Signing Story: Darkest Hour

 Date Signed: February 2023 

Label: MNRK Heavy 

Band Members: Mike Schleibaum, guitar; John Henry, vocals; Aaron Deal, bass; Travis Orbin, drums; Nico Santora, guitar 

Management: Mike Schleibaum and Tito Picon 

Booking: U.S.A.: Jonathan Willson - Sound Talent Group, EU/U.K.: Marco Wazel - Avocado Booking 

Legal: Beverly Davis 

Publicity: Atom Splitter PR 

Web: darkesthour.ffm.to/perpetualterminal 

A&R: Carl Severson and Steve Seabury 

We have a Patreon. We have a fan base. We have two and a half decades worth of music. We don't need to be on a label!” Meet Mike Schleibaum of D.C.’s Darkest Hour, a metal outfit with 25 years of history that includes over 10 record deals over nine full-length releases. On February 23, they will be releasing their 10th full-length. And until recently, they were adamant that they were done with record labels. After all, they’d already wrapped in the studio; possess their own global booking agents; and have self-managed themselves for years. 

Somewhere between the band’s 2017 independent release and now, however, DH realized all that time receiving orders, shipping albums, chasing royalties etc., was time taken away from what the band loved to do most—play. So after a bit of a post mortem, Darkest Hour began wondering if a label could help. Coincidentally, this is also when MNRK Heavy joined the chat. 

“There was a longtime friend at MNRK Heavy who contacted us and was like, ‘Hey, you guys are killing it… but how are you going to do this upcoming release?’” explains Schleibaum. MNRK Heavy is a subsidiary of MNRK, formerly known as eOne, who released Darkest Hour’s The Human Romance in 2011. What caught Darkest Hour’s eye was the label’s focus on up-and-coming artists, not just known acts. However, Darkest Hour have the battle scars to know what labels want in return, and the band wasn’t going to budge on royalties. 

Much to Schleibaum’s surprise, the label pitched making its money in places the band wasn’t already. “I can't say that it's as simple as they gave us all the digital money and all the publishing and blah, blah, blah— but they gave us everything we wanted and what no [other] label would give us: a deal that ends, but in good faith.” Basically, the band and label will check in after each release and see if the partnership is still fruitful. No “three-to-five release minimums.” 

When asked to share some knowledge on surviving the ups and downs of the industry, Schleibaum had this to say: “Practice. Do things slowly. Like, if you're gonna practice a set, practice the song slower than you normally plan to get everybody's group muscle memory together. Practice at home, the stuff that's really hard, slower. And if there's nothing that's hard, either you don't know how to practice, you're not listening, or you guys are not trying hard enough. You have to be as hungry to learn about practice as you are learning about success.”