“Fateful Dark” was an incredibly fun record to make. After the hardship of the previous album, we’d really managed to regroup during the touring phase and rediscover not only our love for metal, but for being in a band in general. Drummer Andrea Gorio had joined us sometime during the Plague cycle to replace Mauricio Chamucero who we’d had to let go due to on going Visa complications that restricted his international touring ability. Given that Plague hadn’t really translated into pushing the band to the level that both ourselves and Earache had wanted, we weren’t entirely sure that Earache were going to give us a second record. Again the term “demos” cropped up, but I was resolute this time that we weren’t going to spend months painfully recording and re-recording demos. We’d already written most of the record and were rehearsing it at weekends, so we agreed to record some rehearsal tapes. We set up one mic in the corner of the practice space and recorded all the songs live in one take instrumentally, I then sang over the instrumental demos and we delivered the songs the next day and we got the green light from Earache to make the record.

One of our biggest driving forces during the writing of this record was that we wanted to write songs that would be fun to play live, and so our focus was on energy, hooky choruses, big headbanging riffs rather than super intricate “look at me!” musical meandering.

We asked Scott to record us again, and he was initially a bit reluctant to say yes after the previous album, but I persevered and eventually he agreed to work with us again. The recording for this record by comparison flew by, we had the drums down in a week and we’d even re-written 2 songs on the spot in the studio (Minority of One and Hellblazer). We had our creativity going and Joff and I had really gelled as a songwriting partnership.

Once the mixes started to come through it felt like it was going to be a strong album, Digby (Earache Records owner) told me that he thought it was the best English heavy metal album in 20 years - which is high praise indeed!

The only thing that I look back on now with a bit of regret with this album is the artwork. We were a bit pushed for time as the original artwork that was submitted was bright pink, and had a scene with our little pope character on a boat with a load of lost souls, and it just didn’t look right. So in the end we kind of settled for what is a pretty silly album cover if I’m honest. After this was over we abandoned the cliche 80’s metal look - it hurt the band in a lot of ways and was no small task to extricate ourselves from the perception that we were just a throwback “homage” revivalist type band (some people probably still think we are!).

But, I’m still really proud of the songs on this record and enjoy playing any of them live to this day. It feels to me like on this record everything came together musically and we’d found our musical identity.

When it came to the release side of things, there were a few annoying “what ifs?”, a pretty major manager had been dealing with Earache about taking the band on prior to the album coming out, but backed out at the eleventh hour leaving us still without the proper business structure to really use this record to launch our career properly. Also, Earache kind of fudged the release date in an attempt to chart the album in the UK, the date kept getting moved around until on the day that had originally been announced they just kind of went “it’s out now!” - a bit of an anti climax. BUT we overcame all those issues and over the next 2 and a half years that we were promoting the album we managed to pick up some really cool accolades.

Right after we’d finished recording we hit the road for a 28 date Eu run with Havok and Angelus Apartrida which was a really great tour. We were still in vans, but this time we had hotels too! At the end of the tour (Still a month or so before the release of the album) and after taking stock we decided that our live delivery hadn’t been what it needed to be and so we made a pretty tough decision that we needed to find a different bass player that could lock in better with the drums and give us that rock solid foundation that all good live bands have.

This is where Mira Slama joined us. He’d been playing in bands in the same rehearsal space and we knew he was a really talented bassist. When I reached out to him he was actually about to move back to the Czech Republic from London and initially thought I wanted to ask him to do some driving for the band!

3 days after joining we where on the road opening for Soulfly. A kind of a strange billing for us, but Max was cool. I always remember meeting him on day one at the Junction in Cambridge and after confirming with us that we were indeed SM (not the local openers) he excitedly shouted “yeah!! Plague of Conscience!! I have it on my ipod”. I didn’t know at the time, but Mira’s favourite band as a teenager had been Soulfly - so I guess that was a cool intro for him to the band!

We managed to do loads more touring on this record, including a somewhat ambitious short European headline tour taking in Czech, Italy, France and Spain. It was so brutal, we were travelling in an Iveco that had been fitted out with tour bus bunks but the tour was so badly booked we ended up with loads of days off which are a killer financially and some of the venues were just odd - like the place we played in San Sebastian that didn’t even have a PA…I’ll always remember getting the Ferry home feeling a bit down that we weren’t really making enough progress when I got the email from Dan at Earache to say we’d been booked to support Amon Amarth on a 25 date European tour…suddenly everything seemed much better!

