Prepare to delve into the ferocious world of Texas-based metal project Daedric as we explore their fresh sound showcased in the debut album, Mortal. Released last month through FiX.T (order here), this electronic metal offering takes no prisoners. In this interview, Metal Insider spoke with Daedric’s creative force, Dallas/Fort Worth-based vocalist and artist Kristyn Hope. The project is known to have drawn inspiration from an eclectic array of sources, including David Bowie, Anthony Green of Circa Survive, Sia, and the popular open-world role-playing game series Elder Scrolls Skyrim, from which the Daedric name is derived. In this interview, Metal Insider spoke with Hope to dive deep into the creation and inspiration behind the new record.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and creative process behind the debut album, Mortal?
Daedric started as a synthwave/darkpop project – this sound can be heard in the songs “Wretched” and “Nascent”, which were some of the first tracks developed. Somewhere along the way my producers, Geoff Rockwell and Clay Schroeder, and I came to the realization that we had something special with the heavier elements of my voice. Since my music is heavily inspired by the popular RPG game, Skyrim, we knew as long as we stayed true to that element we could essentially do anything in the musical world. Embracing that truth really opened up many creative avenues for the album.
Mortal features a mix of electronic and metal elements. How did you find the balance between these two genres in your music?
We wanted to create something unique with this album. There is an electronic influence slowly coming into modern metalcore and we knew we could really exploit that to create something jarring and exciting. Do I think we’ve perfected the blend? Not yet, but we’ve certainly laid the groundwork for what Daedric can achieve going forward. Tracks like “Alchemy” and “Nirn” encapsulate this idea perfectly to me.
Can you discuss the concept or message Mortal conveys?
The concept of Mortal developed into a more complex message than I’d originally planned honestly. Going into writing “Wretched” I was fixated on establishing the Daedric brand and all I knew for certain was that I wanted to make the music inspired by The Elder Scrolls but push back just enough to intertwine my own thoughts and life experiences. As I began to find my stride during the process of working on “Sepulchre” I found comfort in diving deeper into both the TES lore and my own heart and mind. As an introvert, the idea of showcasing more of my inner self terrified me, but I loved working through that and putting it into the music. It felt even more true and relatable. So I would say that ‘Mortal’ speaks to the imaginary life forces of Skyrim and creating your own mortal character within the story, as well as taking a look at our own human mortality in this life. We have but a fleeting moment on earth, and there’s something beautiful and terrifying about living through our time, experiencing pain, loss, anger, joy, and love. All of these factors in our unique lives and shape who we are. We’re often terrified of death and the end, but something about that also makes what we have even more precious. It’s finite.
What were some of the biggest challenges creating the album?
One of the initial challenges for this album was solidifying the Daedric brand. Who am I? What is the look? What is the message? Who are our people? That last question took me the longest to hone in on and I feel like we have just begun to answer it. You can examine things like demographics to analyze your audience’s age, gender, and location, but that’s such a general sweeping group on paper. I wanted to find people who like the things I like and want to talk about it, not just listen to my contribution. Creating the music is obviously at the heart of this, but building a community will grow its roots. I began to put out feelers first into gaming as a whole to see what other Skyrim fans were playing. Then I figured out many of those people also like anime just like me! From there it feels like it’s snowballed into all the interests that many Daedric fans connect with: Lego, Godzilla, etc. These are all seemingly niche, but the truth is that it’s more interconnected than anyone realizes.
Another challenge for the album itself was tackling so many heavily visual music videos. I know I could have opted for visualizers or performance videos, and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with those but I knew it wasn’t enough. I’m a visual artist and I love to tell stories. My goal in establishing Daedric was to give people a look into my vision of the song’s narrative. It was grueling to create so many of these videos for just one album but I have zero regrets. The album feels multi-faceted because of all the different looks and how they support the sound.
Your music has been compared to artists like Evanescence, Jinjer, and Bad Omens. How do you feel about these comparisons, and which artists have had the most significant influence on your music?
Comparison is such a natural thing when a person is introduced to something new. It’s a way to hold onto something safe and comfortable while exploring or else we often find ourselves immediately rejecting the foreign idea, visual, sound, etc as it can be too overwhelming. I’m honored to be held in the same light as so many iconic artists, even if I don’t understand where they hear the reference at times. They are big names for a reason, and they’ve brought fresh sounds to the rock and metal landscape.
I find it difficult to name specific artists that have had an impact on my music. I listen to a lot of RnB, hip hop and pop, along with all the metal music in my library. There are times I fixate on Kendrick Lamar’s flow and then jump to Halsey’s before being swept up in the latest Sleep Token. The best answer I can give regarding influence is a long list of vocalists with unique character in their voices. From Maria Brinks, Michael Jackson, and Lacey Sturm, to Marcus Bridge and Chester Bennington, it would start to look like a team roster.
What was your experience creating the video for “Dawnbreaker?”
It was cold as f***. We booked a one day shoot 3 hours from home during the month of February， in a location where it had some eclectic medieval elements we could use to reinforce the Dawnbreaker narrative. Me and three others (my producer Clay, videographer Dan, and photographer/grip Brittany) drove to the venue early in the morning and arrived after noon. It took awhile to setup so by the time we filmed the first scene, we had cut into half of our allotted time on set. Luckily the venue owner was extremely graceful and gave us an extension into the late night. Because I was just one person playing a total of 4 characters in one video, we strategically shot as much as we could for each character look before moving on. By the time we got to the final scene with Meridia, it was nearly midnight and almost freezing. I was barefoot with only a thin tunic dress.
We were able to capture all the scenes except the battle scene between the main protagonist and the demonic character from “Sepulchre” so we booked a blackout room the next day to quickly film it and make an absolute mess with black paint. We quickly got all the footage, packed up, and left the venue while I was still covered in the black paint. I think there’s still some footage of me attempting to eat dinner in the car while the paint is dripping down my face. Even though it was so physically and mentally demanding, I love taking on projects that challenge me. It feels like it’s building my personal character when I suffer for my art. Plus, I appreciate the comforts of home even more!
What can fans expect from Daedric in the future, both in terms of music and live performances?
What should you expect from Daedric in the future? The best I can do is promise more music that’s grounded in fantasy with an experimental soundscape. I never want to become pigeon-holed into a genre because you’ll get bored and I’ll get bored. I love dynamics so there will always be songs that stretch into the very heavy side while others tread into the delicate realm. As for live performances, we have something special in the works as we contemplate the best way to take Daedric to the stage in a natural and high quality debut.
Is there anything else you want to say or add about Daedric and the debut album, Mortal?
I cannot thank everyone enough for the reception of ‘Mortal’ and I’m in love with the community surrounding Daedric. I recognize that these people are more than just streaming numbers and merch sales. Each person is their own complex universe and to be able to connect with so many in my lifetime is a dream I’m only realizing now.