Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today's 84th TBT features The Wretched Sun, the last album from a band who, in the eyes of the metalverse, ended their career far too quickly. Iron Thrones came together with a strong vision and even stronger songwriting for The Wretched Sun. The album is yet another small release which deserves far, far more attention than it ever received. Almost a decade later the songs are still compelling and captivating, capturing the raw energy of bands like Between the Buried and Me. A true stand-out among contemporaries, The Wretched Sun remains as beautifully, creatively written and recorded as it ever has, standing solid ground against the likes of today's most beloved metal acts.
IRON THRONE'S THE WRETCHED SUN
Release Date: 2010
Record Label: No Label Needed
I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Steve Henningsgard and Curt Parker about the now dissolved Iron Thrones. During their time together the band put out two records: the first one was 2008's Vision of Light; The second is the subject of today's TBT, 2010's The Wretched Sun.
Can you talk about how the band came to be to begin with? I’m aware that since, members have splintered off into different projects. But in the beginning, there must’ve been something that pulled you all together? And, it must have been magical. The Wretched Sun is goddamn underrated.
Curt: The band started as another band called Everest. From what I remember Steve started Everest because he was tired of all these metalcore bands all sounding the same, haha. I joined the band and played with them as Everest for a couple shows but when we added Adam Clemens (vocals) and Peter Clarke (drums) we decided that its a new band and we wanted to come up with a new name. Credit for the "Iron Thrones" name was all Pete. He was really into the Game of Thrones books so we landed on that. This was all like six years before the TV show came out. What drew me personally top the band was it's proggy elements and the excuse to stretch out as a musician. It was also my first metal band and that shit is fun.
Steve: To go back just a little further, I was in a metalcore band (Nehemiah) before Everest, and when our lead guitar player quit to join another band, I (in my young and angry way) decided to create a band to spite him, which became Everest. As the band matured and started to get more serious/demand more time, other members who wanted to explore and pursue other things started tapping out, and all of them were gradually replaced by the guys in what would become Iron Thrones. Pete was in a band I was recording and I convinced him to quit and join Iron Thrones, moving him from Iowa to Minnesota. Curt we found via Craigslist (as an added bonus, he had a van!), and Adam reached out to us after leaving Veil of Maya. I suppose it was “magical”, in a way, as a lot of different things had to line up for each of the members to have joined.
What, if anything, would you want people to take away from listening to the album?
Curt: The take away I get when I listen to the album is that it's a very honest band. We just wrote music we wanted to write. We never thought anyone would actually care so just wrote what we felt. Iron Thrones has this great way of really throwing a lot of our selves and emotion into the music that can be hard to replicate. But for that band it was very natural. When I personally listen to the album I think of the fun times I had with some great friends. So for new listeners I would say that what your hearing is what the band is. No pretenses and nothing is on either album that isn't meant to be there.
Steve: When people listen to any music I’m involved with, I hope that they feel a little less alone in life. Like Curt mentioned, we were a 100% honest band. We never had any discussions about whether a given riff or song should be included on our records based on how we believed “our fans” would react. Undoubtedly, that probably contributed to the limited appeal we had, but I think for those that happened to really dig what we were doing, it made our music that much more special. It’s kind of like putting a 100% honest dating profile up for yourself. Yeah, most potential partners are going to be completely turned off, or at least confused, but if you can actually connect with someone, that connection will be much more meaningful and more likely to last.
What was The Wretched Sun about, and what was the meaning behind it?
Curt: Adam can tell you best what the songs are specifically about. I don't think we've ever done a concept album or anything. usually our songs are about ourselves. Whether it's self doubt, trying to be better, our mistakes and other insecurities. We were very happy people…haha
Steve: For The Wretched Sun, for me I think it’s primarily about the concept of loss. The kind of loss where you find out that something you loved (a partner, a deity, a dream, etc.) never really existed, which totally destroys the foundation of your life. It’s a fundamentally destructive force, and is one of the truest judges of character.
Does it surprise you that a decade later The Wretched Sun still rips as hard as it did back then?
Curt: I'm just happy anyone is listening to it ten years later!
Steve: Curt nailed it.
I know that you all have moved on, and that its been quite some time, but if you’re comfortable talking about it, why the break up? I read a decent article about the breakup from a 2014 Decibel magazine article, I guess I was wondering if there was anything you’d like to add.
Curt: I think what happened was that we all kinda needed to grow as people. We were all in our mid to late 20's which can be a chaotic time. None of us are perfect and we all have strong personalities. Bands can be tough and sometimes you just need to let go. I'm glad we ended when we did. When I think about Iron Thrones now I remember the good times I had with my friends and if we had tried to keep it going that might not be the case.
Steve: I think Curt summarized it really well. I have a lot to say about my part in this, as it was really the most fundamental change I’ve ever experienced in my life, but I’m not sure anyone would really want to read it.
I'm sure they would.
Steve: The fundamental change for me was that I essentially killed a part of myself. After Thrones, I didn't even listen to music for years. Eh, I was very immature (as opposed to only immature now, haha). I'd viewed music as my religion, but I lost the faith after recording a bunch of bands whose music I wasn't really into – it just killed it for me. I clung to music like a life raft, trying to avoid the "real world". I was trying to make music my career, so I was an engineer/producer. I learned that music is too personal for me to be able to work on things I don't love. But now, Adam and I have a black metal band, Shaidar Logoth, whose third record is coming out.
Lastly, any chance of a re-release or something along those lines?
Curt: Probably won't be re-releasing anything unless someone comes up to us offering to do a vinyl pressing or something like that. It's up on Spotify for anyone wanting to hear the album. We're also going to be adding Visions of Light on Spotify. It was our first album and we are proud of that one as well.
Steve: Because we were never signed to a label, the primary force behind most re-releases (trying to cash in on publishing rights by taking advantage of music fans) isn’t there, so unless we hear that there’s demand for a re-release on another medium (ex. vinyl, as Curt mentioned), I doubt we’ll do one. We did have a few newer songs that were never released in the works, and three of us are still active musicians, so you never know if fate and circumstance will bring us together again.
HOLY GUACAMOLE GENTLEMEN. I found this nugget on YouTube. Have you all seen it in a while? This is hilarious. Any new thoughts on this triumph?
Steve: Bahaha, I forgot about everything in that video. What a depressing backdrop and terrible white balance. I think this pretty well sums up how not seriously we all take ourselves (except Curt, with his degree in Bass Technologies).
Curt: lastly I really appreciate you showing interest. It means a lot to us. Hope this helps spread the bands music to some new listeners. That’s the idea!
Steve: Most of us are still making music, and I think there are elements of Iron Thrones in each of our current projects (Adam: Skeletonwitch, Curt: Witch Ripper, Adam and Steve: Shaidar Logoth), so if you enjoyed Visions of Light or The Wretched Sun, you might enjoy our current projects as well. Big fan of many of these bands.
Did you enjoy the interview? If you did, please check out or revisit the band HERE on their Bandcamp. They're also available on Spotify.
Headline photo cred goes to Jeremy Saffer (c) 2010