MAEL MÓRDH (Eng.)
– Hello, lots of thanks for answering our interview. How is everything going into the MAEL MÓRDHA’s camp right now?
Hi Tania, everything is pretty good right now, getting ready for a couple of festival shows over the next few weeks and the release of the album in September
– You are about to release your fourth album anyway, first off, for all those who maybe haven’t heard about you yet; could you please share some history of the band?
The band was started in around 1998, by Roibeard (vocals, keyboards, whistles), and there were two demos released with varying lineups. The current lineup of Ger (guitar) Dave (bass) and Shane (drums) was in place around 2003 and for the first album, Cluain Tarbh, which was released in 2005 by Karmageddon Media. We had Anthony (guitar) in the band for the two following albums, Gealtacht Mael Mordha and Manannan, which were released by Grau. Anthony left the band around 2011 and we became a four piece again for the new album, Damned When Dead, and our association with Candlelight Records. This brings us to the present day and the release of the new album.
– And how important is your land and its history for the band?
Ireland and Irish history and mythology are hugely important to the band. The whole aesthetic of the band, from the music and lyrics to the artwork and live presentation is informed by our understanding of Irish culture and the inspiration we draw from it and also the land itself. There are very ancient traditions in our culture of our stories being told and retold by poets and musicians, and we want to continue these traditions in our own way.
– Your new album is entitled «Damned When Dead». Starting to dwell into it; what’s the main concept behind it?
The songs on the album are about the coming of the Anglo-Norman Lords and their warriors to Ireland in the year 1169 AD, which was the beginning of the conquest of Ireland by the Kingdom of England. We approach this period through the character of Diarmaid MacMurrough, the King of the Irish province of Leinster who brought the Norman soldiers to assist in his war with the High King of Ireland. While telling the story of the origins, the battles and the aftermath of Diarmaid’s war, the album reflects on the bonds between a people and their land, their king and their traditions, and what happens when these bonds are broken. The cover illustration symbolises the gravestone of Kind Dairmaid being broken in two by Manannan, the old god of his people.
– Anyway I have always seen your lyrics as metaphors instead of limit them to just explain the main story behind them. Do you actually want to leave lyrics opened for interpretation or is it just my perception?
Some of our songs, particularly in the earlier days, have lyrics that are a little more obscure in their meaning when compared to those which relate a particular story. But in both cases I think there is usually more than one level of interpretation and relevance. We feel that the stories from our past that we retell through song are worthy of this treatment; they are epic stories with great characters. But many of the themes we bring up are universally relevant and hopefully are a little thought-provoking. For example, a recurring theme in the songs is the idea that people diminish their lives when they abandon the traditions and beliefs of their ancestors only for greed. This is relevant to people all over the world in the present day.
– This has been your first album as a four-piece after the departure of Anthony. Has this affected the band’s sound in any way?
It took us a while to readjust to the line-up alright; Anthony was in the band for such a long time. We thought about recruiting another guitarist but we found the recording of Damned When Dead to be a great bonding experience between the four of us and there was a reluctance to put that at risk by introducing a new member. We’ve worked a lot on the live sound over the last couple of years, rearranging some of the music for one guitar and bass, we’re very happy with the way it sounds and if anything we feel we now a greater level of intensity in our performances.
– You have always mixed Gaelic Irish Folk with Metal, but not in the usual happy-Folk Metal style, but building your music upon a more Doom Metal vibe, or at least upon a really heavy and not uptempo basis. In fact you have always had a really unique sound. Was having an own personality something important when you formed the band?
It’s not something that was focussed on too deliberately, over the years we have made the music we wanted to make and it’s great if we have developed a sound that people can identify as ours. As you say, we feel our roots are in Doom Metal or in Doom-Death (Old My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema etc…) not in Folk Metal. While our style has definitely evolved over the years, we always try to keep the atmosphere of Doom in our music, and lyrics. I think it’s difficult to put the band in a particular category, as we have been compared in the past to bands like Bathory and Ancient Rites as well as the more obvious Doom Metal referentes
– Anyway on «Damned When Dead» you seem to focus a bit more on melodies and the overall epic vibe, in the whole atmosphere. Do you consciously work on the atmosphere or does it just come out naturally? In fact I think the oveall dark atmosphere creates a nice contrast with a somehow victorious feeling that impregnates your songs.
It took quite a long time for the material for Damned When Dead to come together, during which time Anthony left the band and we were experiencing some doubts as to our future. I think at this point a level of darkness probably came into what we were writing. When we work on new songs, we have a feeling for what is suitable to the aesthetic of Mael Mordha, so I suppose it is a conscious process to create our atmosphere, but it is more of a feeling than a designed plan. We worked harder than ever before on this album in terms of pre-production and production, so if you get the sense that we focussed more on melody I think that comes from the work we put in to refining the songs before we began recording. We found working with Chris Fielding to be great, as he brought another approach to the production of the songs and helped us to further bring out the elements that we really wanted to focus on. It was our best recording experience so far, as we went far from civilisation and the distractions of life to Foel Studio in the mountains of Wales which definitely contributed to the atmosphere on the album.
