God Alone: “This Time We Had a Clearer Vision in Mind”

Having thrown off the ‘precocious youngfellas’ tag by taking on the best of the UK and Irish metal scenes at Mammothfest and emerging victorious, Northsiders God Alone are ready to take the first step into the biggest year of their personal and professional lives, starting with the release of their debut full-length. Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to bassist Cian Mullane.

It’s an easy trope to refer to black-metal/post-rock hybrids God Alone as “the pride” of Cork city’s music scene at present, but such truisms aren’t always without cause. Since their emergence from Cork’s relatively cloistered all-ages scene not even two years ago, the five-piece has aggressively gigged around the country, including seemingly weekly appearances at venues around the city, fine-honing a live show befitting the frightening maturity of their material. Claiming influence from bands like our own Altar of Plagues, they’ve also been a rallying point for the metal scene in Cork, as they’ve fostered a lot of goodwill from gig-goers, promoters and venue bookers alike for their hard work, as much as their musical innovation. While it’s also likely lazy journalism to say this of the band, the fact remains: all of this is still immensely impressive, considering some of the band is still only in sixth year of secondary school.

After the physical release of the band’s debut extended-player Intivim, God Alone set about outlining a concept for their debut full-length, and on the sixteenth of this month, the lads’ hard work comes to fruition. ‘Poll na mBrón’ is ready, with production by Rónan McCann (Any Joy) and mastering by local sonic polymath Matt Corrigan (Ghostking is Dead). For bassist/vocalist Cian Mullane, it’s a matter of moving forward musically, while holding a candle to local history. “We started writing the bones of the album around the time of the release of Intivim, with a vision of maturing the sounds of the EP, getting sadder and dancier. The album is a sort of concept album, loosely based on Our Lady’s Hospital Cork, which was an asylum in the Northside of Cork, where most of us live. It’s a harrowing place, and the atmosphere of the place and stories from it, had a massive influence on the music. The overall concept of the lyrics deal with themes of mental health and loneliness, and we use Our Lady’s Hospital as a place for those themes to live.”

Reverting to their home ground of Marlboro Street’s Groundfloor youth music facility, where McCann works as a musical supervisor for the YMCA, the band took the theme of musical progression to the production process, beginning to sharpen their studio chops. “This time we had a clearer vision in mind of what we were doing and what we wanted, and we had a much larger role in the production process. We used way more electronic elements on this album to create a more dense atmosphere than the EP.” The album releases this week via all digital services, and the band are one of the first generation of young artists to be releasing and garnering traction for their music in the post-physical environment, with digital streaming spurring their growth along on a wider national level. That being said, physical CDs, as well as T-shirts of the band’s faux-Gucci logo, have been selling out. The question of a physical release for ‘Poll na mBrón’ is an easy one. “We should have a rake of CDs at the launch, and possibly vinyl within the new year. We just slapped the EP out, and were really surprised and delighted that people were listening to it, and we hope people listen to our album too.”

This past summer saw the band come to international attention after winning the Mammothfest metal weekender’s Best Band Battle, defeating all-comers across multiple regional heats in Cork City, heading to Brighton with fellow Corkonians Bailer and Dublin’s Jenova to compete in the finals, and taking home the gold. “Mammothfest was the best craic of all time. Bailer and Jenova are absolute gents, and it was a fantastic experience. It was mental that we were chosen as the winners of the whole competition, we were just happy to be over there. Also, most people couldn’t understand what we were saying over there, and that was quite gas. We were really surprised and happy with the reaction we got over there.” Their prize for the victory involves an extensive UK and Irish tour next year, around which everyone’s calendar is revolving next year, including State exams and college assignments. The question of work-life-music balance is always a prescient one for God Alone, but it bears asking. “‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ is our philosophy on everything, be grand (laughs).”

