Irish Doomsters and Folk Metal Masters Mael Mordha are ready to unleash their latest album ” Damned When Dead” on the 16th September through Candlelight Records. I first became aware of this band when I seen their entry on the Irish leg of the Eurovision Song competition many moons ago and became totally enthralled with their unique sound and Roibéard’s haunting vocals.I have been hooked ever since I heard their first album ” Cluain Tarbh” an epic masterpiece if there was ever one. Now they are onto their 4th album which is being acclaimed by critics worldwide so I decided to take the bull by the horns ( excuse the pun) and track their bassist Dave Murphy down and have a chat with him about all things Mael Mordha..
Hi Dave, can you tell the Live Reviewer readers a little about Mael Mordha’s formation?
The band actually goes back to 1998. Roibéard started the band back then and there were a few lineup changes in those days, indeed Roibéard is the only original member from those days. The current lineup took shape around 2001 as I recall, and we then went on to record the Cluain Tarbh demo and signed with Karmageddon Media for the first album in 2005. Since then we have had a relatively steady lineup. Anthony Lindsay played with us on the Gealtacht Mael Mordha and Mannanán albums but departed the band in 2011.
We considered recruiting another guitar player but after the experience of recording Damned When Dead as just the four of us, we decided to stick to this lineup for the future.
At every concert Mael Mordha plays, your army of fans turn up dressed for battle can you tell us what is the significance of the blue paint?
It’s part of the visual presentation of the band when we play live. It comes from the traditional war paint that historically would have been worn by Irish warriors going into battle. Our songs draw from Irish history and mythology for inspiration and when we play live we want to evoke that sort of atmosphere so it’s all part of trying to achieve that.
I think stylistically it’s similar to the tradition of corpsepaint in the black metal world but with more of an association to evoking the pagan spirit of our Gaelic ancestors.
Can you tell us what is the inspiration for your music and the song writing process?
Musical inspiration is a bit hard to pin down. I think originally the band was mostly inspired by the 90s doom metal and doom/death scene in England, bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema, Solstice. We all bring our own influences to the writing process as well, personally speaking I think bands that influence my own approach to writing would include Bathory, Borknagar, Impaled Nazarene, Doomsword amongst others. What we try to do with our music is to frame what we write within the aesthetic style we have developed for Mael Mordha. This is not a limiting process for me but a matter of ensuring that what we do feels like a genuine part of the world we are creating all the time through our music, lyrics and imagery.
It’s a bit difficult for me to pin down our process because it’s changed and evolved over the years and from album to album. On the first couple of albums a lot of the music was composed by Roibéard on piano and then arranged by the band, but more recently more of the music is written for guitar primarily so this has brought about a bit of a change in the band’s sound. For the new album, we had some of the songs in various forms over a couple of years and we just had to put the work in to bring it all together. We put more work into our pre-production this time around, to really refine the songs and make each one say exactly what we wanted it to, musically and lyrically. As for the lyrics, they are Roibéard’s domain and he tends to write these separately from the music and then we bring them together. We can then work on the music with the lyrics in mind in order to bring the song forward. For the new album we also found working with Chris Fielding as a producer to be very helpful for putting some final touches to the songs in the studio, having someone like that can really help you to clarify your own thoughts regarding the music, which can sometimes get a bit lost or confused.
At Bloodstock Festival you played 3 new songs from your upcoming album “Damned When Dead” was the reaction from the crowd as phenomenal as I heardit was?
Bloodstock was a great festival for us this year. It was our second appearance at the festival, the first being in 2006 which was also our
first show outside Ireland so the festival holds a special place in our hearts. We had a great crowd this year at the Sophie Lancaster stage and decided that because many people wouldn’t know us we would showcase the new album a bit more than we might with a different crowd. The new tracks went over really well, we had a great reaction and great energy from the crowd. We’ve always had good reactions from crowds in the UK over the years and this was one of the best, also a lot of people came to see us in the signing tent, many of whom had never heard of the band before Bloodstock so it was fantastic to make so many new fans.
” All Eire Will Quake” the single from your new album “Damned When Dead” is going down a storm with your fanbase worldwide, can you tell us what the song is about and the concept behind ” Damned When Dead”?
Damned When Dead tells the story of the arrival of the Anglo-Normans to Ireland in the year 1169 AD, which is sometimes referred to as the Norman invasion of Ireland. The title refers to Diarmuid MacMurrough who was the king of the province of Leinster at the time. He was involved in wars with his neighbouring kings and with the High King and he decided to recruit mercenaries from abroad to help him to defeat his enemies. He invited the Anglo-Norman lord Richard De Clare, known as Strongbow, to bring an army to Ireland and together they defeated many of Diarmuid’s enemies. Strongbow then married Diarmuid’s daughter, Aoife, and the Kingdom of Leinster came under Norman control. This is seen as the origin of the English control of Ireland, as the English king Henry the Second soon followed his Norman lords to Ireland and established dominance. For his actions in establishing foreign rule in Ireland, Diarmuid was referred to in the 16th Century history, the Annals of the Four Masters as, “putrid when living, damned when dead”.
The song “All Eire Will Quake” is written from the point of view of Diarmuid as he imagines the power he will wield in Ireland (Eire) once his foreign allies have arrived and the retribution he will have against his enemies. His mind is also plagued with doubts as to what will happen to his lands and his family once he has begun this war however, as his son is a hostage of the High King and may be executed if conflict breaks out.
I hear Dave, you have a covers band project in the pipeline.Who is involved, what band or bands will you be covering and where can we all get a slab of this meaty goodness live?
There’s nothing really official to talk about, just something myself and a few of the lads in Cruachan, Primordial and Syphor have done a couple of times in the past. The last one we played was the Into The Void (record store in Dublin) New Year’s Eve party. We played stuff like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Accept, Saxon… stuff that we all love and is a bit different from what we get up to in our own bands. If it ever happens again we’ll let you know!
Are there any up and coming bands that have caught your attention lately that you think people should hear more about?
We’re playing with two excellent bands at our album launch gig on September 28th in Dublin and I think they will be joining us in Galway the night after as well. Sodb are a black metal band who are inspired by Irish mythology, some readers will know their drummer, Johnny, from bands like Altar of Plagues and Abaddon Incarnate. Corr Mhona also write about Irish mythological themes and have been compared to bands like Solstice and old Anathema. Both bands also sing in the Irish language, which makes them pretty interesting for anyone interested in folk/pagan metal I think.
Any last words for our readers before I set you free?
Thanks for the interview and for supporting the band, it means a lot to us. We hope to be putting together some more tour dates over the next while so hopefully you’ll get a chance to see us on the road! The album will be out on the 16th September and we hope to launch a video shortly also so keep an eye on our website and facebook page!
UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
27TH SEPTEMBER 2013 – WARHORNS FESTIVAL, UK
28TH SEPTEMBER 2013 – THE PINT, DUBLIN – EIRE
29TH SEPTEMBER 2013 – KELLY’S, GALWAY – EIRE
9TH NOVEMBER 2013 – DOOM OVER VIENNA
All Eire Will Quake..Single taken from the new album and available on iTunes
Interview taken by Regina Mitchell