I’ve been promoting Darlington based Folk/Black metallers Old Corpse Road for about a year now but never seen to find the time to get sat down and write an interview for them. Now though the time has come, so wearing my brand new “Tis Witching Hour” T-shirt and with the new album blasting in my ears I finally got down to business.
Hi guys and cheers for talking to me, first of all the band name. It comes from the actual old corpse road that runs fairly near to your Darlington home and you’ve fashioned an impressive looking logo from it. How did the decision to adopt this as the band name come about?
Hi Luke, thanks for taking the time to ask us these questions. Regarding the name and its origins, the Old Corpse Road is actually a corpse road found in the UK Lake District, specifically at Haweswater, a reservoir fairly close to Penrith. The corpse road itself runs over the fells from Mardale to Shap. In relation geographically to our hometown of Darlington (which is in the east of the country) it’s perhaps only an hour’s drive across the Pennines.
As friends, The Dreamer and I were on a regular visit to the Lakes and more specifically a return visit to one of our favourite haunts, which is Haweswater. We’d noticed the footpath named the Old Corpse Road before but never really paid it much attention, being as our main focus tended to be the beautiful walk around the lake. Upon our return home, The Dreamer looked it up and we discovered that corpse roads are present all across the UK and that the Old Corpse Road was just the name of that specific trail. Corpse roads are ancient trails which our superstitious and religious ancestors used to transport bodies from church to burial ground. People could only be buried in hallowed ground and often churches didn’t have a hallowed burial site and therefore the closest burial site was often miles away. Because of the superstition, the coffins had to be transported in the most linear method possible, which was often over a large fell. It was also said that these pathways were haunted by fairies and wraiths and the like.
Learning this we agreed it was a great name for a band. We’d wanted to form another black metal band for a while and this just felt so right. It was also therefore a very easy decision to follow the lyrical path we chose, based purely on the folklore and legend of the British Isles.
You recently released your debut album “Tis Witching Hour… As Spectres We Haunt This Kingdom” and as a limited edition you included a little piece of the old corpse road in the package. What made you feel the need to do this and what response have you had?
As black metal fans (and music fans in general) many of the band members are devoted collectors of cd’s, vinyl and occasional tapes . More so found in metal music, there’s a great love for limited versions, special editions and rare collectors items. Obviously the music is the most important thing to any fan, but many of us like the unique items and the attention to detail which many bands put into the packaging for their releases.
With Old Corpse Road we have always paid a great deal of attention to our theme, lyrics and art in order that the listener can truly receive the best experience that they can. It seemed only fitting that with our first full length release we could give the listeners an actual piece of the Old Corpse Road. On another visit to the area The Dreamer collected small stones from the path and we decided it would be a great idea to do a limited run of 100 albums as a collector’s piece for those who wanted it. We had a great response to this and within 2 weeks of the album’s release all of these limited versions had sold out along with many standard versions for those who simply just wanted the CD.
The album itself is superb as my review will testify too. It’s charismatic, brutal in places, graceful in others and is an all-round fantastic record. Where did you draw inspiration from for the record and what influences you the most?
Thanks, that’s great to hear. As with all of our releases, we draw inspiration from British folklore and our natural surroundings. Throughout our career I feel that we were slowly building up to the moment that was ‘Tis Witching Hour. On a musical level we take a great deal of inspiration from mid to late 90’s black metal, e.g. Cradle of Filth, Bal-Sagoth, Emperor, Abigor but aside from black metal the early UK doom scene played it’s part such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Also grindcore, death metal and classic metal are all definite influences on our music. Aside from metal, folk music, ambient music, classical and film scores have made a definite imprint.
What kind of feedback have you had for the album so far? As a band are you happy with how it all came out?
When the album came out we really didn’t know what to expect. As a band we were all very happy with it and we were delighted that fans both old and new seem to love the album in general. We’ve had nothing but positive reviews and we got mentioned in many end of year polls, most notably the Terrorizer Magazine polls where we got best newcomer and second best unsigned act.
Looking back on the finished product would you have changed anything in hindsight?
Quite simply, no. J
Who designed the artwork for the album? It’s an impressive piece and very striking/eye catching.
The Revenant, who performed guitar and vocals on the album (and the two previous releases) created the artwork from scratch. He’s a very talented young man and it was the natural choice for us to keep the creation of the art within the band. We were very pleased with how it came out.
Now one of your original guitarists has been having problems with his ears and has not been in the Old Corpse Road fold for nearly a year, although he is on the album. Josh Danby is filling in and doing a great job. Is this likely to become a permanent thing and will Josh be made a full time band member?
Sadly The Revenant has been suffering major ear problems and cannot be around loud noise, which in turn has meant that he cannot be part of the band until he heals. It’s impossible to say when or if this will happen but we wish him the best with his recovery. He will always be a part of Old Corpse Road. Josh, now known as The Seer, is the current replacement and should be seen as a permanent member of the band.
You’ve been touring all over the country for the new album, how is the tour going? Any funny or bizarre stories to share with us?
