EMQ’s with FORLORN HOPE
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Merseyside, UK based Historical Heavy Metal band, Forlorn Hope. Huge thanks to lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chris Simpson for taking part!
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
I’m Chris Simpson and I’m the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and chief history nerd of Forlorn Hope.
We formed Forlorn Hope in late 2017. The five of us had played together in various bands and combinations over the years and we’d recently started a casual covers band for a bit of fun. That project was going well, we had a good group chemistry, and that prompted Danny, our drummer, to suggest that we try doing something original.
Unbeknownst to Danny, I already had a few songs in the bank that were waiting for a full band to take them further. I’ve always been interested in military and Napoleonic history and over the two years prior had got together with Alex, our lead guitarist, and we’d penned a few songs inspired by stories from the Peninsular War (1808-1814). I’d never really expected this little historical heavy metal project to go anywhere, but the songs were good so I pitched it to the others. To my surprise, they were up for it, so we dusted off the old tracks and got to work.
We started gigging in early 2018, recorded a demo EP and fine-tuned our first batch of material in preparation for the recording and release of our debut album “Over The Hills” in 2019. We had big plans for extensive gigging and new recordings in 2020 but, as you can imagine, that hasn’t quite worked out as planned.
How did you come up with your band name?
The band name is lifted directly from the history that inspired the project in the first place.
During the Napoleonic Wars, an army that wanted to capture a fortress first had to blow a breach in its walls by pounding it for days with artillery. Then it was up to the infantry to storm that breach, which was no easy thing when more or less every gun inside the fortress that could be pointed at the breach would be, not to mention the booby traps and explosive projectiles that they might also have to contend with while struggling up the steep rubble slope.
The Forlorn Hope were the men who went first into the breach, risking almost certain death for the chance of promotion and acclaim that would follow if they survived. It’s an iconic image from military history and was perfect for our purposes.
What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
We’re from Liverpool in the UK. The Liverpool scene is small and it’s had its ups and downs over the years, but it’s produced some fantastic rock and metal bands, our friends in Reaper and Midnight Prophecy being two prime examples. Sadly, a lot of grass-roots venues have closed in recent years, so gigs are increasingly hard to come by, but if last year’s Metal to the Masses final is anything to go by then there’s still a lot of life in the scene.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
That would be our debut album, ‘Over the Hills’, which we released on 27 July last year. It’s a concept piece about the Peninsular War; the conflict between Napoleonic France and the Allied forces of Britain, Spain and Portugal, that raged from 1808 to 1814. Readers may be familiar with this war as the setting for Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ series and its TV adaptation.
After nearly a year, we’re still extremely proud of this album. It’s dramatic and energetic, it tells a fascinating collection of stories, and it’s crammed with catchy tunes. We had a really positive response from fans and critics too, so we’ll have to work really hard to top it with album two.
Who have been your greatest influences?
We owe a major debt to Sabaton, which I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear. They’ve taken the concept of historical heavy metal to a whole new level, and they know how to write a damn good hook. Beyond that, it’s probably the classics like Priest and Maiden that have influenced our sound the most. For my part, Iced Earth’s historical concept album ‘The Glorious Burden’ album also deserves a mention; the level of detail and obvious passion for the subject matter is something that I really admire and it’s definitely had a significant influence on how I approach the lyrics for this band.
What first got you into music?
‘Poison’ by Alice Cooper. I was a little kid, my Dad put the ‘Trash’ album on in the car and that opening riff blew my tiny little mind. I was hooked on rock and metal from that moment, although it was many years before I even considered the possibility of making music myself.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Tobias Sammet. His work with Avantasia just gets better and better, and he always makes such brilliant use of guest artists. I’d love to take part in a big, ambitious project like that.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Sabaton Open Air would be pretty incredible. I’ve never been, but they always seem to have a cracking line up with lots of acts that don’t often make it to the UK, and if there’s anywhere in the world where historical power metal is guaranteed to go down well, surely it’s there!
