Darkling

Every now and then a band bursts upon the scene with such ferocity and conviction that their success seems almost pre-destined.  GothZilla is such a band.  Within 24 hours of the release of their debut album, 50 Stories of Sadness, the band was sitting atop the Figment charts swatting away competing bands with almost the same mythical power of the monster to which their band name so cleverly pays homage.  The band’s co-founders, Tim and The Animal, were mega-stars.

But overnight success is a concept created and nurtured by music publicists and is almost never based in reality.  Most bands struggle for years in obscurity while building a following and either eventually break through to a larger audience or fade away.  GothZilla is no different.  They weren’t hatched from a radiated egg to wreak havoc on the music industry.  No, before Tim and The Animal had a hit with GothZilla, they were in a band that just might have been even bigger had the usual demons of the music business, money and addiction, not broken them up.  That band was Darkling.

Formed in Lincoln, NE in 1998, Darkling began as a power trio.  With Tim on lead vocals and guitar, The Animal on bass, and Johnny Royal on drums, the band’s progressive black metal was just what a nascent metal scene needed at the time.  Spotted by enterprising Lincoln empresario and indie record label owner, Tim Mamba, the band was quickly signed to his label Insecta Records, and their first single “Raze Them to the Ground” was a hit.  Mamba became the band’s manager and predicted mega-stardom for the group, and the success of their debut album “Traumatic Insemination” seemed to only confirm his predictions.

Traumatic Insemination Cover Art

The problem with predictions is that they are often wrong and unfortunately for Darkling big things never really materialized.  Despite a rabid fan base in Eastern Scandanavia, the band’s subsequent 2 albums received lackluster reviews and steadily declining sales.

The band struggled on for 9 years until December 2007, when they didn’t so much disband as implode.  Amid payola investigations, lawsuits, and acrimony, the band members went their separate ways leaving Tim Mamba holding the bag.  Unfortunately for Mamba, the bag was full of payola and unpaid bills.  While Mamba doesn’t try to hide his involvement in Darkling’s dark underside and ultimate decline, he does shed light on how his involvment with the band may have laid the foundation for what would later lead to GothZilla.

Figment:  Darkling has been broken up for a few months.  Why do you think the band didn’t make it?

Tim Mamba:  You know, I?ve been wondering that myself.  Our former label name, Insecta Records, ran into that whole payola thing about that time, so I guess that
couldn?t have helped any.  I mean, Hex-Apoda Industries is an industry juggernaut, but the merger that followed the scandal sure hurt some of our artists.  While the label was reforming, some of the members of Darkling decided to pursue other musical styles.  But I call that selling out.  Just because black metal doesn?t share the same popularity in this country as death metal or grindcore, doesn?t mean you should change who you are.

Figment:  Former Darkling members Tim and The Animal have since formed the hugely popular emo metal band GothZilla.  How did Darkling differ from the music of GothZilla?

Tim Mamba:  What? Yeah, I?m not talking about GothZilla.  Next question please.

Figment:  According to Darkling’s bio the band was big in Scandanavia.  Is that the same as being big in Japan?

Tim Mamba:  Um, not really. How exactly would Norse warriors in furs and chain mail be the same as petite girls in school uniforms? As I?m sure you know, Scandinavia is the Mecca for black metal, folk metal, Viking metal, and all of that stuff. Did you know that people over there are still fighting each other with axes and stuff? Anyways, making it big there is the goal of all black metal bands. Hearing 20,000 Danes chanting the words to ?In the Halls of UNL? is enough to make my sphincter tingle.

Figment:  Potato Chip addiction treatment is an issue near and dear to your heart.  How did you get involved in this cause?

Tim Mamba:  That all started back when Tim was in trouble.  You know, I?m not just an awesome manager of several successful bands, but I?m also a caring human being.  I?d catch him in the back of band?s Winnebago trying to stash a snack-size bag of chips in his duffle bag, I?d see him run into the convenience store pretending to pick up a hooker while checking out the rack of Ruffles, you know, all of the usual signs. Pretty soon his fingers were too greasy to hold onto his guitar picks, and the performances suffered for it. That?s when I decided to step in and get him into a rehab program.

Figment:  Is it true that Tortilla Chips are not as bad for you or as habit forming as Potato Chips?