The tour has been going great. This year we’ve played a number of new places which has been nice and of course we’ve played some familiar haunts too. There are always a few stories, but a couple that spring to mind are our bassist falling backwards over a monitor during setup/soundcheck and our guitarist’s amp losing power mid-song. There was also a time in Newcastle which I believe you attended where the beginning of The Crier of Claiffe went awry when a rogue fan sang the intro along with us and was horrendously out of tune which in turn through our own performance off!
You have shared the stage with many great bands, most recently Forgotten Tomb, Isole and Ereb Altor. Who would you say your favourite bands to share a stage with are?
Over the years we have made many bonds with bands from our underground scene. Some of our favourites are Northern Oak, Ravenage, Primitive Graven Image, Eibon La Furies, Aloeswood, Ancient Ascendant, Ninkharsag and Infernal Creation. There are tens more I could list here as there’s generally a really great bond between most of the bands on the circuit.
Your earlier work included a split album with The Meads of Asphodel. How did this come about and are you happy with the way it turned out?
Back in the days where many bands used MySpace as a main method of communication, we were contacted by JD Tait (guitarist in The Meads…) because we’d sent him a track to feature on a free sampler for a webzine he dealt with. He liked our track so much (and apparently so did Metatron, the vocalist and main man behind The Meads) that they wanted to release a split with us.
We were of course delighted. I myself had been into The Meads since the late 90’s when their demo tapes first came out so it was a great honour and privilege to get this offer. We quickly put the finishing touches to the three songs which were already partly written and entered the studio once again to record them. This release really put us on the map and the link with The Meads really gained us a lot of exposure for which we are eternally grateful. Those who have the split will know that the now fan favourite ‘The Witch of Wookey Hole’ features on there. At the time we really had no idea how popular that song would become! From that it’s easy for me to state how pleased we were with how it turned out.
What kind of feedback have you received from the split and also your debut demo?
The split and demo received a very positive response. When we started Old Corpse Road we really had no idea what sort of impact we could make on the scene, and even whether anyone would like us. We simply wanted to create the sort of music which we liked and it turned out that other people quite liked it too. Like every band/release there is always positive and negative feedback and the majority of the comments and reviews we received were very positive. We really couldn’t have hoped for more.
Two songs spring to mind as fan favourites, “The Witch of Wookey Hole” and “The Old Corpse Road”. Are you sometimes surprised or taken aback by the response these songs get when you play live? Does it ever throw you to hear people singing along with your songs?
I think at first we were very surprised by the response to songs like those. If we are playing familiar territory then we aren’t as so much surprised anymore but it still always gives us a major high when we see people are singing along. I don’t think people singing along in general throws us, but there have been occasions where fans have sung the wrong lines or out of time/tune which can be distracting but rarely to the detriment of the overall performance.
Can you tell us more about the influence and themes behind “The Witch of Wookey Hole”?
The song is based on a folk tale from the Somerset area. There are some caves there in a small town named Wookey and in times past it was said that a witch lived there who was eventually exorcised and turned to stone. This stone still exists in the caves and has become something of a tourist attraction in modern times. When we wrote the music for the song and were looking for lyrical inspiration this seemed a perfect match. There’s a mixture of fast paced black metal, wherein the story of the witches deeds is told, through to the lamenting epic chorus, the church and Latin themed mid-section chant and finally a maudlin ending where the witch dies. Musically and lyrically it works perfectly.
Is there any material that didn’t make the album that will one day see the light of day?
No. We don’t consider any of our material to be filler or bonus material and our songs are generally worked on (at times for years) until we are happy that they are of album standard. Naturally some songs are more preferred than others of course…
There are other songs which were written before the album was released but these are in completion and are not yet recorded and will feature on the next Old Corpse Road release.
How far off a second album are you? Would it be through Godreah and how did the deal with your current label come about?
It’s almost impossible to say when, but what I can almost guarantee is that the wait will not be as long as it was between the split and the debut. I don’t want to say too much too early but let’s just say that work on the follow up is well underway.
With regards to Godreah, it is certainly a very likely option but we will explore all options for the next release. The deal with Godreah is somewhat of a gentlemen’s agreement. We aren’t bound by any contract and this is great for us as the rights of the music remain solely in the bands possession. Godreah have been extremely supportive of us and are great to work with so working with them again would only be a good thing.
What do Godreah offer up and coming bands like yourself and are they good to work with?
To follow on with the above, Godreah are an excellent label to work with. They offer us the freedom to do whatever we want with Old Corpse Road and their contacts within the scene have been invaluable to the band. Label owner Crin has a great love of the black metal scene and its related genres and it is this love which drew him to Old Corpse Road in the first place. We are forever grateful for what he has done for Old Corpse Road and the underground scene in general.
Finally, what does the future hold for Old Corpse Road?
Good things are certainly on the horizon and the band seems to be going from strength to strength. We have several festival gigs lined up for the rest of the year including Beermageddon, Northern Darkness, Warhorns and the recently announced Siege of Limerick (in Ireland) which will be our first trip away from these shores.
We have also recently signed a deal with Nazgul Booking Agency so we are very excited to see what they can do for us on the live front.