Forefather – As we fight the Raging sea…

Last of the Line, the 6th full-length release by England’s Forefather, isn’t your typical folk/black metal affair that piles on the tongue-in-cheek silliness often propagated by the overtaxed and overpopulated genre, for I haven’t heard such sharp/smart melody lines and passionate singing in ages. Upon experiencing a track from this album that someone posted on Facebook, I was instantly hooked and sought after all this band had to offer. Forefather’s power lies in their amazing songwriting skills. Mighty hooks that never feel cheap or contrived, are effortlessly lifted by a crisp guitar tone and equally smart riffs. There is a unique atmosphere to this material that somehow withstands modern production techniques, to allow the listener to fantasize about ancient times, ushering them back through the years by way of melodious harmonies and brave pitch singing. You can almost feel the sea spray on your cheeks as the chorus from “The Downfallen” swirls it’s memorable refrain deep into your consciousness. It is this world building musical magic that sets Forefather apart from other, often more popular acts. For this reason, I had to reach out to the band for more of a glimpse into their processes and history. Athelstan was kind enough to unlock some of the mysteries for us all. -Marty

Greetings Athelstan! Many thanks for setting some time aside for this interview. There is a strong cohesiveness and focus that spins throughout all of the Forefather releases… like we are experiencing the culmination of your life’s body of work as you the artist realize and refine it. What does Forefather mean to you?

I don’t think we’ve reached a culmination yet. I always feel we can do better, but I do agree we’ve grown and improved and got much closer to something we feel satisfied with. There is a strong vision we have for Forefather which is difficult to describe, but it definitely keeps us on the right track, and like you say, focused on what we need to do. Forefather is obviously very important to me (how could it not be to spend all this time on it!). It’s my creation and I’m one of those people who feel the need to leave something of worth in the world after I’m gone.

Having shared this journey with your brother, does the meaning go beyond what one would expect from a typical band dynamic?

I think so yes. The strong vision will override certain aspects of the whole “band” thing. It’s totally about the music and the idea, so the usual distractions which may lead another band off course won’t affect with us. Forefather definitely feels like more than a just band, though it’s difficult to describe exactly what it is. I suppose it’s the closest thing we have to a religion.

I think I heard the leadoff track from Last of the Line on a Facebook post and was instantly taken with it. Through the course of 2 months, I tracked down and obtained all of your releases. You have such a unique and keen ear for melody that is powerful and infectious. Even though the older material is quality, there is still has an aura of a band trying to find and maintain its full potential. Would you agree with this statement and when you look back on your past works, how would you describe Forefather’s journey as songwriters?

I agree that when you look back on the earlier albums there is obviously a lot of good stuff there; great melodies and ideas though in some areas it wasn’t quite “there” (mainly in production only). On the last two albums we’ve definitely been a lot more satisfied with the end product. I think we’ve always been pretty good at song writing right from the beginning, but we’ve got better at squeezing more out of the songs in the latter production stages.

For me, “Steadfast” was in a lot of ways a breakthrough album where melody, song structure, production, and amazing riffs all aligned to create something that is in a class far loftier than the “pagan or folk metal” tag often used to classify the band. It’s like the foundation was finally complete and steadfast if you will (sorry…. couldn’t resist!) for the next phase of the band. As a songwriter and musician, did you feel like all the years of hard work and creativity was in a place you wanted it? Being the first release on your own label, do you think it received the exposure you hoped for?

I agree with your summation. I think we were a lot less restrained on that album and threw a lot of energy into it. You can hear that when you listen to it – it sounds pretty intense, maybe a bit too intense sometimes. It did feel like we’d started a new era, partly because there’d been quite a big gap between it and the previous album “Ours is the Kingdom”. I actually feel that “Last of the Line” is more of the foundation. Steadfast was the storm that shook things up, and it settled into the new “groove” with LOTL. I certainly feel more comfortable now, like we’ve reached the kind of place we wanted to get to, and now we can expand it more. It’s getting more exposure now via the USA version on MetalHit, which is a good thing as we had quite a limited promotion plan when we released it in December. We were mainly interested in getting the thing finished!

With Last of the Line, Forefather is hitting its stride taking everything great found on Steadfast, and expanding on it. Sharper guitar tone. Soaring melodies. Piercing chorus’. As you have built up your own studio and songwriting vocabulary, is this era of the band where you always envisioned it? How has the album been received and where do you go from here?

Yes I think we’ve got a good framework to build on now and we’re more comfortable in our songwriting system. Plus we’ve finally just about learnt to tame the beast of music technology! I fully intend to produce something better than both the last two albums next time around, which is what we always aim to do. Last of the Line has been largely very well received and taken as a mature step forward. You always have the usual types who don’t understand it of course, plus this time there seems to be a Steadfast contingient who have decided that it can’t be topped. Where we go from here is towards the next album, which we have a lot of music written for.

Lyrically, Forefather is a proud upholder of English history which is something that used to be a unique theme for a band from your country when you started. Where does this pride stem from? Your upbringing? Your personal exploration of historical events? What is it about the past that calls you back? For myself, the ways of life and quality of life were probably more difficult, but it all meant so much more to those that had to work hard to survive. There was more honor. Less complacency. Less apathy. Everyday was greeted with a new sense of purpose…

I agree with the sense of purpose thing. I’m not very suited to this world where we all just have fun and party. It seems pointless. You need to have struggled to appreciate the good times. There was certainly more room for honour in those times as it was essential to survival. You had to know who you could trust and bonds of kin especially were therefore very important. Our attraction to English history is a long story, but it started proper in our late teens from a sense that we weren’t really being allowed to be proud of being English, and this went against our instinctive feelings. So that naturally led us to look more into the matter and discover more about the history of our land and fellow countrymen. At the same time we started the band and it was the perfect theme which hadn’t been touched on much before in metal (at that time). I suppose our sense of English pride must just have developed naturally through upbringing, but it was not ever mentioned as an important issue, until more recent, politically correct times.

