Mael Mórdha

Damned When Dead

Written by: EW on 11/09/2013 17:48:55

Returning with their fourth album "Damned When Dead" I am pleased to say Mael Mórdha still retain the authenticity and pride which first attracted me to these Irish pagans years ago around the release of the excellent "Gaeltacht Mael Mórdha". For while "Manannán" was a mere revision of their still identifiable style this new one beats at the heart of the classic doom that permeates throughout and does so much to stand Mael Mórdha apart from the hordes of over-excitable plastic folk/pagan/call-it-what-you-want acts still doing the rounds today. Opener "Laudabiliter" lays down the marker for any listeners approaching MM for the first time, morphing from a rumbling bass tone into ominous mid-tempo beats beneath Roibéard Ó Bogail's charismatic, warcry vocals; this is a band at the darker, more serious end of the pagan sphere, akin to Primordial and Thyrfing, than the party-folk twee of Turisas and Ensiferum et al.

Looking to not spoil that pedigree is the clever usage of a whistle to bookend sections within songs. Such a small choice on paper has larger consequences when one considers the honesty within a band's music - to perform within their means and the ability to replicate it live rather than through the anonymous synth of today's folky upstarts is as fine an attestation of dedication as you will get. If that is a cause for concern, however, think to yourself how often does a band surprise in this genre of metal since it all became dumbed-down around the rise of Alestorm, Swashbuckle and Gloryhammer?

"King of the English" is representative of Ó Bogail's frequent lyrical forays into Irish history, telling tales of how my English forefathers were rather fond of invading the land of his (sorry for that), set to a crunching bass-driven tempo. "Dawning of the Grey" is the first realistion of Primordial in the piece as the speed rises and sees Ó Bogail play the most prominent role until guitarist Gerry Clince takes the lead later on. "All Eire Will Quake" mixes lyrical themes of distrust and vengeance with an enjoyable galloping rhythmic influence; "Bloody Alice (of Abergavenny)" sees the pace retained as the song peaks with Winterfylleth-styled "woooaaahhhhh"s (I noted the appreciation of Winterfylleth fellow during the song's rendition at the recent Candlefest).

The latterly "The Sacking of the Vedrafjord", "A Dirge" (an instrumental true to its name) and the closing title track do no harm to the image of a considered band yet to reap the rewards their music deserves. The title track in particular is a real slow-burner, with hints of Katatonia, before it eventually picks up the pace late in its 8 minutes to end the album on a positive note. Odd lead rhythms aside the instrumentation is restrained and untempted by virtuosity, sitting instead in a grainy layered production which allows the songs themselves to do the talking. From a personal perspective the opening triple salvo of "Gaeltacht Mael Mórdha" is still the highlight from the band but "Damned When Dead" is just as solid across its whole 47 minutes and deserving of a place for Mael Mórdha among Ireland's metal elite.


Download: Dawning of the Grey, King of the English
For The Fans Of: Primordial, Thyrfing, Doomsword
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 16.09.2013
Candlelight Records

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