Grimslath heads to Phandelver, Indiana with his D20s and prestidigitation cantrips to try and make some sense of the curiously popular D’n’D metal genre with the admirably formed NWOTHM outfit THRONE OF IRON, and to take a peek at its spin-off Bal-Sagoth-esque project BEHIR, and ole-school thrash-death act GRAVERIPPER. Nerd alert? Or just time to turn off the dungeon-synth, use your initiative, and get the guitars out again? Err…let me just check the player’s handbook…..
INTERVIEW BY GRIMSLATH
Formed in the wake of the passing of Mark ‘the Shark’ Shelton (Manilla Road), Throne of Iron is a traditional/epic metal quartet hailing from Bloomington, Indiana and are one of my favourite bands of the NWOTHM movement. Last year they released their debut full-length, Adventure One, on No Remorse Records and its been a permanent fixture in my playlist ever since.
I discovered Throne of Iron with their 2018 Demo on Bandcamp and it really helped me through a rough patch I was going through. Straight up, riff-powered, D&D -inspired metal to bang your head to. I caught up with singer and guitarist Tucker Thomasson to find out a little bit more about the dice rolling adventurers…
Hi Tucker, thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions! How have you guys been during the pandemic? You guys really got a raw deal when Covid first hit and I recall you saying you tested positive for it at one point. Hope you haven’t suffered any long term effects!
Hey, thanks for having me! I did get COVID in September and while I dodged the respiratory symptoms, I did get my brain fried by it a little so I do get confused from time to time still. But my physician and I are working through it, and I’ve been doing well for the last month!
Your demo was released in 2018 and there followed a meteoric rise culminating in signing a deal with No Remorse Records and releasing Adventure One. How did you find going from writing and recording the demo to having to put together a full lineup and get more material written in such a small time period? Did the speed with which it happened present any problems?
Honestly, everything came together very quickly. When the offer had come down, I was already kind of thinking of putting a band together for some one off live shows here and there just for fun, but then the deal happened and I was more or less forced to legitimize Throne Of Iron as an actual band. I already knew that I’d wanted Corwin (guitar) and Jacob (drums) involved beforehand, so that was easy. The rest of the material for the album and the “Crypt Of Blades” split came very fast. Usually when creativity hits me, the songs just kind of fall out and I’ll write sometimes three tunes a day. The other factor that helped actually was having other creative people involved, in the form of my bandmates. “Dark Shrine of Rituals” and “Fourth Battle of the Ash Plains” were written by Corwin and I in the same afternoon, just by me taking my laptop to his house and us blasting riffs at each other.
Its been almost a year now since Adventure One was unleashed on the world. How happy are you with the reception to the album? Is there anything that, looking back, you would change about the album or is it exactly the way you wanted it?
Honestly more people listened to and had awesome things to say about it than I could have ever imagined. I’m still just floored that people take time out of their day to listen to us and like what we do and create. I wouldn’t change a thing about the record, honestly. It sounds exactly how we wanted it to, the art that David Paul Seymour did is perfect, and I think it completely captures the vibe of the band and what we’re about. I would have liked to have released a wooden dungeon master’s screen edition, but there’s nothing stopping us from doing that eventually on our own time.
The big difference between the demo and the album is your vocals and I know that’s been one area where some people have criticised the album. You dropped the nasally Shelton-esque style for the Xanathar single and Crypt of Blades EP so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the vocals on the album followed the more raucous, rough style of those releases. Is the album style more natural for you and did you think the criticism was merited or unfounded?
The demo was definitely me still trying to find my voice as a singer. Throne Of Iron is the first band I’ve NOT done harsh vocals exclusively in, so I didn’t really know how to approach “real” singing. On the demo, I was definitely focused more on the vibe than finding my voice, and I just wanted to get the music out so I went with a nasally style that Jacob referred to as “old storyteller” once. There was actually another version of Adventure One with all of the vocals in that style, but we opted for the one that got released because we thought it sounded more powerful and honest. As for the criticism, people are allowed to not like whatever they want. That’s just not how I listen to music, though. I kind of take what I’m hearing as a whole package. I never think “god I wish I could change those vocals” or anything about the production unless it’s just overtly bad. I guess I just trust the band to release the album they want to release and have their art framed how they think it should be. I’m not a traditional power metal style singer and I likely never will be, and the whole point of this band is to be framed within the idea of friends getting together and drinking some beers and telling stories of high adventure. The way I see it, we’re telling the stories about the people sitting at the table, not their characters. So the fact that our music is a little on the raw side grows out of that.
