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Altar of Plagues, Cruachan, & Soothsayer
Three Metal bands from Ireland who you must listen to. Now!
I’m from and still living in Ireland. Yep, that emerald green island to the west of Europe. St. Patrick, Enya, a thousand different musical accents, mist covered green fields, mountains, and ancient ruins.
I get to let you in on something not many people realise. Irish Metal Bands are absolutely awesome.
I’m trying to do a post about some of my favourites every few weeks from now on.
ALTAR OF PLAGUES:
Altar of Plagues are a now retired project from my home city of Cork, Ireland. An Atmoshpheric Black Metal band on paper, their sound evolved over their short life-span.
White Tomb was released in 2009 to critical acclaim and along with its follow up ‘Mammal’, it represents a fine example of Black Metal that eschews the theatrical satanic themes of the early examples in this genre. This is primal, raw emotion, channeling the power and fury of nature.
Altar of Plagues finished with a bang. Their last album ‘Teethed Glory and Injury’, was a slight divergence from the previous two. Frontman James Kelly is an unabashed Jazz fan, and his latest project WIFE is firmly in the electronica sub-sphere of alt music (and it’s stunning). The tag Post Metal is bandied about a lot without anyone really defining it these days. Perhaps this album is the best example of it. It’s definitely avant-garde, it’s definitely experimental, and it’s also really heavy.
Cruachan are legends in the Folk-Metal genre. While kind of unknown to the general public in Ireland, they have amassed a loyal fanbase worldwide. Playing what you might call traditional Heavy Metal, fused with Irish trad sounds, their albums chronicle the rich heritage of Irish History and Celtic Mythology. They have an album produced by folk music legend Shane McGowan and together they do a great version of ‘Ride On’.
The line up of the band has changed a lot over the years, but frontman Keith Fay has been the constant. He seems like a good fella (Cruachan Keith on FB), and together with his cohorts he already created a great body of work with no signs of stopping. I would go as far as to say that Cruachan represent Irish Mythology through Metal, on a similar level to how Jim Fitzpatrick does through art. This is rousing stuff!
I don’t get out to as many gigs as I should. I gave up alcohol over ten years ago and generally steered clear of the pub scene. Tentatively I tried a few gigs sober and loved the experience. It’s generally dark at a gig, I can have a lemonade (anonymously), and rock out to the music. In November 2014 Icelandic rock legends Solstafir came to my home town. I was just after getting into them in a big way, and when the support act came on, I had that initial sense of impatience for them to get it over with for the main act. Then they started playing. This was heavy stuff. This was slow. And this was hypnotic. But where the hell was the vocalist? It was a small venue and I could certainly hear his chilling vocals, but I couldn’t see him. Then there he was… in the crowd, eyeballing us and bellowing like some Bronze Age Druid on Beacáin, channeling his ancestors. Many new bands these days are trying their luck with Atmospheric Doom Metal. Electric Wizard et al, have spawned a thousand copycats. Soothsayer aren’t that. They are their own thing. A few days after the gig I downloaded their stuff from Bandcamp, and since then I’ve become a bit of a collector of their material.
The second time I saw them live I was running a bit late, but figured I’d get to their set in time. I paid at the door of the club and asked who was playing at the moment. The lady taking the cover charge told me it was <anotherband>. Relieved, I walked to the bar for my customary lemonade. I was about to order when the hairs rose up on my arms and I genuinely got chills from the music. “That’s not <anotherband> I thought. That’s Soothsayer!” It was like blundering into a genuine seance at the bit where the table starts hopping up and down. What is it with Cork bands being the mediums for other realms and vibing ancient spirits?
They are another Cork band so they’re also pure daycent. I’ll return to these guys in the future for a proper deep dive into them.
There are a lot more Irish metal bands, but I picked these three to write about as they are always on heavy rotation on the Aquanaut’s gramophone. You should give them a follow, download their stuff, and buy all their vinyls.
Next week: The Ocean Collective