Tim Mamba:  Yeah, a lot of people will push the Tortilla Chips as being completely safe and non-addictive.  They?ll say stuff like ?come on man, they?re made from natural plants!  They?re from the Earth!?  Don?t buy into that crap.  I?m here to tell you that they?re a gateway snack. A lot of recreational tortilla chip eaters have wound up in the gutter hopped up on Doritos only a few years later.  I?m not saying that all tortilla chip eaters wind up on skid row- hell, I?ve been known to sit down with a bowl of tortilla chips and get salsa-faced from time to time- but don?t delude yourself into thinking it can?t lead to problems down the road.  Don?t even get me started on the so-called ?medicinal? tortilla chips.

Figment:  Let’s go back to the band’s first album “Traumatic Insemination” – what was the inspiration for that album?

Tim Mamba:  You know what ?Cimex lectularius? means?  That?s Latin for ?good f-in? metal?.  The band was just getting going, and after releasing their single of ?Raze Them to the Ground?, those of us with Insecta Records at the time couldn?t get these guys signed fast enough.  That LP pretty much put wrote itself.  Sure, it?s a little more death metal than black metal, what with songs like ?Hate is Life? and ?Bloody Kisses?, but the band was going through some rough times emotionally.

Figment:  The band’s self-titled second album got mixed reviews and didn’t sell that well.  Was that hard for the group to shoulder after the initial success you had in Scandinavia with “Traumatic Insemination”?

Darkling?s 2nd LP ?Darkling?

Tim Mamba:  Well, with Tim in rehab and the band on hiatus for a while, I think the guys just lost their focus.  I call it the sophomore slump.  I mean, with Johnny Royal?s promising acting career and everything getting in the way, it was hard to come back to the studio and rock as hard as they did before.  But maybe those initial reviews were wrong, because the self-titled album is selling better than the first after its re-release.  Go figure.

Figment:  What is Darkling’s drummer, Johnny Royal, up to these days?

Tim Mamba:  You know, its funny you should ask that.  He showed up at my house at 5:30 in the morning pounding on the door a few days ago.  He said he wanted to make amends or something to that effect.  He said that in this war or contest or whatever it is between us, that I?ve proven myself as the stronger.  I don?t know what any of that means, but I did get the chance to turn on the lawn sprinklers and watch him run for it.

Figment:  Is the rumor true that Animal was behind the camera for the Jimi Hendrix porn video that is about to be released by Vivid Video?

Tim Mamba:  Well, I?m not the guy?s manager any more, so I don?t want to spread rumors or anything.  But I am willing to hand you this signed and notarized affidavit stating that the person in question was indeed filming the event in question, and that the
video?s release indicates that the person in question violated section 14, paragraph 3, of the California state penal code, which carries a minimum sentence of 5 years. I?m also handing you a business card of the lead investigator of that case, and a pre-paid phone
card so you won?t have to pay for the long-distance phone call. Incidentally, there?s a phone on the table next to you, you know, in case you hadn?t noticed it.

Figment:  Is it true that you turned down a chance to reform the band for a one-off reunion performance at this year’s Rocklahoma Festival?

Tim Mamba:  Well, its certainly true that the band is reforming and putting together new music.  But I?m reforming it with all new members.  When we were on tour in Mongolia I managed to negotiate sole ownership of the band?s name, so its mine to use.  I?m actively working with the new and improved band to put out a new album by the end of this year.  The new album, ?The Norway Democracy?, will have 24 songs on it, and 18 of those are nearly done.  I?m working with the band on some new arrangements, but you?ll definitely hear it by the end of the year.

Figment:  Why do you think Tim and The Animal weren’t willing to talk to us about Darkling or their new band GothZilla?

Tim Mamba:  Look man, the guys in GothZilla are all but dead to me.  Once they turned their back on us here at Hex-Apoda and started putting out that emo crap, I took control of Darkling?s past, present, and future.  I mean, how do you go from putting out pagan black metal and switch to emo?  As you know, the music business is a cutthroat industry.  I know there are lots of great bands out there, but if they don?t sign with Hex-Apoda I won?t give them the time of day.  They should all be begging us to let them make money for our musical empire.  You?ve got to weigh in before you can wrestle, you know what I mean?

While Darkling Mach II may or may not meet the same fate as the original band, one thing is for sure, the band’s original members have lived up to their namesake (the Darkling beetle) by undergoing a metamorphosis from band on the brink to full fledged superstars.  Too bad they had to start another band to do it.

As for Tim Mamba’s newest incarnation of Darkling, only time will tell.  One hopes they will go through a similar metamorphosis and live up to their vast potential.  If they don’t, they may have to rename themselves The Mealworms.

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