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.

Ilenkus: Galway Metallers Hunger for More

Ilenkus hit Cork on tour for new E.P. Hunger on April 7th. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with guitarist Josh Guyett.

It’s been a long road for Galway mathcore/prog outfit Ilenkus, from their beginnings seven years ago in and around a then-fervent hardcore scene in the West. Today, with two long-players under their belts and their dues more than paid on the live slog around the country, the band is ready for the next chapter in their story, opening with new 7” EP Hunger, released this month following a digital release in November. Josh Guyett, guitarist, speaks on their reaction to the record being out. “We’re delighted to finally have the EP’s in our hands, they look beautiful and we’re generally very happy with how well they turned out. It’s always a privilege working with James Sheridan and I think his art really shines through on this record. The process from writing the riffs to completion takes such a long time and so much work from many different people, that the main feelings we’re experiencing are probably satisfaction and relief! I guess we’re also feeling pretty proud of ‘Hunger’. Personally it’s my favourite out of all of our records so far.”

Heavier on riffs and lighter on dynamic, Hunger sees the band focus their considerable energies in one musical idiom, a contrast from the ambition displayed on previous long-player The Crossing. As much out of desire for change as for expedience, the band kept it concise enough this time to go on a wax platter. “It was a conscious decision for us to focus more in one direction for this release. Where we have previously spent a lot of time working on songs, these were all written in a relatively short period of time. We tuned down our guitars and set out to write something a little more to the point. The recording and mixing was all done by Aidan Cunningham (Murdock) and that made the process so smooth. Aidan really understands this type of music and was super-easy to work with as a result. We gave him a brief and some references in terms of sound, and he just got on board with the whole thing. The mastering was then done by Brad Boatright in the States and we couldn’t be happier with the final result.”

Previous records have also had social/political connotations whereas tunes like Hunny Bunny come directly from the more personal, seemingly. How have the themes changed in recent times? “I think we toyed with some of of these kinds of lyrical themes on old tracks like Devourer, but this time around we eliminated any obvious political or reactionary imagery. Instead we aimed to tell a story. This record is more of a social commentary than a political one. It primarily deals with human nature and issues surrounding mental health. The story is about an individual spiraling out of control and losing their grasp on reality. We all have darkness, rage and secret desires inside ourselves. This story is about someone who can’t keep them buried inside any longer.”

The E.P.’s physical release has been stewarded by several labels in a few different territories, all split-releasing. Guyett explains the exact arrangement. “In terms of labels, we’ve been lucky to work with WOOAAARGH and Tjueto Cvlt from Germany, Smiths Food Group DIY from The Netherlands, Icore Produzioni and Vollmer Industries from Italy and Feast here at home in Ireland. There are plans for a larger European tour as soon as we can set aside some time for it. We’re also now working with Black Sheep Agency in Glasgow as our booking agent, which is fantastic as it allows us to focus a bit more time on things like writing new music. So yes, more touring is on the horizon for sure.”

At home, the release is being overseen by Feast, a label/gig promotion collective including members of the band. Guyett is one of its founders, and is quick to outline his vision. “I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a label for a couple of years now, so it really felt like a natural progression for Feast. We’ve expanded from running gigs and the odd tour to helping bands release their music. That could be done through financial assistance, taking records for our distro, giving advice, sharing information and a host of other things – we’re just trying to help bands raise their profile and become self sufficient. Obviously Hunger is our first release with Feast, but we plan to get involved with another two/three records this year. For now we will only be working with Irish bands. Part of our vision is to be a platform from which some of the often overlooked, quality Irish bands can showcase their work in a professional manner. We’re currently setting up our website and shop, that will distribute a handpicked selection of Irish records, as well as the projects that Feast is involved with more directly. This is not a typical record label format. Instead of putting up all the money for releases. because we physically can’t do that, we’re offering a range of ways that we can assist musicians. Fundraising, PR, pressing, contacts and networking, booking and even just being an extra set of eyes or ears. Our goal is to help develop bands and showcase their work. This year we hope to work with Belfast’s Hornets, Destriers from Dublin and Cork’s Bailer.”

