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Darkest Hour is set to release their first new record in seven years Perpetual | Terminal this Friday, February 23. The following is an interview conducted by Metal Injection’s own Dillon Collins with Darkest Hour vocalist John Henry. Pre-orders for Perpetual | Terminal are available here.

John Henry: Excitement is the right word [for our comeback]. It’s like, I’m a little nervous, but a good kind of nervous, you know? It’s something we’ve been working on. It’s been seven years since the last one. So it’s exciting for me. I mean, we’ve done it ten times now, so it gets… it’s more exciting, less nervous.

Dillon Collins: You know, obviously there was a little thing called COVID and that certainly had to impact matters. I know you guys were out supporting Deliver Us too, and you had a lot going on the last few years. But if you think back on the seven year gap between Godless Prophets and now, what are some of the major contributing factors for the delay?

John Henry: I think you can take the obvious COVID one [out]. It’s been a couple of years of inactivity, which in retrospect I think was was a good thing for the band. We had been going really hard for 20, 25 years or something almost. At that point, we were about to do our 25th anniversary tour in 2020. So, you know, doing it for that long and never taking a break I think was kind of tough on everybody or, not tough on everybody.

But when we did take the break, we realized – at least I realized – it was something I needed to kind of appreciate more. Like when you do something your whole life and then you have to stop doing it, when you get to start back up again, you realize how great it is. But I think also what contributed to the delay was just that we made this record totally on our own terms. We took our time with it. We didn’t have any… you know, we self-produced it. We found the label pretty much after all the material was written. So it wasn’t like we had a label pushing us for release.

That was really cool too, because up until now the usual process had been “okay. It’s been two years. You’ve toured a bunch on this album.” The label’s like, “you guys are going to make another record.” Now we’re self-managed. We’re doing everything on our own terms. And I think that let us take our time with it. There’s no rush, you know?

Dillon Collins: There must be something kind of freeing about not having the confines of a label structure or A&R coming in and, you know, having their say. Like, it must be something oddly freeing about that after nearly 30 years in this business.

John Henry: Yeah, it’s really great. Ee ended up teaming up with MNRK and they’re really hands off with everything. They really let us… they know that we’ve been doing this for so long. They know that we are competent and capable of running the band. So it’s a kind of a perfect partnership with those guys. It helps that we actually knew a bunch of them because a bunch of them worked at [Darkest Hour‘s former label EOne], which put out The Human Romance [in 2011].

Dillon Collins: Thinking back on that Deliver Us tour, did getting to go back into the back catalog inspire you in terms of this record? Just thinking of the different stages and avenues of the band and different moments along the journey of Darkest Hour. How was that process in terms of the creative for this one?

John Henry: I think partially. There’s like the the first song that we dropped, the title track. We like to say it’s like the entire catalog of Darkest Hour in one song. With this band, we’ve always wanted to keep true t our sound and also try new stuff. There’s always people who want to keep the original sound. There’s always people who want to try new stuff. I think we kind of pulled it off a little bit on this record, especially with the trying new stuff. I think there is a lot of new sounds on this.

Dillon Collins: I’m curious – as a vocalist, has your approach changed much at all in the last 10 or 15 years? Has your approach to tackling studio work, towards live performances – have you kind of settled into a routine, or is it something that was gradual to get there where you’re like “okay, now I know what I need to do to get the best performance out of myself.”

John Henry: It’s been a extremely slow learning process. For the first 10 or 15 years of the band, I was singing completely wrong. I was pushing as hard as I can. I was losing my voice all the time. I was in my 20s. I was partying all the time, and it just wasn’t very sustainable, you know? And I think the older I get, the more I think about these albums… I think I used to think of it more as like a collection of songs instead of the album as a whole. So now when we’re writing a record, I like to think like, “okay, we have this song, we have this song, we have this song. You know what? What else? What do we need to fill in the gap? What do we need to, like round this record out?”

So there’s that. And then as far as writing and as far as the performance part, yeah. Taking care of myself on tour is something that I have to do now. I’m not a kid anymore. I have to get sleep. I can’t party like I used to. But I don’t know, I still love touring. It’s still my life’s work, you know? It’s what we are. It’s all you know. It’s what we all live for.

Dillon Collins: I’m a big anniversary guy, and I know this year is an anniversary for The Eternal Return. Is that something that you’d like to do again like you did with Deliver Us? Say you didn’t have another album on deck this year – would it be something you would have been interested in with The Eternal Return, or that you’d do if you spaced it out?

John Henry: We’ve done it a few times, and it’s been fun. But I’m kind of over it. I’m not as much into doing things for nostalgic reasons as I am, you know, showcasing what the band is now. Not that I dislike that stuff or not that I’m not proud of all that stuff. We will still play those songs, for sure. But when you make a tour about one record that you did 15 or 20 years ago or something, it kind of dates you. People are excited about it because they were 15 when it came out or something, so it is fun. I still think it’d be cool to do maybe special festivals or something like that, but as far as doing a regular tour, I think we’re obviously going to focus on the new stuff and focus on, like what the band is now, for sure.

Dillon Collins: You mentioned that first track kind of being like an amalgamation of the entire catalog, which I really like that you said. I think you guys tackle pretty weighty subjects and themes on this like death, rebirth, and survival. And it really is almost like, “yeah, this band has been through a lot.” You’ve survived a lot. I’m curious in terms of the headspace of putting this one together. Did it feel like a dark record? Did it feel like a hopeful record? Like how do you assess it now, looking at it as the finished product?

John Henry: I think it definitely feels more like a hopeful record for me. You know, the last one was pretty dark. The last one was pretty pissed off, aggressive. I think that’s kind of where where I was, at least at that point in my life. I was not super happy. I was kind of an angry dude. And, I think that showed in the music and I think with this record, it’s like you said – it’s more about survival, pretty much. You know, what does it take to keep you going? What does it take to make you happy? So it’s definitely more positive than the last record, for sure.

Dillon Collins: Can you put yourself in the headspace where you think of this band in terms of 25, 30 years? Like if you think when you and Mike got together for this, it’s really in comparison to where you are now in your life. Can can you look at it through that lens?

John Henry: No, I can’t, because I can barely even remember. I mean, I was 15 when we started the band.

Dillon Collins: Know, it’s insane.

John Henry: And Mike was maybe 16 or 17. Back then, we were just kids in high school. I didn’t realize that this would be something I could do for my life or work or anything until around 2000 when we started really getting serious tour offers. I was going to community college was not really feeling that. Mike was like, “hey, we’re getting offers to do real tours, like a month tour all around America. It’s amazing.” I was like, “yeah, all right.” Fast forward to 20 years later and here we are now. It’s been a minute.

Dillon Collins: And obviously pretty lengthy tour kicking off pretty soon. You’re going to take this music everywhere, man. How do you feel this is going to translate live?

John Henry: The band now is definitely the tightest we’ve ever been, the most kind of professional we’ve ever been. I think because we came from the real DIY punk hardcore scene, which was kind of anti-professional, it’s like yeah, [being professional is] not cool. It’s not cool to have a light show or backdrops, and you know, who cares what it sounds like and all that.

So I think we’ve been slowly stepping it up throughout the years. But you know, we’re at the point now where our goal is just to put on the best show possible and to sound as good as possible. We try to tailor the set lists in a way that we think people will be excited. So, yeah… and this is going to be the longest tour we’ve done. Definitely since the pandemic, we haven’t done a full five plus week loop around the States and Canada in quite a while. So we’re really super excited for that.

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