was recorded. But what you see above is the full story, make of it what you will!

Did I mention that we’re not really morbid? Honest!

What albums have you been listening to recently? Any you’d like to recommend to the people reading this interview?

There are many albums we’ve all been listening to quite frequently. The hard part is getting everyone to agree on a list! We can safely say that most of us like all these albums:

Dominion – ‘Interface’ Absolutely amazing! And to think we’ve known them for years! (Back when they were still called Blasphemer!)

Therion – ‘Theli’ We’ve heard bits of this one and fell in love straight away! It makes what we do seem just a little bit too bland and simplistic!

Nocturnus – ‘The Key’ One of these days, Nocturnus are going to get the credit they deserve! They were geniuses in their time! Whatever happened to them anyway?

Iron Maiden – ‘Seventh Son’ There’s people out there who say that Maiden are crap because they’re not ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ anymore. To them we say “Grow up!” This is still their best album by far though! Up the Irons!

A good demonstration of our diversity would be to tell you what each member is listening to at the moment:

Daryl: Monumentum – ‘In Absentia Christi’ A marvellous blend of gothic romanticism and serene atmospherics. With a cool cover of ‘Fade to Grey’ as well! A thousand thanks to the witches at Misanthropy for replacing my scratched copy!

Tony: Amorphis – ‘Elegy’ Mainly because it’s different to most other bands in their genre, and is always interesting to listen to!

Emma: Psychotic Waltz – ‘Bleeding’ Her all-time favourite band of all-time! She’s even got her own PW T-shirt printed up!

Craig: The Prodigy – ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ OK, so they’re not ‘metal’, but both Craig and Simon love them!

(They’re not ‘music,’ either, in my opinion -Ricks)

Simon: The Gathering – ‘Mandylion’ He borrowed the CD from me a month ago and hasn’t stopped listening to it since!

Rohan: In the Woods… – ‘HEart of the Ages’ A sheer masterpiece of extreme metal and pagan ideology! Take the time to read the sleeve notes, they make a hell of a lot of sense!

What can we expect from your forthcoming demo “Under The Veil Of Winter?” Will this also be available for a blank tape only, or are you going to start charging hard cash for your music?

Well, we didn’t intend to be giving ‘Tears of Pain’ away when we recorded it! The reason it’s free (plus tape + postage, of course!) is that it was recorded with the old line-up, and thus isn’t an accurate representation of the band as we are now. So we were faced with a choice: Either bin the whole thing, and concentrate entirely on the new stuff; or give it away, making a few new friends in the process! We think we’ve made the fairest decision!

What can you look forward to on the new demo? A better production for a start! We intend to record all 5-6 tracks on one day and mix on the next, which means that we won’t be rushing around like the proverbial blue arsed flies trying to get everything done all at once!

We’ll be showcasing most of the new songs we’ve worked on, as they’re proving to be the best we’ve written so far! We’re aiming for a more ‘atmospheric’ release, with each song flowing into each other, rather than chopping and changing between styles. We’ll be trying to get a female vocalist in, to complement Tony’s singing. And if that works out as a permanent feature then we’ll have even more arguments in rehearsals! (But at least it’ll be cheaper for the rest of us!)

That’s it now, mate… do you have any closing comments?

Well, thanks for the interview, we appreciate the interest! Hopefully some of the answers make sense somewhere along the line… We’d just like to make one last comment to the people who are reading this.

We’ve had to endure a lot of bullshit over the years, from other bands saying they’re ‘better’ than us, and people who seem to think it’s cool to talk shit in general. The fact is, we’re not going to stand here and tell you how wonderful we are in return. What we are going to do is make this offer.

If anything we’ve rambled on about above makes any sense, then why not give us a listen? All you’ll need to do is send us a C90 tape and an SAE (IRC if you’re outside the UK), and we’ll tape you ‘Tears of Pain’. Free, Gratis, and for nothing!

If you like what you hear, then keep an eye out for ‘Under the Veil’ – coming soon to a distro list near you! And thanks for the support!

And if you don’t like it? Well, all you’ve really lost is the price of a few stamps!

Either way, you’ll have taken a chance, which is something too few people do these days! Most people prefer to listen to what they’re told to like by the mass media, and never have the opportunity to hear music that they might actually enjoy…

At times we just wish that more people would have the courage to think for themselves for once!

But anyway, I’ll stop trying to change the world and shut up for now. Feel free to email me at dparson@continuum.ragroup.co.uk to find out what we’re up to at the moment.

And if you want a copy of ‘Tears of Pain’, send a tape and an SAE/IRC to: Dark Embrace c/o Daryl 32 Rand Street Bradford West Yorkshire BD7 1RW ENGLAND

If there’s any bands out there who want to trade demos and arrange gigs and stuff, we’ll be glad to oblige! We hope to hear from you!

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One comment on “Something old, something blue

  1. Pingback: 2016 – Marching time and changing tides | Northern Stories

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