Mael Mordha, Different Beasts

mael mordha bloodstock2By: Michel
Photography: Jamie Sweetlove Photography

Mael Mórdha is an Irish band which has a fabulous new album, the band has a beautiful name, so this gets us curious, what does this name mean or is made up by somebody, we spoke with Shane Cahill, drummer in this great band?
Back in 98 the line-up of the band Uaigneas was changed and Rob came up with the name Mael Mórdha. Later, when reading a biography of Brain Boru, High King of Ireland, he realised that Mael Mordha was Brian’s arch nemesis and thus the name of the band. He thought it sounded good and fit with-in the sensibilities of the sound he was aiming for at the time.
Mael Mórdha isn’t only a name from ancient history, the band is rather old itself. A lot of bands don’t survive for 10 years and Mael Mórdha is way past that. And they’re are quite known with insiders of the genre, but it seemed they never really got out of a rather small audience. They have been ‘plugging away to varying degrees’ over the best part of the last 15 years. They have 3 albums out and a split 7” with Primordial and have played shows all over Europe too. They obviously have been busy all these years. But apart from that, the members have been living the ‘normal’ life… is of the opinion they could be become a lot better known with their new album ‘Damned when Dead’ out.

It seems to us the band has made a giant step forward with their last two albums and according to Shane there are a lot of factors which contributed to the fact they couldn’t make this step years ago. The usual, jobs and families etc , for instance, but it can be very expensive for a relatively unknown band from a small country like Ireland on the periphery of Europe to go and play shows around the main European touring destinations. If you live in continental Europe it’s much easier to sit into a van every weekend and go and play shows in cities where you can get in front of a lot of people. “However, even though it took us a long time we now have a good foundation under us and have been working very hard for the last 2 years to drive the band forward in relation to our live shows and our music in general so hopefully with the help of our new label, Candlelight, a few more doors will open for us.”
Manannán was considered their best album by many people. I think Damned when Dead is even better (a lot). And the guys themselves. Well, from their point of view they threw everything at the album. From a writing and structural point of view, overall production, their playing ability, lyrics, artwork etc. They gave it everything. But Shane is of the opinion their previous releases were quite strong, and represent where they were at, as a band then. “Damned When Dead is where we are now as a band. ..I think we are a different beast and that shows on this recording.”
The guys managed to get a new record-deal, but they don’t think that was of any influence in the writing of the music what so ever. The whole point of being in a band and writing music is to play what you want to play and produce music in your own personal direction, is how Mael Mórdha sees it. And regarding this record the label couldn’t be of any influence on the writing-process, the guys were already in the studio recording this album before they met any of the guys from the label.

mael mordha bloodstock5No shadow
The music of Mael Mórdha has a lot of the same elements as Primordial, and a couple of years ago they released a split album with their Irish colleagues. In a lot of reviews including our own they’re compared with Primordial. Could be a bit tiring to be compared with them all the time. And like we all, they think Primordial is a great band which has worked hard to earn their stripes. Shane doesn’t have a problem being mentioned in the same breath as the guys the Primordial, because he thinks both bands have their own personal and unique style/sound. They just draw from the same well in relation to certain topics etc for their songs and there is an obvious sense of pride coming from both bands in relation to Ireland, it’s heritage and culture, or lack thereof these days etc. If there may be a crossover in sonic terms that would be coincidental…, regarding the band.
mael mordha bloodstock10Well, this could be coincidental, but despite the fact they have their own sound, I still think they a lot in common. So Shane, what do you think is the difference between the two band?
“One of the main differences would be in the musical background and inspiration for each band, besides any shared traditional or folk influence. Primordial comes out of the early 90s black metal scene. The early Mael Mórdha material is more strongly influenced by the UK Doom/Death scene of the 90s, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Solstice, Anathema. While both bands have changed and developed over the years, these are two very different starting points.
Shane goes on explaining the lyrical approach between Roibeard and Nemtheanga is completely different as well. While Primordial’s lyrics seem to move more towards the universal, Mael Mórdha’s have focused on the telling of particular stories from Irish history and mythology. And material aside, their use of language and idiom is quite different.
“I think both bands have complementary aspects to each other which is why we have worked well together in the past on the same lineups but if you look at it closely we are two distinct entities.”
But Shane doesn’t have the feeling Mael Mórdha stands in Primordial or in any other bands shadow. They have never written music to sound like anyone else. is of the opinion it’s very likely they can make a giant step forward and come out of this shadow if it has ever existed. Mael Mórdha is doing their own thing and making their own mark, however small that might be. And you can look at this one way or another, but everybody who listens to Damned when Dead has to admit the band is stronger than ever before.