Having said that, do you see there as being any hope for the future? Future of England? The future of mankind?

I have to admit it’s all heading in a pretty worrying direction, but it doesn’t do much good to dwell on the negative. There is potential for good and improvement and all you can do is concentrate on that and project your vision as much as you can. The way I see it is there are two types of people in the world; the ones who are happy to live their life in the world as it was offered to them in a natural way, and those who are constantly trying to manipulate the world towards their deranged world view. All problems come from these people! And they rule us at the moment! Nature knows best.

Taken from “Proud to be Proud”: “Heroes passed unto ye we give hail. Mighty men without fear, without shame. Some will say that our pride is a sin. But in their name we’ll unite and we’re proud to be proud”. Staying true to your forefathers and being proud of who you are and where you come from, in spite of what others say. How do you carry this sense of national pride with you, and how is it perceived by others you come in contact with? Has this been seen in a negative light as far as the band is concerned?

I’m not the type of person to go around shouting my thoughts from the rooftops, so I carry it mostly within, other than Forefather which is our personal expression in musical form. If someone asks me I’ll tell them. Sometimes people will feel uneasy with talk of national pride as they’ve been programmed to believe this is a bad thing in relation to England. I can’t think of any specific instances where this has been viewed negatively regarding Forefather, but maybe it was a long time ago and I forgot. Sometimes interviewers will highlight this “problem” and mention the far-right, though this was more in the early days. It seems to have died down. It was probably that song (Proud to be Proud) that caused a lot of this.

From dealing with every aspect of the band, leading to the creation of your own label, Seven Kingdoms, Forefather is very much a controlled and nurtured entity. What lead to you wanting to start the label? Fear of a corrupt music industry? Or did you just want more of a hand in what went in and came out of your releases?

After being on a bigger label from 2003-6ish and having a generally bad experience, we definitely decided we wanted control over the whole process again (from ’99 to 02 we released the 1st three albums ourselves, before they were re-released later) to make sure we could be happy with the final product, as there were many things that bugged us. We’re meticulous about every detail on the albums we make, right down to the copyright blurb and every word in the booklet. Promises weren’t kept and it left us feeling like there was a mess that needed to be cleared up. We wanted to put an album out and feel satisfied with it. It felt like Forefather was too important to trust to someone else, especially a record label!

How has this desire to carry the financial burden yourselves effected the band? I’m sure it has been a learning experience, but have the successes and pride of ownership made this more of a personal victory? Should the right label come along, is there any desire to take some of the workload off your hands?

It’s satisfying to be in control of everything, but a lot of work, especially if you want to do a good job on promotion and distribution. Inevitably these aspects will suffer on self-released CDs, but it doesn’t bother us too much at the moment. I’ve had enough time leaning and sometimes enjoying the process of releasing CDs, so if the right label came along then yes I’d gladly let them do the work. If!

Is there a wish to expand the label to align yourselves with other like minded musicians?

In the early days of Seven Kingdoms we did release a couple of CDs by other bands as we were quite motivated to do that at the time, but at the moment we are content with just managing our own affairs. It’s enough effort to concentrate on your own music, and probably best to put all our energy into that. There are plenty of other labels around who can handle the many (probably too many) artists wanting to release material.

The internet has made our musical community/world seemingly smaller do to instant communication, instant gratification, and the ease of marketing. Having both a label and a band, how has this medium impacted what you do both good and bad? Many are calling for the death of CDs, or other such tangible mediums in favor of digital distribution. What are your thoughts on this and the direction music world is going?

Personally I buy CDs and haven’t bought many downloads, usually because it’s still cheaper to buy the CD than the download (the kind of stuff I buy anyway). But I do have a large mp3 collection (transferred from my CDs) and player which I use a lot. I think necessity will dictate what happens. I’m not one of these vinyl freaks that go on about the sound quality. The fact is it isn’t practical in the world we live in. When I think of all the awful CDs that have been mass produced in factories, filling up the world with plastic waste then I think downloads are a good idea, and just small print runs for more die-hard fans is ok, which is basically what we are doing now. Seeing as we’re not very prolific advertisers I can’t really comment on that, but it’s certainly easier to get news out there via the various websites, and it’s easier to communicate directly with fans, which is good. With all this stuff available though there is a lot of chaff to wade through to see the wheat and it’s very easy for anyone to start a band and have a website. That’s the only negative really. Some say it’s bad for musicians financially, but personally speaking I haven’t really noticed that. Making a profit is not a necessity for us though. I think it’s mainly bad for huge stars on major labels that are more geared to making money.

Thank you Athelstan for time and efforts! I’m honored to have Forefather as a part of the Worm Gear re-launch. Please take this time to offer your closing statement and plug your sites! Take care.

Thanks for having us! All the news can be found at and you can get merchandise at Downloads are available at the usual suspects and I hope to bring you some new music in the not too distant future, but I dare not give any concrete dates (a past lesson learned!).


~ by martyworm on September 30, 2012.

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