Irish metal seems to be in rude health again, and Cork is finally catching up in recent years after an extended period of silence throughout the recession. The band have always found a home Leeside, though, and their connections run deep. “To be honest, the scene in Cork has always been good to us. I remember our fist ever gig down here in The Quad in 2011 – it was way more hopping than we were expecting. Things may have quietened down all over the country for a few years, but live music and especially heavy bands seem to be on the up again. Maybe it’s a reaction to the current political climate… or maybe these things just go in cycles. One way or the other it’s a great time to be playing in a heavy band. New promoters and bands keep popping up and the one of the really cool things is how the community is developing. People are happy to work together to help the scene. Like our Cork gig on the 7th is a co-promotion between Cosmonaut and Pyre. It’s a group of cool people coming together to create environments where bands and artists can viably ply their trade. That’s what helps the scene; community, working together and building a collective of people who share the same ideas. It’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Ilenkus are playing the Poor Relation on Parnell Place on April 7th to launch the Hunger E.P. alongside a rake of other bands. What are the band’s thoughts heading into it? “This Cork gig is the first show of our Irish dates and one of the gigs I’m looking forward to the most. The lineup in incredible. We’ve got Destriers, who hugely impressed me at their recent opening slot for Oathbreaker (in Dublin). Then Partholón, who are a deadly new Cork band, featuring members of our old friends Five Will Die. Horse, another awesome band made up of friends and musicians from cool acts like Fat Actress, Kawtiks, Ghost Of Medina and Waiting Room. Then finally we’ve also got our mates in Bailer, who’ve been carving out their own niche for the past few years. Even just having all those bands in one place is gonna be fun for us to get to hang out! We’re excited about this show. A lot.”

With an ambitious long-term plan for the band, the question next is how to get there.“Next up for us is hopefully a UK tour in August. We’re planning 10 dates up and down the country. I also imagine we’ll do a headline Dublin show in the next while and possibly some live video recordings. Musically, we’re working on new material all the time, so with any luck we’ll be back in the studio before long. After that who knows…”

Ilenkus play the Poor Relation on April 7th. Support from Bailer, Horse, Destriers and Partholón. Tickets €10, available at and participating Centra/SuperValu outlets.

Therapy?: Boys in Black, Here to the End

Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns speaks with Mike McGrath-Bryan ahead of the trio’s acoustic Cork date next month, on the band’s past, their present, the future and their Cork connections.

With nearly thirty years on the road, and fourteen full-lengths under their belt, Belfast post-hardcore trio Therapy?’s odyssey has taken them to the stages of the world, through best-selling records and a dedicated following that has stuck with the band through thick and thin. Over the years, however, the band have purposely kept home visits short and sweet, in order to maintain the sense of occasion inherent to their Irish shows, which makes next month’s extensive acoustic sojourn all the more surprising. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Cairns is excited for the Wood and Wire tour. “I’m really looking forward to the gigs, as I don’t feel we play Ireland enough, not through any lack of desire on the band’s part but a lack of offers (laughs). I’m looking forward to Cork, Belfast and Limerick the most. Cork because I love the place, ditto Belfast, and Limerick because it’s been so long since I’ve been there.”

Taking as noisy and varied a back catalogue as Therapy?’s and retooling it for the acoustic idiom presents a series of issues all its own, both in terms of arrangements and in choosing a setlist that reflects their career and expectations of fans. “The first challenge is keeping the intensity of the songs, without huge banks of amps and propulsive, frenzied drumming. Different songs call for different approaches, and some of the tunes just don’t work at all in an acoustic environment. For this Irish tour we’re going to try and pick songs that are definitely shaped by the country itself. Either through lyrical references, or musical influences, and ideas behind the songs themselves. Chatting with the crowd is a good way of making it an engaging experience, and I’m sure the audience won’t hold back either.”

Last year saw the band release their most recent long-player, Disquiet. Rooted in the band’s poppier leanings, the record plays on the paranoia and dissatisfaction first given voice on 1994’s Troublegum album, revisiting the latter record’s conceptual protagonist in middle-age and finding that rage has given way to despair. Cairns gets into the process behind the album’s writing and recording. “Disquiet was one of our melodic forays that started with Skyward on (debut album) Babyteeth, galvanised on Troublegum and continued in High Anxiety (2003 record). It was written in my kitchen on an acoustic guitar over the space of a month and then iPhone recordings were sent to Michael and Neil for their opinions. From such traditional foundations the songs themselves are more of the verse/chorus template than our previous two records, but as lyrically I was exploring the whereabouts of the protagonist of the Troublegum album, it was a conducive medium for the project. It ended up being a popular record with our fans, and charted in some countries, which was a surprise. Songs like Still Hurts and Tides will probably be in the set list for a long time to come.”

