“This album has been a long time coming and it’s very fulfilling to see a project, which was started a long time ago, finally nearing completion,” says a very relieved Age Of Taurus guitarist Toby Wright, fresh from the studio. We’re relieved too – it’s been three years since the then London-based doom mob released their demo ‘In The Days Of The Taurean Empire’. Part Candlemass, part Pentagram, part Sabbath and part Trouble, Age Of Taurus were doing doom the right way, but the demo was rough and ready and we at Iron Fist were eager to see what Toby, along with ex-Mourn guitarist Alastair Riddell, drummer Darius Claydon and bassist Richard Bruce could come up with once they had time, and a record deal, on their side. The wait is almost over with ‘Desperate Souls Of Tortured Times’ due out this Spring on Rise Above.
“The delay was mostly down to my relocation from London to Oslo in 2011,” Toby admits. “It definitely took me some time to readjust and also to find the best way for a pan-European AOT to work.”
Three years is more than enough time for the band to hone their chops and find their sound, so has the sound of AOT progressed in the interim?
“The material is certainly a little different to that on the demo,” Toby reveals, “and that’s mainly because AOT is now a full band and no longer my one-man crusade! The songs are definitely faster, which some have described as being ‘more heavy metal’ and that’s pretty accurate. A couple of recent live reviews have likened us to both Sabbat and Slough Feg, neither of which I’d really considered before. Doom is where the heart lies, however, so the obvious Candlemass, Trouble and Pentagram influences are still worn proudly on our sleeves.”
The band, who were gigging in and around London had a massive coup when they were touted by the Band Of The Week blog by Fenriz, a blog now infamous for being one of the interweb’s most accurate predictors of heavy metal gold. Was Toby shocked to find out his project hyped up by Mr Darkthrone himself?
“It was a bit of a shot in the dark really,” he says of how Fenriz found out about the band. “I was visiting Oslo for Metal Merchants Festival in January 2010 and having just recorded the demo, I had the pockets of my leather jacket stuffed with CDs. Fenriz walked past me and I thought ‘what the hell, he might like it’! So I accosted him, thrust a CD into his hands and didn’t expect to ever hear anything of it again. Two weeks later he made Age Of Taurus BOTW, which was very flattering.
“It definitely raised our profile, particularly in Norway. I was surprised by how many people had heard of AOT when I moved over here. I think people trust Fenriz’s judgement when it comes to decent heavy metal, and they’re happy to take the time to investigate his recommendations. It also gave us the opportunity of appearing on the bill of the 2011 Live Evil Festival, which was fantastic.”
Fenriz wasn’t the only heavy metal hunter paying attention to this underground gem, it also got into the hands of Lee Dorrian from Rise Above Records and soon enough it was announced that the band would join their roster alongside Lee’s own band Cathedral and the likes of Witchsorrow, Gates Of Slumber and Electric Wizard, who AOT opened for in March 2012 at a Rise Above showcase at London’s prestigious Forum club.
“I’ve known the guys for a couple of years and so I’d had some contact with them prior to the formation of Age Of Taurus,” explains Toby of this partnership. “Alastair, has known them for over 20 years and so there was already a natural connection when we started to think about releasing an album. I actually had a few different offers from labels in response to the demo, but none of them were really right for us at the time. Rise Above have such a great history and their knowledge of all types of rock music is second to none. So it made perfect sense for us to work with them.
“I met Al around 10 years ago when he was guitar tech for a Firebird show I was promoting,” he continues of how the two could-be brothers forged their alliance. “He has an obsession with Iron Maiden that is verging on the unhealthy.”
And what of the other Taureans?
“I met Rich initially at Wacken in 2005. We were two of around 20 people watching Count Raven and we bonded instantly over our love of heavy metal and doom, in particular. I’ve known Darius for well over 10 years. He’s an old school death metal fiend and is at his happiest with a cup of tea and ‘Left Hand Path’ blasting on the stereo. We first met through the hardcore/thrash/crossover scene and became firm friends. I was reminded the other day that myself, Richard and Alastair had all been together several years before AOT began at the 2007 Candlemass anniversary show in Stockholm, so it’s possible that the evil seeds were planted then!”
While Toby, Al and Darius started the band in London, with Rich flying down from his Scotland home for rehearsals and gigs, the band almost came to a sudden halt when Toby upped sticks and moved to Oslo last year. But as doom is a determined beast, and Toby wouldn’t let this affect the band.
“It’s maybe slowed things up a little,” he admits. “And it certainly made it harder to get together for last minute rehearsals or shows. I think, if anything, it’s opened us up to more opportunities for shows in Scandinavia. We’ve already played once in Norway and we’re currently finalising plans to do some further gigs later this year.”
However, the band regrouped at the end of 2012 to finally head to the studio, and chose London as the place to do it. Why London? And why Orgone Studio?
“I’ve known Gomez [Arellano, producer] for a couple of years and we’d talked on several occasions about working together,” the frontman says of the man who’s also twiddled the knobs for Ghost, Altar Of Plagues, Cathedral and Angel Witch among others. “Working at Orgone with Gomez has been great really. The studio is very nice and has a strangely calming atmosphere, which makes it a brilliant environment to work in.
“We record everything live, building from the drums upwards. Once they’re down, we move to bass, then onto guitars, solos and we finish up with vocals. Nothing groundbreaking really! The thing that takes the most time is finding the sounds that you want to use. Getting a decent drum sound and the right guitar tone is essential!
“When recording time is so tight, it isn’t really possible to go into the studio without having everything as close to perfect as it can be,” he explains of their pre-recording schedule. “We’ve had most of these songs written for almost two years, so it wasn’t much of a problem, although we did have some intensive pre-production sessions where we made some last minute tweaks. Maybe if we have more time in the future we can experiment a little bit!”
Knowing from speaking to other bands who have had the Orgone experience, we know that Gomez is dab hand when it comes to achieving that craved-for guitar tone or drum sound, or even helping the band jig their songs until their perfect
“He’s is really experienced when it comes to getting an extremely balanced final sound,” Toby agrees, “whether it’s prog, death metal, classic rock. He understands how to get the most out of a band in order to achieve the best result musically. That skill, combined with his detailed knowledge of mixing techniques, means that he can get pretty much any sound that he sets out for! That’s very reassuring when you’re putting your personal creations in someone else’s hands.”
So, now the record is done are the band excited to get it out there?
“We can’t wait! We’re going to be doing as much gigging as we can to support it, so we’ll see you on the road.”
Originall printed in Iron Fist #3
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