The band takes to the stage at the Kino on Washington Street this Sunday, to mark the release of their album, with hardcore/sludge veterans Horse supporting, and an appearance from fellow youngfellas Flatliner. It ought to be a busy affair, both in terms of numbers, and sonically, but sets them in good stead for the year ahead. “We’re really looking forward to playing it. The Kino is an unreal venue and place and the last time we played there it was class. Expect plenty of dancing and shouting and mad visuals. We’re playing with the absolute best biys of Horse and Flatliner which will be class, and to top it all off it’s going to be all ages which is the best craic. This year has been unbelievable, beyond belief and absolute mental. Next year we hope to do even more. We like being constantly busy with gigs, writing, and recording. New year, new us (laughs).”

God Alone release debut album ‘Poll na mBrón’ this Sunday, with a launch gig happening at the Kino the same day. Horse and Flatliner to support, kickoff at 6pm, €5 on the door. You can also catch them opening for Bailer and Worn Out on the 21st at Dali on Carey’s Lane.

Cork Metal: Veteran Musicians Take New Approach

A showcase event on the 15th, upstairs in metal stronghold Fred Zeppelin’s, sees three new bands take the stage, each led by longtime Leeside musicians. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with the bands.

The Grief, Demeter and Onkalo all take to stage on Saturday April 15th, among each of the outfits’ first gigs. Nothing new about bands taking their tentative first steps in the red room upstairs, but each of these outfits is led by and comprised of longstanding Leeside metallers, each part of a scene that has been through ups and downs over the past few years. Each band boasts a laundry list of predecessors that have featured on bills up and down the country and around Europe, but with previous projects parked for various reasons, their constituents have got up and started again, in a scene well used to venue and band turnover.

Demeter are a black-metal three-piece, comprised of ex-members of Molde, For Ruin, Slugbait, and Kawtiks among others. The demo they’ve released features some feral, raw examples of their sound, a process which Ollie O’Shea gets into. “We like the fact that we are a three-piece, musically. Which means that there are less stumbling blocks to creating songs, less naysayers. This leads to songs coming together quickly and organically, which gives them a certain energy, I think. But we do take the time to let them sink in, to make sure we’re happy with the songwriting. The chords we use are always twisted towards a dark and cosmic place, if we feel someone sounds too ‘nice’ it’s shot down pretty quickly. When Liam comes in, he gives it an extra dimension and ties it all together with his howling, demented soundscapes. We recorded them live, multi-tracking all instruments at the same time. While this leads to imperfections, it also keeps the energy in the recording.”

The reception to the self-titled demo has been positive, with Metal Ireland in particular giving it a warm review. Bassist Pat Gillen is enthusiastic about how it’s all happened so far. “The tunes have gone down well, three gigs in. We’re still perfecting our stage presence and building confidence with each outing. We’re writing more songs, and we feel we’re definitely progressing from the first songs we wrote.”

That leads to more incoming shows, but not before a look at their gig-mates on the 15th. “There’s a few offers rolling in, gig-wise, which we’re looking into, but meantime we’re looking forward to Fredz on the 15th as we just played with The Grief up in Dublin last weekend, and they were class, so will be good to share the stage with them again. We also saw Onkalo opening Lodgefest 2 last October and they were just vicious! So overall, it will be a great opportunity to see three new bands, thus again proving all is well in the flourishing metal scene here in Cork.”

The Grief is a new project and a departure for John Murphy, frontman and guitarist of blackened death-metal four-piece For Ruin. That band had released three albums and gigged extensively before slowing down, and The Grief emerged from exploratory jams with members of Corr Mhóna during that downtime. “Well, personally Ive always been a fan of a lot of the gloomy, dark, slow side of extreme metal from the hey-day of British doom – Cathedral, Anathema, Paradise Lost – to the likes of early Katatonia and there’s always been influences of those styles on the For Ruin releases from the outset – the demos and each of the three albums have some slower moments on them. So while For Ruin has mostly been about faster-paced material, it’s good occasional tinges of doom. After doing the Ater Angelus album a few of the guys weren’t going to be around so I took stock and decided to park “‘froon” for a while – and it’s still parked. We did an early-years Paradise Lost tribute band for a while which I loved as that’s the music I went through school with, and we did the Katatonia tribute which was great fun too – but these things have a limited shelf life and appeal. We did them for ourselves and purely for fun, and then brought them to a conclusion naturally. They might happen again some time, but no plans to right now – but we enjoyed the Katatonia stuff so much that we decided to try our hand at writing some original material in a style that was different to the band members’ other bands and we simply continued on with The Grief. I had a bunch of songs written as had Paul and we pooled our resources and that’s now up to ten songs which we’re finally getting around to gigging, after taking around a year and a half of getting a drummer in place and polishing up the songs. We’ve now come to the point of playing a few shows, we have a few more in the pipeline and we’re now turning our attention towards recording a demo over the coming months so people can hear the fruits of our labours”