As much of a treat it’s been for longtime and lapsed fans to hear the band returning to more immediate material, it doesn’t come without a bittersweet note for the boys in black, having put massive effort into the cerebral and groovy direction of the their records prior. “Much as we enjoyed the creative process involved in making the previous two albums, we found it frustrating that so much of the content was unnoticed or misunderstood. Enjoy the Struggle was influenced lyrically by Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus and musically by the riff from Mingus’ Haitian Fight Song, however one critic claimed it sounded like Zakk Wylde. Bad Excuse for Daylight starts off with an appropriation of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps before going into a rhythm section that has its timing based on a section from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. One wag claimed it sounded like “cavemen banging sticks” and in the Nabokov-saturated A Brief Crack of Light album the mix of Slint, Beckett, African highlife and dub went unnoticed by people curious to know “where the tunes have gone”. Both these albums were such a great working experience, and a lift for us as a band but we were hugely disappointed that people didn’t get it. The nature of the band however, means that we shall return to these waters in the future.”

Helping the band negotiate the waters of an ever-changing musid industry in recent years have been Amazing Records, the spinoff label from the popular UK digital radio service. Cairns expresses his satisfaction with the label and his preference for the model over crowdfunding and the like. “It’s been okay. Amazing Records have been fantastic. They’re a very young label, staffed by young people, and seem keen on the band.We know that we could always go down the crowdfunding route if we need to, but as I’ve mentioned, some of our musical choices have often left some of our fans bemused, and the crowdfunding always seems to go hand-in-hand with people forking out disproportionate sums of their precious money, in return for extras like ‘a day ice-skating with Michael McKeegan’ or ‘an eating competition with Andy’ etc. They might also enforce a caveat that in return for their contribution, there is to be no mention of high fallutin’ authors or dalliances with jazz, no-sir-ee, just riff, after riff, after discordant riff, with lots of shouting on top.”

Is it not a tad strange, though, after being in such a forward-thinking headspace all these years, to be in the position to be looking back on your body of work and seeing a demand for reissues, anniversary tours, etc.? “Yes, but we are a working band that needs to pay for rehearsals and storage space, new equipment and pay our mortgages. We still get stimulation from new music, literature, cinema etc., so we’ll not be curling up into a pub rockin’ third act at any time in the future, besides it’s a lot of fun to play classic songs to an audience that know every lyric, lick, bass fill and snare hit.”

The band returns to Cyprus Avenue on the 28th of April for their Cork stop of the tour. Having emerged from the Irish scene of the early nineties, Cork is an important locale for the band, as Cairns reminisces on. “I absolutely love Cork, it’s one of my favourite places in the world. First time I visited was on a camping trip when I was nineteen, and I had a great time hanging out in the town and going to different bars with some locals we hooked up with. Nancy Spain’s was a lovely gig and being put up by the lads from Judgement was a fantastic way to spend an evening.We played an odd showcase gig in ’91 at Henry’s with Toasted Heretic and Sultans Of Ping which was good craic, mainly because those bands were fun to hang out with, and had a very memorable show there later on with our friends Babes in Toyland. I remember going to Comet Records with Lori from Babes, and seeing that our albums were number 1 and 2 respectively in the Indie charts. The crowd for the show was full-on, our equipment broke down and I went into full Graham Norton mode and did covers of Jolene and Neil Young while it was sorted.”

Not that their love affair with the town is anything to do with nostalgia, with the band making somewhat of a home in Cyprus Avenue in recent years. “Cyprus Avenue is always such a pleasure to play. We did a gig there once during the Jazz Festival, and opened our set with a few bars of So What by Miles Davis, which completely went over the audience heads. Later on we rampaged around the town and I woke up the next day with one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had in my entire life. Cork is also responsible for Cathal Coughlan, Rory Gallagher and Noel Redding to name but a few. Crosshaven is also where the legendary Bobby Tambling of the mighty Chelsea FC lives, and of course Trish O’Callaghan, a wonderful artist who was responsible for the cover art of our Caucasian Psychosis album release.”

The future lies ahead of the trio, and in short order, at that: a new album is planned, but under tight wraps at present. “We’re currently writing new material and look likely to set foot in the studio in July this year. We’re all pleased with the direction it’s taking, but will be keeping quiet about it until it’s done.”

Therapy? play Cyprus Avenue in a special acoustic tour on Friday April 28th. Tickets available now on