Ireland isn’t the first place to think about when it comes to Black Metal. A small island, which has undergone a lot of anguish throughout history. However small the scene may be, there is still plenty of material to create the bleak landscape that is black metal.
Scáth na Déithe hail from Dublin and are setting out to make Ireland a permanent branch on the ever growing tree of black metal. Composed of two members, Stephen Todd and Cathal Hughes, their second release The Dirge of Endless Mourning is a cascade of atmosphere shifting from grim black metal to pure aggressive death metal all while complemented with a sprinkling of doom. Throw all these ingredients into a mortar and grind them into a black/death salve of pure hatred and despair.
Both Todd, and Hughes are members of prominent stoner doom projects in Ireland. After reading a bit about their side projects all the influences that bleed from The Dirge of Endless Mourning make sense. I must admit that I approached this album thinking it was a pure black metal record, only to be completely surprised when tempo shifted into a death metal vortex.
Production is sublime and is remarkably different from traditional black metal production with the addition of thick throbbing bass, and a relentless pummelling of double bass drums accenting the razor sharp melodic tremolo picked guitars. The addition of tradition buzz saw guitars allow swells of melody to come to an unrelenting halt followed by a deluge of spine-shattering death metal grooves.
Reviewing the lyrical content was an absolute joy. The melancholic passages are sown into the torrent of black and death metal a reflection of withered tree adorning the cover. Each song painting a mirthless portrait of masculine tyranny.
The album artwork is cryptic and wildly appropriate. Withered hags hover over what can only be assumed as “evil elixirs” as a large vaginal orifice embellished with snarling serpents. Within the orifice lies a flowing tree it’s roots descending deep into the earth as it’s skeletal branches clawing towards the sky. Another vaginal orifice containing a bloomed plant hides in the top corner. These images cover withered script suggesting that perhaps the listener has stumbled upon a disquisition torn from an herbalist’s ancient text. A reminder of the power that women possess. The ability to produce life and to resurrect the natural world all of which have been a blasphemous display of power from the masculine gaze.
Scáth na Déithe weave a reflective offering exploring the oppression of feminism all due primarily to the massive plague spread by Christianity (more specifically Catholicism). Part of this offering recounts the life of Biddy Early who in Irish folklore was regarded as a Bean Sidhe (or Banshee) keening due to her wrongful death. She was an herbalist who was feared throughout Irish history instead of regarded for her contributions as a healer. Her denouncement of the patriarchal surname and treatment without financial compensation was condemned. Her reputation instead was tainted being accused of being a witch due to the overwhelming cowardice that Catholics had regarding ancient medicine and the true beneficence of the human spirit.
The Dirge of Endless Mourning extends its scope further encompassing those who were commonly painted as malicious women all who were trying to reject masculinity and focus on the power of the maternal role. The theme is not as specific in black metal but something I think should be further explored. Rejection of the feminine role is always present in history around the world (this is not up for debate). The profound lack of knowledge of medicine, herbalism in history has always caused “witch hunts”, which are inhumane and profoundly primitive in nature.
Black metal itself is a bleak meditation on the oppression of others based on the usurping of classical (dare I say pagan) ideals subjected to an inferno of blasphemous Christian ideals. Scáth na Déithe do not fall victim to typical tropes in Black metal. They instead pave a new path, which I thoroughly enjoy. Their ability to build an atmosphere encompassing black and death metal is remarkable and commendable. The Dirge of Endless Mourning constantly shifts perspectives from the desperation of women trying to help others but to help invoke a sense of identity to pure fury of their scorn.
Though it is early in the year I admit that I was weary regarding recent releases, Scáth na Déithe disproved that belief by conjuring a black/death metal tome that will be relentlessly played in my home.