Metal and hardcore in Ireland rarely goes 12 months without releasing at least a couple of impressive records, and 2014 was no different, from new bands (Vircolac being the most recent) through to the old guard. Perhaps what is most interesting about several Irish records released this year, and the six painstakingly chosen below, is the vibrant diversity in sounds, whether this is death metal, folk, black metal or crusty hardcore. It attests to the creativity one can always find here, but enough gabbing…
Six: Lynched – Cold Old Fire
Starting with something a little different is Lynched’s Cold Old Fire, the debut album from the Dublin folk and traditional Irish music band. Some of the members may be more familiar for their time in different hardcore bands, but Cold Old Fire is a different entity entirely, which sees the four piece tackle classic Irish trad songs with a gritty old Dublin flavour; the opening track ‘Henry My Son’, originally sang by Frank Harte, is simply sublime and has been reimagined in a much more sombre tone while original numbers like the title track are simply unforgettable. A real gem of a record.
Five” Dúnmharú – The Light
Dublin black metal duo Dúnmharú have a couple of releases under their belt at this stage, but The Light is their most fully-formed and exciting yet. Granted, their formula is tried and tested, and won’t necessarily set the world ablaze, but the sheer quality of the tunes and the atmosphere created on these four expansive numbers speaks for themselves, recalling some of the early works of Primordial, peppered with healthy doses of modern black metal tropes.
Four: Ilenkus – The Crossing
The first album, Rule By Thieves, from Galway’s Ilenkus was a solid affair but this second LP, The Crossing, is a whole other animal, swerving from unrelenting hardcore and sludge to meandering prog-like verses. It can be a difficult listen at times, but ultimately it’s very rewarding, especially when colossal riffs like those of ‘Over the Fire, Under the Smoke’ come crashing in with no remorse while the to and from between vocalists gives the album a very particular atmosphere of unease and volatility with every song.
Three: Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
A list like this would feel bizarrely incomplete without mention of Primordial, clearly Ireland’s greatest metal export, and Where Greater Men Have Fallen sees them back on fine form. Where 2011’s Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand was a solid record, it didn’t have the same vim as their prior work, the kind of grit that we come to expect from Primordial. On Where Greater Men Have Fallen, they have more than found that vigour again, with the title track’s shamelessly anthemic opening, almost as unforgettable as set stalwarts like ‘Empire Falls,’ or the vicious black metal twists and turns of ‘The Seed of Tyrants.’ This is Primordial at some of their best.
Two: Twisted Mass – Isaiah
Isaiah, the first LP from Dublin crust outfit Twisted Mass is, simply put, a relentless beast. Sure, the band has been quiet for some time, but the release of this record makes one thing more than clear – their rage and songwriting chops first displayed on the self-titled EP in 2012 were only a slight hint of things to come. Unforgivingly charging with just the right amount of melody, Isaiah is a definite highlight of 2014.
One: Crows – Better Off Dead
Another Dublin record here, and it was a tight choice between this and Twisted Mass, but Crows’ first LP is an unbridled hardcore rager. Better Off Dead captures an affecting and utterly pissed off vitriol and bitterness that so many bands of this ilk aim for, but so rarely pull off, which is not the case with Crows. The band also shows some new shades of their palette here too, of course brief and terse barrages are the order of the day with this record, but a track like the closer, the nine minute ‘Death Crownado,’ tinkers with slower, almost-groovier riffs.