Ireland – the land that for better or worse brought us The Cranberries, U2, and Thin Lizzy. Not to mention the loads of bands that adopt an Irish sound and aesthetic despite not hailing from Ireland. Digging a little deeper, though, Ireland certainly can hold its own with its selection of metal bands. In addition to the obvious Gaelic and Celtic influenced bands found in the country, most notably, and perhaps fittingly, Ireland is a bubbling, green cauldron of doom and sludge metal.
Aside from the bands mentioned here, several have gone through their own civil wars and have broken up, almost outnumbering the ones left standing. Notable bands who have since split up are Geasa, with their Starside demo and Blood Revolt, a militaristic black metal band that featured Primordial’s Nemtheanga.
This Saint Patrick’s Day, turn off the cliche jigs and crank a few of these 20 Irish metal bands.
Starting way back in 1987 as Forsaken, the Skerries County legends known as Primordial made their mark with their Dark Romanticism demo as being one of, if not the earliest bands from Ireland to perform black metal. Released on Cacophonous Records, their debut Imrama set the stage for the band, with their sound evolving through A Journey’s End, featuring mandolins and whistles, with more Celtic influences showing up later. The band are now nine albums in, with Exit Among the Ruins being their latest, released in 2018 via Metal Blade Records.
Hailed as having “gone the greatest lengths of anyone in their attempts to expand” the genre of folk metal, Dublin’s Cruachan have been infusing Celtic mythology into metal since the early ‘90s. Starting out with more of a black metal style, the band, with their second album The Middle Kingdom went in a more traditional direction. Later years saw them release the “Blood Trilogy” albums as their influence and legacy has grown, making them a quintessential band not just for Ireland, but for folk metal.
If blackened folk metal tickles your Lucky Charms, Celtachor, with their combined black/folk/doom force, is a must for your growing collection. The band utilize their music as a tool to tell stories involving Irish mythology. The result is black metal songs with easily comprehensible stories, giving them a major replay factor. 2012 saw the release of their first album, with their third making its presence felt in 2018.
Featuring Primordial’s Nemtheanga on bass and vocals, Conan’s Con Ri (Johnny King) on drums and The Nest’s Bones on guitar, Dread Sovereign blend doom and occasional black metal riffing to create a sound which blends nicely with witchy films from the silent era like Haxan (of which clips are shown in their “Nature is the Devil’s Church” video). Check out their latest concoction fished out of the cauldron, 2021’s Alchemical Warfare, released via Metal Blade Records.
Before Conan and Dread Sovereign, drummer Johnny King (JK) along with Mourning Beloveth’s Pauric Gallagher (PG), Pain of Death’s Matt Bree (MB) and future Grave Miasma guitarist Tom McKenna (TMK) formed Malthusian, a barbaric, frothing, though meticulous black/death metal group you’re likely going to find if you went looking for the dingiest, most subterranean club in Dublin. As mentioned, the band is meticulous, not letting you off with four-minute blasts of savagery, but drawing out the process in 10-plus minute songs.
Prepare to be assimilated. Dublin’s ZOM are a band who don’t pull any punches with their black/death metal attack – sounding like it was conjured by a grungy-cloaked sadistic magician. This band formed in 2011 and features Dread Sovereign’s Bones (going by Sabbac here) on drums while the bass and guitar duties are done by malicious wizards Chthon and Sodomaniac, respectively.
Limerick’s Zealot Cult bring sickness on the spiritual side with their pummeling brand of Obituary-on-speed death metal. The four-piece band have just released one album: 2019’s Spiritual Sickness, though old school death metal fans seeking something similar to Pestilence, classic Morbid Angel and the aforementioned Obituary should join this cult, pronto.
Come embrace the void with Dublin-based black/death metal band Gravefields. Featuring French vocalist Thomas Blanc (Wrath from Above, Apostisy among others) and Alan Hurley doing all of the instrumentation, the former Dirtyprotest is a relatively new project, coming out in 2019 and having just a sole album out, Embrace the Void, from that year. It is a formidable disc, though, bringing forth an occult and relentlessly wicked atmosphere.
Starting back in 1992 in Athy, Kildare, Mourning Beloveth started off innocuously, much like fog seeping in through the doors in the John Carpenter horror film, before finally becoming a formidable spirit with a taste for vengeance in the form of their 1996 demo (leading them to open for Cathedral in 1999) and something close to folklore with their 2001 album Dust. The classic doom band is still going strong, releasing a split in 2020 with Germany’s The Ruins of Beverast.