You’ve had a few trying times in your short history as a band, first with the Gencon debacle and then the pandemic striking while you were in the air flying to Greece for your first European show. I know you were really down after both events but did you find it easy or difficult to overcome the negative emotions that come with setbacks like that? Will you return to Europe once the pandemic is over?
Well Gencon was disappointing in a way that I kind of expected. I was being cautiously optimistic that we weren’t going to get shut down, but the possibility was definitely in my mind. We just dealt with it by chain smoking on the drive home and stealing a traffic cone from the convention center. All in all, we just took as a learning experience that not everyone is down to party in the same way we are. And while we almost definitely aren’t going to try to play Gencon again, we’d definitely be into the idea of throwing our own afterparty.
Having to turn around and not play in Europe was possibly the biggest disappointment of my career in music. It honestly took months for me to recover from that experience, and having to be stuck in my house afterwards. I didn’t listen to music with any kind of intent until maybe September because all it did was make me miss shows and think about what could have been. We were also supposed to do a United States tour in April and May following our return from Europe, and that didn’t happen. But I coped in other non musical ways as best as I could. I started focusing more on bodybuilding as opposed to powerlifting, zeroing in on my diet, parsing down my extra possessions I didn’t need, and most importantly, finally buying a house. I definitely don’t think I would have been able to accomplish a lot what I did for my personal life in 2020 had I been on the road doing a traditional album promotion cycle, so I am kind of grateful for that in a way.
I recall speaking to you on one of your Patreon livestreams where you said that you had struggled with depression and weightlifting had really helped you to overcome that. Lifting even inspired the name of the band, if I recall correctly. Tell us how you got into this sport and how it has helped you with your mental health?
I got into lifting when I was living in a friend’s spare bedroom in Bloomington after I’d gone through three heinous breakups within a two year time span. I’d always been a really skinny guy and honestly I just got tired of it. I wanted to feel strong and in control of something in my life, so a friend gifted me his old squat rack and barbell and I started putting in the time to learn how my body responded to heavy compound movements and what food I was eating. I would be out in the uninsulated garage during the suffocating heat and humidity of midwestern summer and the frigid cold of midwestern winter putting in reps and learning a lot about myself in the process. A year later, I started actually noticing a difference in my mindset as well as my body, and it helped put things in perspective for me, that I wasn’t powerless and I absolutely had control over my life and the world around me.
And yes, the name of the band came from lifting. I was reading up on Old Norse and the concept therein of “kennings”, or giving nicknames to things to make them fit in the poetic meter and I came up with “Throne Of Iron” as a kenning for my bench.
The lyrics of The Power of Will, although wrapped in a fantasy covering, seem to be your most personal lyrics and a rallying cry to overcome all the negative things that life throws at you as well as a metaphor for lifting. As someone else who suffers with depression and anxiety these are some of my favourite Throne of Iron lyrics. Is there much crossover between the mindset of a musician and a weightlifter? Was it a natural fit for you to combine lifting and D&D in your music?
I really was trying to evoke the feeling of the documentary “Pumping Iron” in that song, filtered through a fantasy lens. The lyric “oak-walled fortress” is just a memory I have of all of the cozy wood paneled basements of my youth, as well as speaking into existence what I’m currently doing as I remodel my own basement.
I think the crossover between lifting and playing music is definitely there. Both of those things can be lifestyle choices that are all about time allocation and persistence and dedication to your craft. I think both of them require a tremendous amount of will and perseverance.
I think the melding of D&D and lifting just comes from who Corwin, Jacob, and I are as people. We care about those things a lot and they’re big parts of our lives. I always felt like it was one thing to play a barbarian in a game, and another to do that as well as try to cultivate yourself into something more akin to who you play in RPGs. You can kind of use them as a way to figure out what the idealized version of yourself is more clearly, which you can then use to strive towards that ideal in real life.
