Northwestern England is known for a few things, nature and history being two obvious examples. The county of Cumbria itself is adorned with part of Hadrian’s Wall, legendary castles and forts, and many famous lakes and woodlands. One such woodland area is called Fell Foot Wood, near Ulverston, which prizes itself on being a market and festival town. If you go to their innocent-looking website and events page, you’ll see a warning that says “Please note that we participate in the WeirdoWatch scheme and reserve the right to refuse admission to any person who does not conform to our standards of normality.”
I can’t help but wonder what Fell Foot Wood’s standard is for “weird,” seeing as their upcoming events include a shamanic retreat and three extreme metal festivals! This includes two black metal festivals: Darkness Over Cumbria and Blackwood Gathering. Blackwood Gathering has hosted some well-known acts, including Urfaust, Horna and Sear Bliss. Darkness Over Cumbria is the smaller event, which is hosted by a collective of bands called Legions ov Darkness (though they had Hecate Enthroned one year, that’s pretty sweet). When I first discovered their bandcamp page, I saw a couple acts I recognized, including Thy Dying Light – who just put out a compilation via Death Kvlt Productions.
Sampling the bands Legions ov Darkness had on display, I found a satisfying mix of raw black metal. I also went to their Facebook page to discover a t-shirt for sale with a spooky-looking gentleman named Barry of the Blackwood, with large print on the back saying “Do You Like Boiled Rice?”
A scene that specializes in raw black metal AND has a Python-esque sense of humor? Sign me up! So I reached out to the ringleader of the Legions, Paul Gibson, to find out more. As it turns out, Paul is the central musical figure in most of the bands as well.
How did the Legions ov Darkness get started? Was there a founding moment where everything came together?
I basically put Legions ov Darkness together in February 2016 so I could promote and self-release my bands under one name, I guess kind of like a label but just for my own music. But lately I no longer use it as a label as I don’t self-release my music anymore. But I do still upload all my releases onto the Legions ov Darkness bandcamp page. Since the summer of 2016 I started using the Legions ov Darkness name to promote Darkness over Cumbria, which is a two-day event hosted in a woodland on the hillsides of Windermere here in Cumbria.
Are you affiliated with Blackwood Productions?
Blackwood Productions is my good friends Steven Mills who hosts The Blackwood Gathering in October, which is again in the same place as Darkness over Cumbria (FellFoot Wood). I don’t have anything to do with organizing the event, but I am apart of the Blackwood team which helps out, I mainly deal with merch.
Blackwood is like the big Black Metal event which hosts the likes of Horna, Sear Bliss, Urfaust, and so on and then Darkness over Cumbria is the smaller event which sort of builds up towards The Blackwood Gathering. People who miss out on Blackwood tickets have the chance to come to Darkness over Cumbria or people who simply can’t wait for Blackwood will come to Darkness over Cumbria, so we both have the same sort of regulars. But we both help out with each other’s festivals.
What releases should Legions Ov Darkness devotees look out for in 2018?
This year I have a few releases coming out on various different labels and formats. First there is the upcoming Thy Dying Light compilation album titled Forgotten By Time on Death Kvlt Productions, which is due to be released at the end of the month on vinyl and to follow will be a CD released on a China-based label. Following that is Torver, I have a CD and cassette deal with Blackwood Productions for the release of our debut album, and I’m in talks with two labels for a CD and cassette release for the upcoming Nefarious Dusk EP titled Cold Shadows Over Transylvania. I can’t really say much about my other bands as details still need to be confirmed, but Atra Mors, Skiddaw and Helvellyn will all have a cassette release each at some point, but more details will be announced closer to the time of each release.
Finally, who is Barry of the Blackwood? And, do you, in fact, like boiled rice???
Barry of the Blackwood is one of the organizers involved with Darkness over Cumbria, and he’s also the land owner of Fell Foot Wood. Barry is the one who has given black metal a home here in Cumbria and I like to think of Fell Foot Wood as a stronghold for black metal. There is nowhere else quite like it in the U.K. It’s a very special and unique place to be. Barry also performs at Fell Foot with his own two-man project which involves sinister, tongue-in-cheek themes. His set includes a couple of parody songs, one being his own take on “Total War” by Boyd Rice which is titled “Boiled Rice”. It’s quite funny watching a crowd of Black Metal fans shouting “Do you like…boiled rice?!”
Barry is some character, people who attend Darkness over Cumbria and The Blackwood Gathering love him. He’s got a great sense of humor and his hospitality is outstanding, plus his love for black metal, doom and everything else he’s supporting. At first we didn’t know how to take him, as we were unsure how fans of Metal would react to him, but he gone down a storm with folk, it’s great. To the point he has his own T-shirt!
I do indeed like boiled rice with a curry or chili con carne, but I much prefer Pilau rice!
Paul was also nice enough to provide me with a short description of the Legions Ov Darkness bands to help me introduce them. His words are in italics, with some flavor commentary from me added afterward:
Thy Dying Light
“Relentless Old School Black Metal in the vein of Bathory, Darkthrone and Blodulv.”
This act seems to be the one that’s made the biggest splash outside of the Cumbrian scene. As I mentioned earlier, the Forgotten by Time compilation was what first made me aware of Legions ov Darkness.
“Sickening Black Metal in the vein of Mütiilation, Vlad Tepes and raw Finnish black metal.”
That album art! I guess if you’re going to inject a color into the standard black metal cover format, it might as well be red.
“Lo-fi Black Metal influenced by the 90’s French Les Légions Noires scene.”
Definitely true of this first EP. The second one almost has a weird ambient approach to it.
“Atmospheric Pagan Black Metal with a mixture of violin, epic synths and spoken words.”
“Total 90’s Norwegian Black Metal worship.”
Lots of first three albums-era Gorgoroth on here. Can’t go wrong with that. But listen through the whole album and see if you can spot some of the Demoncy-style riffs that creep their way in as well.
“Two man primitive raw Black Metal from the United Kingdom and Greece.”
Do you like Transylvanian Hunger, but just wish there were more tempo changes? Nefarious Dusk has got you covered. This project and Skiddaw are my two favorites of the bunch, I’d say.
“Cold Misanthropic Cumbrian Black Metal.”
Standard, straightforward second-wave inspired black metal, with perhaps a slight depressive edge to it.
“Three piece traditional Black Metal.”
If you want something with a crisper production, but not necessarily to the level of mainstream-metal, this might be a good place to start.
For those of you in the area or who may be traveling there, Darkness over Cumbria will be taking place on July 6-8, with the Blackwood Gathering occurring on October 5-6. Darkness over Cumbria will be featuring Crimson Throne this year, who I’ve profiled in the past, so check them out!
After talking through all of this, I remarked to Paul that I should try and maybe set up something like this in my native southwestern Connecticut, and that all I needed was some wooded area and an eccentric old guy to make it happen. He replied, “An eccentric old guy who wears overalls and likes to set things on fire whilst shouting random stuff at a crowd of drunk Metal fans!”
Unfortunately those things don’t often go together with owning property here in the States.