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Sacred Son Frontman Dane Cross Discusses New Album "The Foul Deth of Engelond," History, Black Metal Politics And More

England has something of a funny relationship with metal music. While many will point to certain bands as the fathers of the genre, or of certain sub-genres such as Venom and black metal, it often seems that bands in other countries overtake the island in terms of the music's popularity or roster of bands. The aforementioned black metal is of particular note and it's quite strange because English history is every bit as savage and brutal as countries like Norway, Greece or Poland, who have all produced some truly legendary bands in the field.

That's not to say that the English black metal scene is barren however. There's always been underground bands keeping the music alive, though very few have broken into what could charitably be called the "black metal mainstream." Nevertheless, one band which has got people talking in recent years would be Sacred Son, who only two weeks ago, released "The Foul Deth Of Engelond," their fourth album and first with a full band since "Arthurtian Catacombs" three years ago. To find out more about the album, including how to pronounce the title, as well as the themes, history, politics behind it and much more, Metal Underground spoke with vocalist and bassist Dane Cross. You read the interview in full or watch it in full below.

Diamond Oz: First of all, let's get clear on the title. I imagine it's pronounced "The foul death of England," though it looks like it could be pronounced differently.

Dane Cross: Right. You're absolutely correct, it's pronounced "the foul death of England" but it's written in middle Scottish. It derives from just after the black death came to these shores and the Scots at the time believed that it was the wrath of God, specifically reigning down to kill off the English, but obviously a few months later, the plague arrived in Scotland and they realised that it wasn't exclusively affecting the English. I suppose it's up for interpretation as to what it means in terms of the context of this album. It could still refer to the black death itself, because it played such a part in the socio-economics of the fourteenth century, which gave way to the rise of the revolt, which is the theme of the album. It could also refer to the revolt itself I suppose or it could, and this is my personal take, refer to the corruption, malice and ineptitude of the ruling figures at the time.

Oz: As you mentioned there, this album is inspired by the socio-economic environment of the time and this album is based on the 1381 peasant's revolt. What is it about that revolt in particular that you drew inspiration from for this album?

Dane: I suppose, despite it being almost seven hundred years in the past, I see so many things that were still very much inherent in modern day society, in terms of the political situation and social order, the living conditions. There's so many similarities between then and where we find ourselves now, despite there being such a huge amount of time between 1381 and the present day, so I suppose that's what attracted me to it.

Oz: I think it's interesting too. It's definitely unique to countries like Britain or Spain, probably anywhere else with a royal family, where historically there's a certain class who genuinely believe that they're born to rule and that can be a little difficult to explain to people from other countries. So many of our Prime Ministers went to the same school for example.

Dane: Exactly. It feels like it never seems to change. If anything, it gets worse and the social hierarchy, that Conservative ideology just gets worse over time, when you'd expect it to hopefully improve.

Oz: Though I'm sure they were saying that in 1381 and during Peterloo and all the other examples of their arrogance.

Dane: Exactly yeah, they were probably looking in the history books in the seven hundreds and wondering when it was going to change. Certainly not anytime soon, it feels like.

Oz: Now, this is where I get really interested in Sacred Son, because the music itself is really good black metal music but when you listen to the messages and the ideas behind it, it's both rare and refreshing to find a more left wing stance in black metal. So for you, is there any feeling of being an outsider in a genre which has been, not dominated, but rife with nationalism and things like this?

Dane: I suppose not so much now. It feels like black metal is becoming a much broader church, especially going towards the left. It feels like there's so many bands who adhere to a more sensible ideology than what black metal is unfortunately inherently famous for. So yeah, I suppose if I were writing this music a decade or so ago, maybe there'd be a part of me that would be worried about being tarred with the NSBM brush that are unfortunately still going now, but I feel like with every day, it is becoming a more welcoming space for everyone. It's not perfect but it's going in a good direction in my opinion.

Oz: Absolutely, I agree. Especially in London, which has such a wide range of people generally. I was at a Primordial show in Islington recently and there were people there of all different nationalities, men, women, trans people and it's great because again, ten years ago you probably wouldn't have seen that. It is interesting because like we've said, black metal has had these problems, but if you go to a black metal show in London and probably Manchester, Liverpool and major cities like that as well, you'll see a good, diverse range of people there.

Dane: Yeah and I think that extends to all metal really. Like yourself I've been to a few shows over the past number of years and it is noticeable that the demographic is much more diverse now which is great. It used to be that if I went to a metal show in the early 2000s or whatever, it would all just be white dudes, but now you can definitely tell, it's much more welcoming. Hopefully it will continue to go that way.

Oz: I hope so too. But let's get talking about Sacred Son again, because it's worth talking about! One of the first things listeners will notice about this album is that once again Sacred Son is a full band setup, whereas the previous release was just yourself. Why was the decision made to once again have Sacred Son as a full unit?

Dane: It was a weird one. "Levania," although it was released under the Sacred Son name, I suppose it could have been released under a different project name or even my own name, which in hindsight might have been the better option, but it was still ostensibly a Sacred Son album. It only really came about because on the previous "proper" Sacred Son album, I dabbled quite a bit with synths and creating more ambient tracks and I really enjoyed the process.

