I am a forest
And a night of dark trees;
But he who is not afraid
Of my darkness,
Will find banks full of roses
Under my cypresses.
WEALD & WOE. The very name conjures rich imagery of times both archaic and arcane. Times of magic, mystery, adventure, deep lore and vivid histories… which, incidentally, is exactly what we get on the ripping debut album from these fine gentlemen, The Fate Of Kings And Men.
Well, I say gentlemen but these hymns of olde are moreso the product of just one fine gentleman: the talented Artos (also of By Fire & Sword) who takes care of every element bar the drums (expertly performed by Maelstrom). And before you make any assumptions, I don’t mean adventure in an epic black metal, Tolkien-worship sense either – think instead along the lines of Obsequiae, but with more gnarled metal riffs to feed your soul and a deep, underlying blackness that puts that project to shame. Sound good? It is, my friend. It is.
Yes, these songs shred. Some soar, packed full of moments that’ll make you want to bang your head in triumphant celebration. Others rage with an unrestrained primal darkness, whilst others still careen along like they could fly off the rails at any time. Many do all of that at once. But they’re also sophisticated, in a way, and incredibly down to earth – much like Artos himself, as you’ll see we discovered in our in-depth chat with the robed mystic. Needless to say, we’re beyond honoured to partner with the always exquisite Fólkvangr Records to share the exclusive full stream of this remarkable debut album with you, ahead of the limited cassette launch on October 23rd.
So, heed the call. Submit to sound and word below… and if you’ve never heard the raw majesty of Weald & Woe before, prepare yourself for the best album you’ll discover by an unknown band this year. I guarantee it.
Greetings, Artos! It’s a pleasure to speak with you today for the full stream of The Fate of Kings and Men. Now, I’d like to start with a little history, if I may – how did Weald & Woe come to exist? I believe you were already doing your fantasy/religion based heavy/power metal project By Fire & Sword at the time. What was the catalyst for heading in the much darker direction of Weald & Woe?
– My pleasure, thanks for the time. That’s correct, By Fire & Sword had really just started rolling as far as gigging and recording, which was around the summer of 2018. I had been in a bit of a dark place for a while and I was listening to a lot of Immortal and Bathory at the time – At the Heart of Winter and Hammerheart specifically – and found myself with a pile of riffs that were not suitable for By Fire & Sword, but I couldn’t let them go. Those ended up being the songs on the first EP Eternal Grave. By Fire & Sword is not a place where I pour my emotions since it’s so thematically driven, and Weald & Woe was a place I could channel what I was going through at the time.
The overall sound of Weald & Woe is fascinating; an incredible composite of rockin’ midwestern riffs, medieval & folk elements and sheer black metal fury. How did you develop this style? What bands were you listening to in your musical development that led you to writing material like this?
– For writing periods, I try to actively not listen to a lot of music, because I know that little bits of what I’m listening to will work its way into the writing. As a child we always had music around. My mom was big into country music and my dad showed me Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Yes, things like that. In high school I was big into Metallica and thrash, more shred-oriented stuff. I didn’t really get into black metal and adjacent styles until my early 20s and kind of discovered black metal and death metal at the same time. I responded more viscerally to black metal and that’s the path I’ve been on ever since. Lately, I listen to a lot of more ‘New Age’ type music; I’m huge into Enya and Monastery and I listen to the Howard Shore scores for the Lord of the Rings movies quite a bit. I spend a lot of time in medieval/folk based playlists on Spotify, I like Andrei Krylov a lot. For heavier music I listen to a lot of Bathory, the 90s period of Immortal, Wintersun, Forefather, et. al, but Obsequiae is far and away my biggest influence, with Godkiller’s The Rebirth of the Middle Ages as a close second. Those two live on repeat in my headphones.
I can definitely hear the Obsequiae influence! Now, after a killer EP and split with Candlewolf Disciple, The Fate of Kings and Men is your debut full-length. What was the writing and recording period of the album like? Have you been working on this material for a while?
– Thank you, we were very pleased with how that split turned out. I started writing the album in the Fall of 2019 and finished just after Winter earlier this year, right before everything got shut down, roughly 6 months or so. Writing tends to be pretty easy for me when I feel inspired or have an idea of what I’m chasing. Winter and the Holidays are pretty rough for me usually, so I was not lacking inspiration this time around. When I’m ‘cold,’ I can go a month or more without writing anything, which I’m thankful doesn’t happen very often. I’m lucky to have a lot of musician friends so whenever I finish up a rough demo of a song I’ll pass it around to a couple to get their thoughts and then go back and tweak things based on suggestions or after I’ve let them sit for a while. I record everything except the drums myself, so recording can go very quickly depending on how particular I’m feeling at the time. This writing process was just me holed up in my studio in my apartment for hours on end, trying to get my thoughts from my hands into the computer.
Do you feel you achieved everything you wanted to during the creation of the album? Are there any aspects of it or particular moments that you personally are especially proud of?
– I’m incredibly proud. I think the album turned out exactly how it was meant to. I would have loved the opportunity to get more folk instruments and choirs and stuff worked in, but that wasn’t in the cards (or my wallet) this time. Specifically I am the most proud of ‘The Land of Forgotten Suns’. That was one of the first songs that kind of kicked off the whole process and holds great meaning for me. I still get goosebumps when I hear it a lot of the time. I also thought ‘The Sadness of Mortal Man’ turned out excellent for being more of a shred track in the middle of a black metal album.
When listening through The Fate Of Kings And Men I obviously can’t help but think of sword & sorcery or history-based novels/games. Are you a big fan of these genres? Have you been inspired by any particular franchises, series or games?