Most of the bands are influenced by some bands or artists and while Mael Mórdha’s starting point lies way back, and we know now their influenced by bands not every reader has in his of hers collection. But do they have any idols in the scene?
“I was actually talking to Rob, singer, about this over the weekend. We were playing Bloodstock and were looking around at a lot of bands like Slayer and Accept. There are a lot of bands that influenced us growing up, but we couldn’t come up with any one particular artist, or idol. As mentioned previously, collectively as a band we are coming from a My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost background. That we could agree on, but there are so many great bands it’s hard to name one.” Personally, Shane comes from a 70’s rock background, with a strong focus on Thin Lizzy. Of course like anyone else, you’re influenced in a certain way by everything you’re listening to. But the same goes for a person’s surroundings. Every facet of life, whether it’s getting up for work or listening to your neighbours killing each other is an influence on how you play, perform or write, or simply live your life.

Growing up
Damned when Dead and Manannán before that were a huge step forward for the band, getting older, and a little angrier, has no doubt helped. Surprisingly the usual obstacles like careers and children has not held them back too much, but the main driving force were the bandmembers, personally. Where they were in live as people, and what was going on around them. ‘I think as we got older we got more comfortable in our own skin and so had the confidence to just go balls out and do what we wanted to do.’ There was their greatest motivation, just doing what they want to. Individually the members have grown a lot in terms of their musical ability and they don’t allow each other to just sit with the first riff, lyric or drum pattern. They work things over and over until it perfectly hits the mood or what they’re trying to portray. And this growth of these individuals has obviously brought them to a higher level regarding their songwriting. And it’s a perfect explanation for the growth of the band in Damned when Dead.
mael mordha bloodstock10This album has this very nice gloomy doom atmosphere like we’re used to, but it sounds nicer, more balanced. And this wasn’t done by purpose. They didn’t set out to do this. It took a long long time to write Damned When Dead and half way through writing this album, Anthony decided to leave the band. It was a strange time, they were not sure what direction the band was going to take and were up in the air for some time. Shane thinks the overall sound and gloomy feeling will borrow from that, partially. ‘Our sound has changed over the years but there will always be a down tempo and doomy atmosphere to what we are doing’, according to Shane. ‘I hope we will continue to develop but I hope we can maintain our own identity that people can relate to.’ When they are working on new songs they are considerate towards the aesthetic of Mael Mórdha, maybe there is a conscious effort to create their own atmosphere but for them it is more of a feeling than a though out process of where the music should be. The band recorded this in Foel Studios, in Wales, at the bottom of a valley in the middle of no where. It was fucking great to them. No internet, no phone signals, no distractions. Just the four members of Mael Mórdha going for it. The pressure was on but they thought they were ready and they were really looking forward to the outcome of previous years work…finally getting the songs out of our heads and onto tape. ‘Maybe as people we were more rounded and balanced too which may have played a small part.’
The way the music fits the lyrics and the other way round is really great. They write their songs as a group these days. An idea will come out as they rehearse and they develop it from there. There might be 8 bars, or 32 bars of something solid and from there they develop it. If it’s working it’s recorded and put in the bag. There are scores of pieces of music written that they may or may not use. When they start to put some meat on the tracks and see that there is an inevitable direction with which the music is going, Rob will then start looking at lyrics. Rob is fairly prolific and he has amassed several boxes of lyrics. Some that may see the light of day and some that may not. So from that point of view the music has to fit the lyric and theme.

Now we they have such nice albums I can’t wait to see them live soon, but unfortunately for us fans they have no tours planned as of yet. Although they do hope to get some European dates in between now and the end of the year and hopefully a full European tour will follow in 2014, but they would urge anyone in the Netherlands and other countries who likes the band to consider coming to see us in Dublin and Galway for our back to back album launch shows on September 28th and 29th. I think it will be a cool experience visiting Ireland and seeing Mael Mórdha two nights in a row in two of the cities where they get the best reactions in.
A tempting proposal, I think.
Shane thinks it would be a great way for them to reach out to a crowd that may not be familiar with the band, like in a Heidenfest or Paganfest tour. But there are a lot of other touring options that would also work for them, so they are going to see what they can make work for 2014 that can get them out around Europe but not kill the band in terms of its finances either. Tours are expensive for smaller bands like Mael Mórdha.

mael mordha bloodstock7Future?
The band is looking forward to getting out there and playing the new songs live. At the moment they are focused on rehearsing the new songs for stage. That is what they are most looking forward to, putting on a great show, playing plenty more, meeting new people and having a fair share of beer along the way. Some have suggested that this album would be good played live in its entirety, so that might be something that is considered. ‘One way or the other we hope to see a lot of new faces in the crowd.’

The answer to our question if they have anything else to say to our readers, their answer is: Cheers for all the positive feedback so far and thanks for sticking with us. See you at the Bar !!! Slainte \m/