After enduring crushing sorrow, loss and personal grief, THE DARLING FIRE (members of Shai Hulud, Further Seems Forever, The Rocking Horse Winner, and As Friends Rust) return with their sophomore release. Distortions is a dark and pensive journey. It’s comprised of 10 tracks that encapsulate both beauty and pain, seamlessly combining elements of shoegaze, post-hardcore, and metal into a DNA-distinct blend. Ethereal, almost ghostly female vocals float above a pounding wall of sound. The end result is an album that is bleak, somber, and enchanting.
Today, we’re giving it a special treatment with the band’s first hand track by track rundown below!
Fans will find Distortions to be a significant departure from the band’s previous LP Dark Celebration. The band felt that new, aggressive direction more accurately portrayed the sadness, rage, and pain they felt and that it balanced the hypnotizing softness of Jolie Lindholm’s vocals. The push and pull style combines the haunting nature of My Bloody Valentine as much as The Deftones.
“It felt like a natural evolution for us to go in this direction — to create more movement…” says Lindholm.
The vast collective experience of each member of The Darling Fire is exceptional by any standard. Its members previously played with Shai Hulud, Further Seems Forever, The Rocking Horse Winner, As Friends Rust, and Strongarm. They worked with producer Jay Maas (Defeater, Title Fight, Bane) in the studio, furthering the band’s impressive pedigree.
The album reverberates with a fascinating look at what’s real and what might… not be real. “I’ve had very specific dreams and nightmares throughout my life that I still remember very vividly,” Lindholm says. “A dream can blur the line between what is and isn’t real. At times, we may wake from a good dream and want to fall back into it; or, we tell ourselves to wake from a nightmare, only to realize what’s happening on this plane is stranger than the one we just left.”
“Distortions” by THE DARLING FIRE is up now at Iodine Recordings.
Track by track commentary by singer Jolie Lindholm:
DISTORTIONS is heavier, with more layering and experimentation than our first album. We were inspired by life and the strangeness of everything going on around us, which led the writing down a much darker path. This is definitely the most authentic performance I’ve personally released, and I stretched beyond my own boundaries lyrically, and vocally.
We brought a concept into the studio with Jay Maas (Defeater, Bane), and he helped us give everything to these songs, which are a blend of the music we collectively love. We intentionally selected the sequencing for the album, because it was important for us to introduce existing listeners to the development of our new sound through a deliberate progression. It been a long wait, but we’re happy to finally send these songs out into the world to be heard by ears other than our own.
We wanted a strong intro to the album; this was the only choice. It’s a straightforward heavy rock song, with a stomping bridge that mimics a locomotive. We wanted to give people something to move to. “Machina” questions the reality of who really supplies the power; thoughts; currency; attention; time; compassion; and fear required to run this odd place we inhabit. How much of ourselves do we give to keep things running–providing an unlimited supply of rechargeable batteries to an unforgiving machine?
HEART WILL STOP:
This one is the most upbeat on the album, with a different energy, but the bridge slows things down and brings a twisted element of darkness. Written for someone I care about–just before the apocalypse–I didn’t realize its meaning would morph into a message for myself a short time later. I think everyone goes through difficult times in their lives (the obvious aside) and that’s what “Heart Will Stop” is about: having the strength to fight through those times, then make it through to the other side. It’s not an easy thing to do by any means, but if you can survive the turmoil of life, taking from it what you can to better yourself, you’ll be stronger and wiser when facing down the next thing that decides to fall in your path.
Born from experimentation while writing for DISTORTIONS, “Clean Hands” became something that’s heavier than our starting point, with an edge you can cut yourself on. There’s a clear tension there, winding up, with a dreamlike exhale in the center. We wanted to create movement with sonic energy. This song became a metaphor for those who feel trapped—cogs, strangled by the machine—lashing out and making the choice to pursue what they really love, so they can finally breathe. It seems to be more relevant than ever, but it was written before the craziness took hold–a bit of foreshadowing, I guess.
This is one of the earliest songs we completed before we really dug into writing for DISTORTIONS. It’s a segue from DARK CELEBRATION and one that we enjoyed playing live a few times shortly after that album was released. It’s different from the others, but its theme is still in line with the new album. Some have addictions they can’t control, and in “Downer”, that addiction persuades the user to give in to temptation. Its verses are kind of whispery, and quiet, like voices in your head. The choruses are more energetic and the bridge represents the user reflecting on what their vices are and addressing them directly.
As a multi-faceted writer, I’ve had many moments throughout my life where I’ve hit creative roadblocks. It seems like there’s no way around them, so I just muscle through. There are ups and downs, and I think most people that create face that. There are also moments when you feel like everything is coming together, but nobody else can see it. Those who can’t relate may try to stifle your creativity, and it’s up to you to push past that down the path you know you should be following. Not everyone has the strength to do that. “Amber” represents that journey, sonically, and lyrically, rising and falling. The past will haunt you no matter what you do—but if you use those memories to create, it will make your art that much better.
“Hers” is one of the earlier songs we wrote for DISTORTIONS. Like a crazy dream–or a nightmare–we wanted this song to take the listener on a journey, with a non-traditional structure, twists, and turns, although it has a definite theme that’s revisited through to the end. It’s about the strangeness of vivid dreams, and how they can sometimes feel so real that the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. Sometimes you feel like you’re falling, only to be jolted back into your physical body on this side of the plane. I’ve had many experiences like this during my life, and I can still remember a few childhood dreams and nightmares in detail that have stuck with me all these years. This is one of my personal favorites on the album.
This one almost didn’t make it onto the album. It was written just before we went into the studio, and the bass and drums were mostly conceived on the drive up to record. It’s a meaningful song for me, and I was relieved we were able to bring it all together just in time. “Perigee” is our shortest song, but its meaning is powerful. Soft verses meet driving choruses, with an end that varies in rhythm a bit. It’s about soulmates; the push and pull of two people orbiting each other for a lifetime and what that feels like.
“Rituals” takes off right from the start. There are ethereal little breaths mid-verse, with a dark bridge that slows things down and a chorus that began with a few written lines but developed naturally with the music. It’s an expression of what many feel throughout their lifetime. From birth to burial, we follow the ones we love down wicked paths. We haunt each other through life; through moments of love and hatred; at times pretending we’re fine so as not to worry one another. We all have our own rituals–things that keep us sane among the insane–walking a fine line between light and dark.
When we lose a loved one, we all have different ideas of where they go, and whether we’ll see them again. “Samsara” is for those loved ones. It’s what life drains from your soul, but also what you gain while you’re here facing it head on; putting aside those things that have caused you pain and learning from them. It’s also about the wonder of where you’ll go when you leave this place. Its dreamy verses run into choruses about the unknown. The bridge drops in at an unexpected place, literally dropping with an odd down tune, which I love about this song. It’s unconventional like I am. Then it ends with souls fading into the night.
“Legless” has a dual personality, but structurally, it symbolizes both the sorrow and the struggles that life presents, then everything falls away as we embrace our end. It’s a metaphor for the battle between light and dark–something hiding in the shadows, beckoning you to choose the wrong path; forcing you to gain the strength to face down your demons and do what you know you should. Jay Maas contributed guest vocals on this one, giving it the serrated edge that it needed. We felt like this was the perfect closer for the album, and it’s one of my new favorites to play live.