Some funny memories I have from those tours…It was the first time we ever really had crew, and crews generally can be a bit rough and tumble and ours was a particularly motley crew, hard working and great people, but definitely an odd bunch. If ever anyone wonders what it’s like to go on tour, one memory sticks out as perfectly encapsulating the lifetsyle of a touring metal musician. One night in Porto, Joff and I were stood at the door to our bus whilst he smoked a cigarette probably dissecting the gig, shooting the shit, when suddenly the door swung open and our legendary Tour Manager Les Smith stepped off looking cross and dejected only to hold up what was clearly a crumpled plastic cup with a very dirty old sock sticking out of it; “sock in a cup anyone?” he enquired and then disappeared as Joff and I looked at each other in confusion. Another crew member that was always getting up to mischief was a drum tech that used to work for us; Luca. A corpulent Italian lad with a heart of gold. I’ll never forget a show in Italy when he was asked by the sound guy to play the “full kit” during line check to be greeted over the house mic to roaring laughter as he fumbled a basic 4/4 beat…poor old Luca…Another time we played the Earache Xmas Party with Evile and Rival Sons. Now, Earache Xmas parties were somewhat legendary in the metal scene because people used to get obliterated, and I mean paralytic. Well, Luca was no exception, and I remember standing on the dance floor area with the others when we noticed that he was dancing with a girl - “good for him!” we kind of thought, but what happened next was really quite extraordinary, he got a bit carried away during the dancing, and as he wasn’t the most graceful chap in the world, went to pick the girl up, I guess like a salsa move or something, but in the process managed to sweep her off her feet and immediately body slam her into this plastic table with the pair of them collapsing in a heap...the look on this poor girls face as she was reeling on the floor, you could see the genuine look of shock on her face. He was then ejected by the bouncers for his unruly behaviour…I’m guessing he went home alone that night…Also one of the all time funniest moments in Savage Messiah history occurred during our tour with Havok And Angelus. All the bands had bonded pretty tight on that run and towards the end we would get up and do songs together, I used to get up with Angelus and do “Be quick or be dead” and Dave Sanchez would get up and do “Domination” during which we’d all invade the stage and turn it into a right melee. Havok also happened to be selling thongs on their merch stand, so one night in Barcelona Joff had the idea to invade the stage wearing nothing but his New Rock boots and a Havok thong. So sure enough…during Domination, Joff takes the stage wearing a thong and starts giving it the big one; headbanging, metal horns, all the metal gurning faces, really trying to work the crowd up only to feel a bit confused that the reaction he was getting was of people pointing at him, shouting, turning away in disgust, and this one girl on the barrier just staring at him with the most mournful, sad expression imaginable…after a few minutes he looks down…and suddenly everything makes perfect sense….his right testicle had slipped out of the thong and there it hung on unmistakable display in front of a totally bewildered audience at the Sala Boveda in Barcelona….In addition to dropping a bollock he also dropped his phone in the toilet that night too…but that’s a different story….

Back to band stuff, we also got nominated for a Metal Hammer Award that year too for “Best New Band” which was nice. We got awarded a grant from the BPI and appeared on Channel 4 News at our rehearsal space (“In amongst the meat packing and the mechanics” - a real Rocky Balboa type story). Joff and I got to meet Jason Newsted who could tell we were a bit green and gave us some very sound advice! as well as a few cool Metallica stories. Jeff Waters from Annihilator asked me and Joff if we were “together” - to which we both looked at each other slightly puzzled and said “yeah - but not like that!” and he replied “ahh - double Axe attack!”. A lot of positivity around that time, and we had a lot of fun promoting the album. So we were kind of knocked for six when about 4 months after we finished the Amon Amarth tour, and a year and a bit after the album had come out Joff left the band - he’d had some issues effect him personally, and the grind of being in a band just got too much for him - we were really sorry to see him leave and looking back on it now I wish we’d done more to maybe change his mind.

But that’s just how it goes sometimes, and after all was said and done with “The Fateful Dark” cycle we were once again at the cross roads of having to totally re-evaluate what we were doing and reboot the whole thing in order to move forward. This was our last album for Earache, and could have very nearly been our last album altogether to be honest, but we dug deep, learned our lessons big time and rebuilt our entire, tight knit organisation from the top down.

DS - 2019