Doom seems to be stronger than ever in Ireland; Brigantia, Graveyard Dirt and others have been active on the Irish metal scene in recent years. Murphy reflects on this phenomenon. “Maybe we’re just a miserable bunch – I don’t know! It could be the influence of the aforementioned UK bands, and those from elsewhere, that we relate to, but there has always been a healthy dose of doom in the metal scene around the country. It makes for good variety amongst the retro-thrash and high-speed technical stuff that’s out there which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I would say too that the music The Grief is playing is not entirely doom-orientated; there’s other flavours in the mix too, as there should be. Doom is certainly at the core, but that doesn’t preclude us from the odd turn of pace now and then.”

This gig will be a showcase for all three bands in an important venue for metal in Cork – the importance of Fredz to the event can’t be understated. “The scene in Cork has been up and down over the last few years with venues shutting etc., and that’s a pity – Fred’s has been there through it all and we’re lucky to have it, small though it is. But the bands seem to still be there and are lucky to have somewhere to play. It’s a shame there aren’t more places like it… Having played in Freds so many times by now its only fitting that our first Cork gig should be there.”

Onkalo move with more velocity than the Grief, but with no less venom or weight. Drummer Shane England explains how the band emerged from the demise of noise/hardcore outfit Kawtiks, and the breakup of [r]evolution of a sun. “Myself and Fitzy had been chomping at the bit to start a band since Kawtiks had ended, and we were both on the same page more or less on what it wanted to be like – short, nasty, simple straightforward hardcore. It was pretty daunting for us at the start as both of us were used to being in bands where the guitarists had generally ‘led’ the songwriting process, and we had gotten used to being in bands with some exceptional guitarists. We managed to cobble together some basslines and beats and realised we actually had something to go off. We knew Pete since the Kawtiks days and knew he was perfect for vocals but frankly I was flabbergasted that Kenny (guitar) joined as I honestly thought he’d look at us as the chancers I thought we were. The stuff we’ve written with Kenny is the sound of a band that knows what it wants to sound like. Not like, “right, we’ll have a bit of crust, then grind, then doom, then stop” but something that sounds crafted. The creative process hasn’t changed much since the early days though, you’ll have a basic riff/bassline, then just hammer it out. Then have a smoke. Then take the piss out of each other. Then try and remember the bassline/riff.”

The band kicked off their live tally with Lodgefest as support for Hope is Noise, one of the last gigs to take place in the Pine Lodge in Myrtleville before its recent reopening sans live music. Vocalist Peter Murphy shares his thoughts on the night. “Yeah, fair play to the boys from Hope is Noise for asking us. It was unreal to play our first gig in the Lodge with Cork’s finest. I’ve played the Pine Lodge a good few times and always loved it. Paddy was always sound and the atmosphere was always class. It is sad that another great venue in Cork is gone, seems to be happening a lot these days.”

It seems to be a great occasion for Cork metal on the 15th. What does England make of the importance of this show to the Cork metal scene? “Important, I dunno… the three youngest heavy bands in Cork that are, funnily enough, all old as f**k?”

The Grief, Demeter and Onkalo play on the 15th at Fredz on Parliament Street. €5 at the door, kick off at 9pm.