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
No weird examples come to mind, but we were given a lovely print of the Band of HM Life Guards by our friend Jeremy Ross Lawler (solo artist and formerly of Winter’s Edge) last year that prompted a fun little exploration into that regiment’s history (you can check that out if you scroll back through our Instagram).
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
I’m going to go with Warrel Dane. I was never the biggest Nevermore fan, but what an incredible vocal talent that man was! I feel like he had a lot more still to give.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Difficult question because there’s so much that I love about this part of my life, but if you pushed me then I’d have to say gigging. I’m a chronic worrier usually, but being on stage is one of the few times I can truly put my mental baggage aside and just be in the moment. There’s not much I’d rather do than get up on a stage and have fun with my mates, and nothing compares to that feeling when a crowd really connects with your performance.
I’m not sure if there’s anything I really hate about it other than the fact that I can’t do it for a full-time job!
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
A bigger cut of streaming services’ profits for the bands that use them would be lovely.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
“The Crimson Idol” by W.A.S.P. For my money, it’s one of the best concept albums of all time. Top notch storytelling and musical craftsmanship and absolutely crammed with hooks; a stunning piece of work from start to finish. I never get tired of it.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
I like hardcopy music (not that I’m down on downloads – I do use Spotify), and I think for sheer versatility I’d have to pick CD’s. Vinyl is a lovely experience, but I can’t play it in my car and I can’t upload it to my computer. I can’t say that I really get the resurgence that cassettes are having at the moment, but each to their own.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
28 September 2019; opening Power Metal Quest Fest in Birmingham. That was a real landmark show for us; the biggest crowd we’ve played for to date and they were very nice to us. Hearing people we’d never met singing our songs back to us was just unreal!
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Probably amateur journalism. I used to do a lot of music reviews and band interviews before I joined my first band, and I got into writing film reviews when I was between bands. I imagine I would have kept up one or both if I hadn’t started making music.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
I assume you’re looking for five famous guests but, to be honest, hosting a dinner party for five celebrities sounds exhausting. Not to mention that I’d definitely be the most boring person at that table; they’d be far more interested in talking to each other than me.
Can I just have the band round for beer and pizza? There are only four of them, but if Danny and Jade bring their beautiful dog, Freya, then that’s five. That sounds a lot more fun.
What’s next for the band?
As soon as we can return to the practice room and get back up to standard, we’ll be hitting the studio to record two new singles. We’re diving into new areas of history with both and we’re really excited about them.
The first is ‘To the Bitter End’, which some of our fans will have already heard us play live (we debuted it at Quest Fest last year). It’s our first attempt to tackle the colossal subject that is the First World War. The song tells the story of a handful of British soldiers who, on the final day of the Battle of the Somme, were cut off and trapped in a German second line trench. Despite freezing conditions, an almost total lack of supplies and being under constant attack from all sides, they managed to hold the trench for eight days before they were finally overrun. It’s an incredible chapter in the history of the War, but one which is largely unknown, which is why we’re also producing an audio-history to accompany the CD, that will tell the whole story in all its astonishing detail. Writing this was the biggest research project I’ve undertaken for the band so far. If you enjoyed the historical background notes that accompanied our debut album, this audio-history will take things to a whole new level.
We’re keeping the details of the second single quiet for now, but I will say that from a lyrical perspective it’s arguably our most ambitious song to date. We’ve crammed two hundred years of history and some big conceptual issues into a five-minute song. It’s Forlorn Hope through and through, but at the same time it’s like nothing you’ve heard from us yet!
Once these are recorded, we’ll be staggering their release over the following months. We’ll have brand new, dedicated merch for both singles and plenty of related content coming through on our website and social media channels, so there’s a lot for our fans to be excited about.
As far as gigs are concerned, we have no idea whether we’ll be back on stage before the year is out, but our 2020 festival appearances (Wihtwara Helly, Warhorns and Ragefest) have all been rescheduled for 2021, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Cake. This was settled in 1991
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Album two is currently in the works, and it absolutely will top ‘Over the Hills’.
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