It’s time to darken the skies here at The Headbanging Moose in this month of May thanks to the somber and absolutely beautiful music crafted by our metal lady of the month, and I bet you’ll get addicted to her voice after listening to her Stygian creations. Inspired by natured in all her forms, this West Yorkshire, England-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist is known by many under her nom de plume of Darkher, one of the most interesting names of the current folk and doom scene worldwide. I’m talking about Jayn Maiven, a multi-talented woman who devotes her life to dark music for our total delight, and who has a beyond bright future ahead of her and her Darkher as all of her releases are simply awesome.
As I like to say about this type of project, there’s no Jayn Maiven without Darkher and vice-versa, with Darkher representing not only Jayn’s alter-ego but also her view of our world, using her musical creature as a catharsis that can be noticed from her painful and truthful lyrics. Conceived as the sole brainchild and solo project of our unrelenting flame-haired metal diva in 2012, whose fragile elegance lies the creator of a powerfully emotive work, Darkher brings forth an amalgamation of sounds and styles carefully embraced by the project’s trademark fusion of folk and doom music, with her compositions inviting the listener into the mystical ancient world characterized by slowly building storm clouds of guitars and Jayn’s haunting, spine-tinglingly evocative voice.
Having already released her self-titled debut EP in 2013, followed by the 2014 EP The Kingdom Field and the full-length albums Realms, from 2016, and The Buried Storm, released earlier this year, the sound of Darkher has been described as “ghostly transmissions that sound like they were delivered by lost souls in the dead of night”, leading her to support several renowned acts the likes of Robin Guthrie, Dead Meadow, Esben And The Witch, Enslaved and Chelsea Wolfe, and playing in festivals such as Roadburn Festival and Damnation, among others. Creating extraordinarily dark music full of contrasts, including both chilling loneliness and the warmth of hope, Darkher is a derivate of the words “dark” and “her”, showcasing some sort of symbolism from Jayn’s past as she wanted to find a name which she felt better described the direction she had been heading in with her solo career after a decade working with and around other musicians.
Several different guest musicians have already been involved with Jayn in Darkher, such as for example guitarist and bassist Martin Wissenberg, former My Dying Bride drummer Shaun ‘Winter’ Taylor-Steels, drummer Christopher Smith, cellists Ludvig Swärd (Forndom), Arianna Mahsayeh and Melanie Chaplin, violinist Lambert Segura and guitarist Daniel Land. If you want to see the result of the collaboration between our skillful vocalist, guitarist, composer, lyricist and producer with all those distinguished musicians, you can enjoy the official videos on YouTube for Where the Devil Waits (filmed at the stunning location of Muncaster Castle in Cumbria, within its Victorian gardens and grounds), a song of empowerment and light relating to the shadows within that lead to attachment, to what can become destructive; Love’s Sudden Death, a dark, romantic ballad which was heavily inspired by the mood of the ancient landscape as it mirrors the emotions within, being “dramatic, beautiful and sometimes bleak” as mentioned by Jayn herself; Hollow Veil, recorded in Salem Woods in October 2015; as well as Ghost Tears, Immortals, Lament, and The Dawn Brings a Saviour, or you can also enjoy The Buried Storm in its entirety on YouTube, and all of her albums on Spotify. Also, don’t forget to show your support to Jayn and her Darkher by purchasing her releases from her BandCamp page and through her Patreon.
Before forming Darkher, our unstoppable rock and metal diva was a member of Epic Dark Folk band The Steals for several years, having released with them the EP Floodlights, in 2006, and the full-length effort Stactic Kingdom, in 2009, both available on Spotify and on BandCamp. However, that wasn’t the path she actually wanted to follow in her career after a certain time. “Throughout the years I was previously working on tracks for The Steals album and EP, I was in a very sombre state and I needed to make music to lift me out of that state. By the time I was ready to start writing songs again for what would be Darkher, I felt that I needed to symbolically burn what I had in order to begin a new chapter,” commented Jayn in one of her interviews, describing the musical metamorphosis that was happening inside her.
In addition, her inspirations in music and life in general come from very distinct sources. For instance, she always says that her father has been a huge inspiration to her growing up, with both her parents having encouraged her passion for creating music for many years. “I am mostly inspired by my inner world, emotions and imagination, which I run in parallel to the outer world. Nature and the elements are always with me when I write, and are equally as inspiring for me due to their mood and drama,” said Jayn in one of her interviews, also mentioning that her lyrics are always from her deepest depths, past, future or present, and showcasing a strong fascination for water. “When I walk each day to The Kingdom Field I pass a river, everyday is a different picture, it has its own life force and seemingly personality. Where I live is surrounded by water, I live in the basin of a valley, a hamlet which is surrounded by streams, rivers and a canal all of which have caused flooding. So I think because of this I am deeply respectful of water in its many forms.”
Heavily influenced by mood-based dark music from an early age, and having a father who performed on stage in the 60’s, not only she grew up in a musical house but she has always nurtured a deep passion for the darker exponents of the post punk indie scene. “I was really into bands like the Sex Gang Children, Virgin Prunes and Alien Sex Fiend. I’ve always suffered with a bit of a depression and as a teenager was drawn to dark music and the whole theatrical Goth thing. I loved the textures and atmosphere of guitars,” also saying that at one point she was completely absorbed by the Cocteau Twins and she used to re-play their performance of Pink Orange Red on the TV every night after school. On the other hand, if you think Amalie Bruun’s Danish Black Metal band Myrkur has had any influence on Darkher’s style, being even called “Myrkur for the Folkies”, you’re absolutely wrong. “I’ve only come across her name very recently, I haven’t listened to her music yet, so I’m not sure if there is any thread of similarity,” said our diva.
When asked about her evolution from Realms until The Buried Storm, Jayn said that she sees it as a continuation of her creativity, feeling like it has many similar elements in the instrumentation, though she puts even more emphasis on the vocal harmonies as a feature on her newest album and she believes it leans towards a more cinematic feel. Moreover, the pandemic doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on her creative process for The Buried Storm. “The effects of the pandemic were actually quite beneficial for me, to be able to take time out from any tour dates and really focus on the writing and recording. I also spent even more time alone, which I found to be very necessary for the writing process,” commented Jayn, and we must all agree with her the whole pandemic has been positive at least for the writing process of not only Darkher but countless other bands out there, who obviously had a lot more time to focus on their creative process with the whole touring thing being on hold for almost two years.
Interested in art and photography, beautiful and inspiring imagery, animals and nature, Jayn tries to spend half of her life outdoors, also nurturing a deep passion for doing videos and photographic imagery, which for her is all part of the creative process. “When I make music I see a lot of visions and imagery, so it’s great to be able to achieve some of that in video form,” said Jayn, which can be easily noticed in the video for Ghost Tears, for example. “The environment that I am surrounded by and the vast landscape is always in my mind when I write as I see music in a very visual way. For this reason I would love to one day try to write for film or TV and I equally feel the presence of many images when I write or produce. The studio walls otherwise would not inspire me to develop the sound and present it in such a way,” complemented our multi-talented artist. And lastly, when asked what the secret is to keep her long flaming hair look so grandiose and beautiful, she simply said there’s no actual secret, just that she never cuts it and therefore it serves her well for hiding behind it. Well, of course we would love to see her face on all of her videos, but the combination of nature and her long, incendiary hair is more than enough to keep us hooked not only on her music, but on her stunning art in general.
“I find it very healing to make music, like a form of meditation.” – Jayn Maiven