We were driving up to a gig one time and Stuart (Gardham, guitars) mentioned that his favourite track on the album was "Ossuary III," which is one of those ambient tracks and sort of suggested that I give it a proper go and see if I can make a full album, just instrumental and using synths, which is how that album came about. It was during the height of lockdown and we weren't able to create music together because of it and practice studios all being closed, it just felt like the right opportunity to experiment with that and then shortly after that, I started work on "The Foul Deth Of Engelond," which is obviously back to being more of a full band production.

Oz: Obviously something people notice immediately about the album is the artwork, which is really really striking and a great piece of art. It fits the music really well and especially the themes and the historical aspect. Was this a previously done painting or was it done for the album?

Dane: This was commissioned. The artist's name is Mitchelle Nolte. He's worked with a few bands and his art has always been consistently awesome, I've been following his work for a while. He did the Wode album, "Servants Of The Countercosmos" and I think he's done all of the Werewolves album covers, amongst many others and he just has a unique style. When I was envisioning the artwork for this album, my mind went instantly to him and luckily he was free. I explained the project to him and he was really into the idea. It didn't take him long at all to capture what I had imagined.

I didn't need to send him a super detailed brief. I kind of laid out the concept of the album and led him in the direction of the Peasant's Revolt so he could do his own research. The piece is beautiful but brutal and that's kind of what I was after. It captures the atmosphere of that chapter in history, how I imagine it at least, so succinctly. It's just chaotic with so much going on. It's a pinnacle point in the revolt when the archbishop was executed. It's a really good piece and I'm so pleased that I managed to get him on board for the album.

Oz: Absolutely. What I really like about it is that it's one of those where I really didn't know if it was commissioned for the album or done hundreds of years ago. It could well have been the sort of painting that you see in a museum, so it works so well with the themes and the outlook of the album. As for the recording of the album itself, were there any challenges due to lockdown restrictions or had it calmed down by the time you got to this?

Dane: No, it was written in Summer 2020, I guess sort of in between lockdowns. The writing process was more or less the same as how we wrote "Arthurian Catabombs," i.e. I would demo the songs at home and then once I kind of finished writing the album and it was as finished as it could get, I sent it round to the guys so they could isolate their individual parts and learn the tracks, embellish them with their own idea and whatever else they wanted to bring to the table. I suppose that process was handled differently because obviously we couldn't go into the practice room because they were all closed at that point in time.

So yeah, it did involve quite a bit of online back and forth, which I actually kind of enjoyed and would probably take that into future recordings, regardless of COVID. I was actually watching your interview with Toby Driver that you did a few months ago and he was saying that he wrote "Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike," it was a very similar process I think. It was challenging to begin with because it was a whole new method of working but it was quite enriching. When it came to the recording itself, it was more or less business as usual. Luckily the recording studio that we wanted to use was open by then, though there was obviously COVID restrictions like face masks and not allowing too many people in one space at the same time but other than that it was more or less business as usual. A bit different but the bits that were different I see as positives.

Oz: Good. The album is kind of led by the song, "Le Blacketh," which was released initially as a single, then there was a visualizer video and now there's an official music video. What was it about this song that you felt made it the appropriate advert, for lack of a better word, for the album?

Dane: I was going to say that it's because it's my favourite track on the album, but that changes every day. I guess when I was deciding which track to lead with, that was the one I was most happy with. It also captures the revolt at a very significant moment, so it kind of portrays the point where I suppose the revolt has just begun and the rebels are making their way to London and freeing political captives as they go and John Ball, the preacher, is delivering all of his sermons and they eventually arrive in London and manage to break into the tower of London.

Obviously King Richard and his nobles tried to keep them out but they eventually broke in and they eventually had a meeting with King Richard, thought they were making progress on their demands, which were quite understandable and not even that extreme and it all kind of fell to shit, so the rebels went on a bit of a rampage through London, burned buildings down and executed a lot of nobles. Like I said before, they executed the archbishop Simon Sudbury, who was seen as one of the architects of one of the poll taxes that had been instrumental in starting the whole revolution in the first place. So it was just a very chaotic time and it had kind of reached its crescendo by this point and that's what the track is about so it felt like it was a good song to lead with and encapsulate what the album is about.

Oz: Just finally then, once this album is out, what's the plans? Do you have live shows or festival appearances booked?

Dane: Not as yet, no. Our last show was supporting Wiegedood at their London stop off. We don't have anything lined up currently, it's proving logistically difficult. One of the band members is leaving London, another is going to be away for work, so ideally it would have been nice to have had a launch gig booked in for somewhere in May. Hopefully further down the line we'll have some further shows booked. I'm sort of considering seeing what booking agents are out there and seeing if we can get a bit of help on that front. Mostly because I'm quite lazy on that front and I've always waited for offers to come in rather than actively seek shows, which is something I'm trying to work on, especially now that live music has become a thing again. Hopefully that will endure and there won't be any more pesky lockdowns on their way.

Oz: I hope so because I really would like to experience this music live.

Dane: Yeah, it's good fun. It's nice when you've just finished a new album, because you've got new material to play live. It feels fresher and you're not going over the same stuff on repeat. It's exciting and it feels good to get out there and play shows.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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