Formed in 1998, Mael Mórdha lead the pack of the many doom and sludge bands found in Ireland. The black coffee of doom metal with a splash of Irish cream folk music is what the baristas in Mael Mórdha brewed to create Gaelic doom metal. As of 2015, the band is on hold, with most of the members forming Death the Leveller, providing yet another chapter in the Irish doom metal book to read.
Pop open that cork and pour yourself a glass of Soothsayer. The atmospheric doom/sludge band emerged in 2013, releasing EPs and singles throughout the 2010s until they finally released their first full-length in 2021, Echoes of the Earth via Transcending Obscurity Records. Listeners looking for an evocative sonic catharsis should look no further.
If looking to get doomed and stoned in Ireland, your best bet is going into a used CD shop and unearthing a disc from Stranorlar’s Graveyard Dirt. Formed in 1994, the band’s output has been minimal, though substantial. Their 2010 full-length For Grace or Damnation encompasses everything you’d want to hear in a doom band – coherency, brutality and of course a slight bit of melancholy.
Ten Ton Slug
Like a Ten Ton Slug, son. Green is the color that comes to mind when thinking of Ireland, and what better creature to convey this than a slithering behemoth of a slug? From Galway, Ten Ton Slug play, as you’d expect, slimy sludge metal while also incorporating occult imagery in their artwork and videos. Ride that slug across the rolling plains.
From Cork, Coroza are another Irish band represented on the 2018 compilation Doomed & Stoned in Ireland. Formed in 2015, the band is as fuzzy as a post-rain fog whilst also incorporating psychedelic themes and artwork into their presentation. 2019’s Chaliceburner is a hidden classic just waiting to be praised and worshiped by stoner fans.
Wreck of the Hesperus
Sewer dwellers, rejoice. Taking their name from the poem by Henry Wadsworth about a doomed voyage, Wreck of the Hesperus are a Dublin-based funeral doom band who formed in 2004. Naturally, the band draws out their wreck with long songs, ensuring a slow trip to the depths. Members of the band would go on to form atmospheric doom band Bacterium and black metal band Black Wings of Devastation.
Bacterium take their brand of funeral doom deep within the grave, sounding as if the band is playing from within a buried casket amid the maggots and worms as a thunderstorm causes rain to seep in. Their use of eerie keyboard textures add a ‘70s horror vibe to their understated, creeping sound. Fuck Yoga Records put out their sole 2020 record Sunt Lacrymae Rerum – which is a record not to be missed by funeral doom or horror fans alike.
So, with all that drinking getting done in Ireland, you’d think that a genre that best associates with crushed beer cans, thrash, would have a large presence there. Psykosis are a NWOTM band whom bring to mind the funner bands of the genre like Municipal Waste. Lyrical themes include the usual liquor-laced lyrics, though they also dwell in the horror cellar with songs like “Driller Killer.”
To continue with the thrash genre, we now look at Waterford/Dublin’s Animator. The band was active between 2005-2011 as Heresy, releasing one EP in 2010. With Animator, the lads present a style resembling Evile – rather conservatively styled thrash, but done right, like a home cooked meal you’ve eaten hundreds of times.
One-man black metal projects can be found world-wide, and in Ireland, the black-cloaked, corpse-painted, misanthropic musician putting his hatred to tape is one Vermiis Obscurus and his project Enecare. Starting out in 1999, Mr. Obscurus has put out several cavernous sounding demos and has also proved that he can play well with others via splits with Marks of the Masochist and Forbidden Citadel of Spirits.
It’s not just primitive black metal that is being created by sole musicians in Ireland. Sonus Mortis is a symphonic black metal project created by ex-Valediction (a former Dublin-based melodic death metal band) bassist Kevin Byrne. This isn’t some soft symphony, though. Byrne proves he is a malicious maestro with a sound comparable to Fleshgod Apocalypse or Septic Flesh, though based more in traditional death metal. Have a night at the symphony (or six) with his half-dozen releases.
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MetalSucks – Saint Patrick’s Doom and Sludge – 20 Irish Metal Bands
Author: Ryan Dyer
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March 17, 2023