– I would even dare say this is your darkest effort so far so, are you still shaping your own sound? Is this a constant process?
Yeah, it is a constant process. As I mentioned, we recorded this album in Foel in Wales whereas before we recorded in Dublin city, going home each evening to wives, girlfriends and kids and being on-call for our jobs. This time we decided to remove ourselves from our daily lives and just be Mael Mordha until the album was recorded. We also learned a lot more about production and pre-production this time around so already we have ideas how to work better in the studio next time. The darkness you mention, I feel came from the position we felt the band to be in when we wrote these songs. We parted company with a member of long-standing and we weren’t convinced that our future was with the old label, Grau, for various reasons. I think this uncertainty and doubt comes out in the anger and darkness in these songs. Also in the stories that this album tells, there are not so much tales of heroism but of treachery and deceit, violence and murder. It was a dark and violent time in our nation’s history and was the cause of further violence down the centuries, so it’s natural that the album should have this sense of doom and dread.
– I also think, since your previous «Manannán» keyboards play a bigger role, as well as guitars, but they don’t sound that heavy and thick. Are you broaden to new influences or is each album you release just a mirror of where the band is in that point?
It’s a bit of both I would say. The presence of the keyboards in the music has certainly changed a lot over the years and I think this reflects the position the band was in for each album. Most of the music for the first two albums was composed by Roibeard on the piano, and this shows in the amount of piano you can hear of those albums. Later on the music was mostly written on guitar so there is less piano and keyboard in the recordings. We also dropped the keyboards from the live performance as it wasn’t helping with achieving the intensity we felt was important. If we did make a decision, it was to treat the recorded versions of the songs and the live versions as different interpretations of the same works, both equally valid. But we never set any definite rules for what instrumentation we will include or not, so there are some keyboard parts on Damned When Dead, and there will be on the next album also.
– This being said, it’s obvious is not easy to label your music but, how could you describe your sound? As you mix a lot of different influences, more with each new album I could say.
For a long time we have called our sound, Gaelic Doom Metal, however useful that is! Some of the songs on the new album are more traditional Heavy Metal than anything we’ve done before, maybe reminiscent of a band like Slough Feg. We try to create something that is heavy, atmospheric, doom-laden, melancholy, evocative and powerful, if I had to put a description on it.
– All this about «Damned When Dead» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Heavy Fucking Metal
– This has been your first album with Candlelight Records. How did you hook up with them? And how is everything working thus far?
We met Conchuir O’Drona from Candlelight through mutual contacts during the recording of Damned When Dead, he’s another Irish guy but has been based in the UK for a while. He came out to the studio, had a listen to what we were working on and hung out with us. We talked further about where the band was headed and it seemed Candlelight were interested in taking on our project. Thus far, we’re happy with the situation and happy to get the album released. Hopefully we’ll continue to work well together going forward
– You stand for the Irish culture and tradition so, have you ever thought of writing lyrics for an album in the Gaelic language exclusively?
The Irish language is a very important part of our culture, and we’re very supportive of the language and all of the work that goes into preserving it. Many of our songs and song titles make use of the language but so far we haven’t written exclusively in that language. I don’t know if we will ever go down that particular road, I think Roibeard’s lyrics in English are very powerful and he has developed his own voice and idiom over the years so I would imagine we will continue in that style and the Irish language will be used where it fits a particular song or line.
– For you it’s obvious the aesthetic and live shows are also important, as all is part of the same concept or «message». Is important for the band to make everything work as a whole?
Absolutely, the whole Mael Mordha concept is a combination of the music, lyrics, live performance and artwork. On this album we’re lucky to have worked with Vasileious Zicos again to produce a painting and other art that captures the feeling of the record perfectly. It’s great to have someone so attuned to our own aesthetic sensibilities. I mentioned that we regard the recorded songs and the live versions as different takes on the same piece and this applies to your question here; the recorded instance of a song on the album and the same song as the live audience experience it are both part of the conceptual ‘world’ of Mael Mordha, and of equal importance. I think its important that we keep this in our minds as we move forward so that whatever we create feels like it belongs in this concept.
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
Our near-future plans are all about getting out to play as many shows as we can to push the new album and spread our message. We have some big shows coming up in the UK in the next two months, Bloodstock, Candlefest and Warhorns festivals and a launch gig in Dublin for the album on September 28th. We are working on European shows then, hopefully for later in the year and into 2014. At the same time, we have some ideas progressing for our next album but it will be little while before we record even demos as we are working hard on bringing a very intense live show with the new songs from Damned When Dead
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thanks for the interview and for your support of the band, it means a lot to us. We send our greetings to our friends in Spain and we hope to get back to see you again soon.