One of the things I love about about bands that fall under the NWOTHM umbrella is just how supportive all the bands are of each other. I’ve been introduced to loads of great new music thanks to posts from you and others in the scene saying “check this album” or “this band is awesome”. Does it feel like you’re part of an extended metal family? Name drop some bands for our readers to check out!
I definitely used to cringe at the whole “metal brotherhood” trope, but since being involved in NWOTHM, I’ve found that to a degree it’s absolutely a real thing. I think it’s because we’re all kind of on the same wavelength and we’re all just doing this to have fun and be artistically fulfilled for the most part.
Here are some bands we’re friends with who you should listen to:
Voltage, Greyhawk, Stunner, Smoulder, Solicitor, Olorin, Knight And Gallow, Ryghar, By Fire & Sword
How much has Corwin moving back from Chicago been a positive step for the band?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive. We see each other once a week now when it used to be maybe every other month. We can work on music together much more easily now, as well as work on other projects like the Steelcast and another more lifting oriented thing we’re working on called Dungeon Muscle. We’ve been friends for almost a decade so being that far apart was definitely challenging.
Tell us how the idea for the Throne of Iron Steelcast came about? Do you have plans for more episodes?
We had been talking about doing a podcast or some other thing since the band started, just because we have a platform to get information to people with, and we have such diverse interests as a group. We definitely have more episodes planned, and some already recorded. We had to take a short hiatus due to COVID scares as some other stuff, but we’re going to be back on track very soon. We’re wanting to get episodes with guests, ranging from members of bands we like, visual artists, authors, audio engineers, strength athletes, the works. It’s going to be a really cool time.
You and Corwin released an EP, The Barbarian Part One, under the name Behir last year, which was fantastic blackened death metal. Will The Barbarian Part Two be out any time soon?
By the time you read this, it will be out! I just tracked vocals for it yesterday. Corwin is much like me creatively in that he tends to write songs in bursts, and Behir, along with his other project Buster Deadly And His Deadly Friends, are no different. Everything for The Barbarian Part Two came together within a week, more or less. Whereas Throne is largely collaborative, Behir is Corwin’s baby. I’m just the mouthpiece for it, and I relish a chance to do a style of harsh vocals I’ve never really explored before.
Will you be doing any more Roll for Metal songs and is the plan still to get other bands to take part at some point?
As it stands right now, there aren’t immediate plans to get back to doing Roll For Metal, but we really should because they really help to get the creative juices flowing sometimes. And yes, the plan is still to get other bands involved at some point, ideally when the world is less shitty, sick, and terrible.
Is work under way on more Throne of Iron music?
Absolutely. I started writing new stuff not long after I moved into my house, and it’s coming together nicely. As it stands right now, it’s going to be an EP, rather than another full length just yet. Adventure Two will likely have to wait until we can tour again. But we really like doing EPs because we can focus on telling a quick little story through music, like we did with the Crypt Of Blades split.
What is the best D&D character you’ve ever played as and why?
So since April, I’ve been playing in a campaign over Zoom with David Paul Seymour (artist of the Adventure One album cover), Adam from Wartroll, Tim Granda (Director and animator of The Planet Of Doom), Michael (Raven’s Horn), and Brian Profilio (The Budos Band) DMing. For this campaign, I decided to play as a paladin, which I had never done before, and I have to say that’s one of the more rewarding RPG experiences I’ve ever had. Paladins in 5th edition are insanely strong once you figure out how to play them, and it’s made all the more interesting by me being the only member of the party with healing capabilities.
What were your favourite albums of 2020?
I unfortunately took a lot of time away from music in 2020, so I had to play catch up on albums. Solicitor did drop an absolute rager of a record in 2020 though for sure. I also spun the new Havukruunu more times than I can count in my weight room. That album is raw heroic energy.
I used to be a total beer snob, but the older I get the more I fall in love with cheap beer, especially regional cheap beers of yesteryear. Of all of the cheap beers, though, my favorite is 100% Hamm’s. I collect Hamm’s memorabilia and old signs and merchandise. I have a lot of happy memories going to DIY shows and having band practices where Hamm’s was the beer of choice because it was the cheapest beer you could get.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions! Hope to hear more music from you soon. Anything you would like to add?
Stay tuned for more tunes from us as well as Behir and Jacob’s other band Graveripper!