Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Irish albums you may be missing out

Mourning Beloveth: Formless

Irish Mourning Beloveth has been around for more than 20 years now. They play death doom metal with lyrical themes dealing anguish, despair and despondency and my first encounter with them was about three or four years ago. I haven't been a doom lover in the past, but somehow that all changed in the 2000's. It was not only anxiety in my own personal life that pushed me searching to gloom, depressive and mournful sounds but also my musical progression and desire for longer, more profound, thoughtful and epic songs. When I first heard The Mountains Are Mine or the entire Sullen Sulcus album, I was sold: this is how doom should sound in my ears.

Formless is only the fifth full length in their career, but what they lack in quantity they surpass in quality. The album is sorrowful, it is slow, it is emotional and it is monstrous in length: six songs and total playing time over 80 minutes. Only one song is below 10-minute mark, the others usually clocking in at quarter of an hour. What I love about this band are the harmonies the vocalists Frank Brennan (guitar & clean vocals) and Darren Moore (harsh vocals) are able to produce. Especially Frank's emotional singing style and the vocal delivery is one of the highlights of the year. Take for example Nothing Has A Centre: Frank gives one of the best, if not the best, vocals I have heard all year. Only Jón Hansen from Hamferd is able to fight back if you ask me.

Formless has been out since February and I have been playing it quite a lot. There is not much I can argue about the album, sure some songs could have been cut out to make it more radio friendly, but I am guessing this is not the direction or the desire of the band. One thing about the album is certain: it requires your total and utter attention as the songs are really consuming, strenuous and demanding. However when you reach the end of the album Nothing Has A Centre and the closing track Transmissions leave you in awe. This is one of the finest doom albums this year and I strongly urge you to check them out.

Listen to the opening track below:

Mael Mórdha: Damned When Dead

I am a sucker for Primordial, Ireland and pagan metal. Combine all these three elements and the result is Mael Mórdha, a little brother to the mighty Primordial. Some people hate the comparisons to other bands as each and every band wants to be known from its own songs and achievements. Mael Mórdha does not have to keep its head in the bush as it clearly rides on its own material, material which is actually pretty effing good.

Damned When Dead is band's fourth full length and first on Candlelight Records. Their sound is folky doom pagan metal in the roots of Primordial, DoomSword and Moonsorrow. Singer Roibéard Ó Bogail sounds clearly irish and his vocal style is emotional and patriotic. The production on the album is fitting and flow of the songs is usually mid-tempo and lyrics deal with Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Guitar tone is not super heavy yet crispy and balanced. What makes this album a winner in my books are the folk driven melodies give the album an atmosphere that separates them from the mass. I hope these guys would tour Finland soon in order to witness their stamina live.

Support the guys here:

Altar Of Plagues: Teethed Glory & Injury

Remember when I was talking about the coolest album covers with Ataraxie? Well, Teethed Glory & Injury may have the other one fighting for that top position. How often have you seen a ballet dancer twisted in almost bearable position in a post-black metal album? Never? That's what I thought too.

In the beginning it was not clear to me that Altar Of Plagues called it quits after this album. Having listened to it 20 times or more, I now understand: where could they probably have gone from here? The album is not perfect, but it offers some the most out-of-the-box thinking and songwriting I have heard this year. It is almost as if James Kelly & the gang had an infernal vision that when we live, we go out with a big bang. They sure were able to execute this plan note by note. You have seen it on year-end lists and they deserve to be there for sure. I am going to tell you a secret though.

When I first heard God Alone, the first single from the album and saw the video with ballet dancers, I thought immediately: these guys have clearly lost it now. Where is my Cascadian style black metal, tremolo riffing and long 10-minute mark breaking epic songs? All these elements are missing from this album. Instead they have incorporated a haunting, industrial keyboards elements, post-rock style interludes and strong electronic fluence. As if you were listening to some sort of hybrid of post-rock, industrial hardcore and post-black metal. This is the reason why the scores for this album range from 11% to 97%, you are either going to love it or hate it.

Teethed Glory & Injury is the final vision of the band. Rest assured, all members pursue their musical career in other projects, one of which is Malthusian whose totally ripping demo I have reviewed in my earlier post. On the other hand, James Kelly is continuing with Wife, which has no metal elements at all and takes him to more electronic sounds. Take it or leave it, Altar Of Plagues exits the black metal scene on a high mark in my books although I am still having mixed feeling about the album sometime. Some days I am missing the long and epic black metal songs and other days I am really enjoying the groundbreaking sound and songwriting they present on their last album. The only thing I am more than gutted is that I never got to witness them live, by the time they were performing in Finland last year, I was safely attending Amon Amarth concert thinking these guys are sure coming back, they are still young. Boy was I wrong about that.

Listen and support below:

Dread Sovereign: Pray To The Devil In Man

Altar Of Plagues doing electronic black metal and Nemtheanga doing doom metal and playing bass? Has the entire Ireland gone bonkers? Dread Sovereign features Nemtheanga on bass and Sol Dubh on drums from Primordial and Bones on guitar from Wizards of Firetop Mountain. The trio was activated this year and Pray To The Devil In Man is their first EP on Roadburn Records. Dread Sovereign also played their first gig in Roadburn Festival 2013 this year and yes, I did not witness it. Unlike my imagination, my monetary funds are limited people.

When you first press play you grab the cover to check is it really Nemtheanga on vocals? Yup, the guy sounds actually like Ozzy on some parts sounding nasal and tense, but then effortlessly goes lower to his trademark register. I cannot stop admiring his talent and his attitude while performing on stage, every show I have been to he gives 100% to the fans, no less. I still remember the goosebumps I had when I first heard him shouting: "We are Primordial and we come from the Republic Of Ireland". Bloody hell, I almost wet my pants that day!

Pray To The Devil In Man features three tracks and 21 minutes of doom. The songs are pretty slow-paced and the melodies are sorrowful. The guys don't show off by giving you tapping solos or flaunt with technically difficult songs, but somehow the atmosphere is very down to earth and honest. This EP is best digested having some strong hopped beer or Irish whiskey. Consume with care.

Listen to the first single Thirteen Clergy To The Flames below:

Nomadic Ritual: Holy Giants

I stumbled across these guys by accident (as I have done with many unknown, but totally awesome bands before). After a brief homework session I learnt they are located in Belfast, Northern Ireland and are new to the scene. Holy Giants is the band's debut full length and they are offering it Name Your Price on Bandcamp. Actually both Limited Editions on tape and CD are sold out, but you can support the guys on Bandcamp directly by giving a few euros for the next pint of Guinness.

Nomadic Rituals play caveman doom (or something like that) where the sound of the bass so down-toned and crushingly heavy that you feel like your ears are ready to go deaf and heart is jumping out of your chest. There are no catchy choruses you can sing-along to, instead plenty to super gloom and heavy doom that will break your neck and vibrate the shirt you are wearing just as a reminder that not all music is intended to make you draw flowers or make you happy. I am not ready to slit my wrists either after this, in fact I am curious as hell to see if these guys are able to pull it off live. Good job guys and hopefully the Guinness money will start pouring in after all four people reading my blog will contribute you on Bandcamp. Sláinte!

Stream the album here and support!

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