– You’re entirely on the right track. I consume sword & sorcery like a maniac, and I’m huge into medieval-era history. I’m a pretty voracious reader so I spend a lot of my free time in fantasy environments. The Lord of The Rings has been a huge influence on me, and I find a lot of it in the music I like and even in my own music. I’ve always got it around. Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series has been hugely influential to me, George R. R. Martin, Asa Drake, Michael Moorcock, Robert Jordan, I love them all and could talk about them all day. ‘The Last Kingdom’ and ‘Britannia’ have been some of my favorite shows lately. Anything with swords and magic and I’m probably going to watch it. I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons inspired video games, and have been playing Pathfinder with a regular group for several years.
Man, I love the ‘Sword Of Truth’ series in particular… Rest In Power, Mr. Goodkind. Moving on to themes – the Bandcamp page shows the lyric “I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” I’ve not had the opportunity to read the rest of the lyrics as yet but that one seems like it could be meant either in a narrative sense as spoken by a character, or as a fantasy-based euphemism for yourself. What do the lyrics deal with on the record? Are they telling tales, or perhaps more personal?
– That’s actually a Nietzsche quote that I thought fit the album really well. I didn’t attribute it because people tend to try to look for deeper meaning in things when you put ‘Nietzsche’ next to them. It isn’t that deep. The album is a concept album and narratively, it’s pretty basic. A warrior encounters a problem he cannot solve and goes about trying to solve it. Lyrically, I took a bunch of issues and questions I had about life, death, existentialism, what-have-you and worked them into a narrative and let the main character hash them out throughout the album. So it is a story, but it’s personal to my issues, perspective and beliefs. Several of the songs are actually from the point of view of other characters, and some of the songs change POV in the verses, etc. I think you’d have to read the lyrics to catch it. I’m someone who spends a lot of time in my head and I can go pretty dark pretty fast so giving these problems to a character and building a story to have them encountered was a good way to give myself new perspective and wrestle those demons, while trying to make for an interesting narrative.
The energy and passion in these songs is remarkable, tracks like ‘Fate of Kings and Men’, the instrumental ‘Sadness’ and ‘The Blade Once Buried’ sound like they don’t only translate well to the live arena but are an absolute ball for you to play as well. How has this material been received when you’ve played it out?
– The only songs off this album that we’ve been able to play live have been ‘Our Sorrow Was Great’ and ‘The Seer and The Bird’, but the feedback has been fantastic. People have noticed the shifts in the songwriting and style from being balls-out “I hate everything and everyone” to “I still feel that way, but here’s a more elegant way of saying it,” and that has been very rewarding. There’s certainly still a lot of room for complete aggression – ‘Our Sorrow Was Great’ is the most aggressive track on the album and I placed it first for a reason – but as much as I love blast beats and going 100mph, sometimes you want to say things in a different way. We were going to play quite a few of the new songs at a show we had scheduled with Rotting Christ, Borknagar and Wolfheart, but that got rescheduled to 2021 because of the pandemic. We had a number of things in the works and everything has been very quiet since then. More time to read, I guess.
Hah, exactly. Speaking of that unfortunately rescheduled show – are there any more on the horizon?
– At this point in time, we have nothing scheduled. We live in a region (Boise, ID) that has done a pretty poor job of handling the crisis so things have opened and then closed and opened again and closed again, so that’s been tough. Our best venues are in bars, and almost no one is hosting live music right now. As soon as we’re able we’re planning to set up an album release show, but it’s hard to forecast when we’d actually be able to do that, but likely not until it’s safe to do so. We’d like to do some touring next year if able, and we’re always open to suggestions and invitations if someone feels like dropping us a line for opportunities.
In terms of physical releases, The Fate Of Kings And Men will be presented on cassette under the banner of the excellent Fólkvangr Records. How did this come to pass? Are there further formats on the way?
– I’d been a fan of Fólkvangr for quite some time, and I thought the album would fit in the catalogue nicely so I sent it over and they were on board pretty quickly. I had sent it to a couple of other labels who didn’t really seem interested or just didn’t get back to me, but Fólkvangr was enthusiastic and prompt and that carries a lot of weight with me. It’s a big honor for me – they’ve got some excellent releases under their belt and I am thrilled to be among them. If anybody isn’t familiar, I’d highly recommend Lords of the North, Tyrant Blood by Ancient Flame and The Garden of Abandon by Monastery. We’re going to put the album up on streaming platforms, Bandcamp and the like as well. So far we don’t have any leads on a CD release, but we might very likely just release that ourselves in the near future. [Edit – turns out they are!]
And finally, seeing as we are streaming The Fate Of Kings And Men in its entirety today, I will leave the last thoughts about it to you. If you had to sum up the album and what it represents to you and an intended listener, what would you say?
– The album personally represents a period of centering, regrowth and perseverance. Fighting the seemingly unwinnable fight because you have to. I would encourage listeners to gather whatever they will from it. More than anything, it’s a story and I want people to enjoy that story and the music. I don’t have any moral or philosophical agenda I’m trying to push, just a story about things I’ve struggled with. I don’t expect any two people to resonate with it in the same way, or in the way that I do, but that would be an excellent outcome. My intention is not to make anybody feel a certain way, but to make them feel something at all. I think indifference is one of the worst things someone can feel so love it or hate it, I’m just grateful people gave the album some of their time. Hopefully it was enjoyable!
Sincerest thanks for your time, Artos. Congratulations on the fantastic debut album. Any final words or wisdom for us all?
– Thanks for the time, I really appreciate it. Drink lots of coffee, read fantasy books and listen to Obsequiae.
The Fate of Kings and Men releases October 23rd via Fólkvangr Records.
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