In America, St. Patrick’s Day is most commonly celebrated with an explosion of Guinness and The Pogues. For us, the day is to Ireland as Halloween is to goth — a celebration of all the surface-level fun and window dressing surrounding a specific culture (the big difference being that goth kids don’t have hundreds of years of oppression and struggle under their belts — not yet, anyway). But Irish people are Irish every day, and while plenty of yanks assume that it’s all whiskey and sweaters, Ireland also breeds music and culture of every sort, including extreme metal.
This St. Patrick’s Day, rather than write about how fun it is to sing along to Dropkick Murphys or rattle off a questionably-offensive list of Irish drinking songs (we already did drinking metal, anyway), we decided to showcase killer metal bands from the Irish underground. These are acts from Ireland who’ve made some of the coolest, darkest, and gnarliest music around, with nary a tin whistle in sight.
Here are 10 Irish bands whose music will beat you black and green…
Named after the old Irish word for ‘slaughter,’ Dublin’s Coscradh play a vicious, filthy mixture of extreme metals. Up front is death metal in the band’s chugs and howled vocals, but their riffs also incorporate plenty of black metal’s elaborate darkness and thrash’s raw attitude. The band’s upcoming Mesradh Machae EP will undoubtedly please everyone who likes their music malevolent and disgusting.
Belfast might not be where most fans look for gnarly biker doom, but Bad Boat are bringing it in spades. The band’s 2019 album Drown the Phoenix has a crusty, stripped-down sound, but never goes too light and classic rock on the listener. Instead, their unique guitar tone and infernal riffs make leave smoke-drenched without resulting in outright Sabbath worship. Definitely worth a spin after burning one down.
Over the years, Abaddon Incarnate have evolved their sonic profile, but have at no point diverged from the mission of complete and total darkness. 1999’s debut album The Last Supper is in many ways straightforward death metal, while 2014’s Pessimist is a crusty experiment in black metal with D-beat overtones, but both records are absolutely punishing from start to finish. A band that underground fans might know, but your average extreme music lover might not remember (but really should).
So much emphasis is put on Scandinavian pagan folklore in metal that one sometimes forgets the rich and inky legacy of the Celts. But Dublin’s Celtachor delve deep into that folk history via black metal that mixes both blaring noise and atmospheric, far-reaching mythology. There’s a sense of grand scope to the band’s 2018 album Fiannaíocht that does its historical side justice in a way that other bands could learn from. While fans of more traditional drinking metal might not show up for this, lovers of the dark past will have a field day here.
Murky, unorthodox, and hostile as hell — Vircolac are definitely a band aimed towards a specific type of listener. The music on 2019’s Masque may at times be looming and melancholy, but it never deviates too far from a place of bristling, temple-crumbling blackened death metal. Though at times courting traditionally-gothic themes, such as 2016’s The Cursed Travails of the Demeter with its Dracula-referencing title, the band are firm in their dedication to rot, rage, and misery — all the things that make life worthwhile.
One man, a shitload of riffs, and no mercy — Necrokinesis definitely deliver what their name promises. A solid mixture of death metal, thrash, and groove, the band’s 2020 self-titled debut is just a shitload of fun, headbangable metal, with lyrics about war, death, and the apocalypse. Fans of latter-day Sodom and Kreator are going to love the shit out of this, as it brings that killer mixture of harshness and listenability which those bands have courted on recent releases.
On the epic, moody side of things, Cork’s Soothsayer bring a doom metal sound that seemingly comes from the darkest parts of the human heart. Towering yet emotional, monumental in its humanity, the band’s upcoming debut full-length Echoes of the Earth is a monolithic declaration of their pressence. Fans of Hooded Menace and Stomach Earth will dig Soothsayer’s drawn-out slog, while lovers of sludge acts like Rwake will appreciate their willingness to go deep beneath the surface. A band to keep an eye on in the coming year.
The Tolkien reference in Eternal Helcaraxe’s name might suggest a woodwind-ish nerdiness in their music, but that’s not the case — the band play blistering steamroller black metal with moments of rabid thrash. Sure, there are notes of Irish pagan sorrow on 2017’s In Times of Desperation, such as the emotionally-resonant “Bannow,” but even that track’s sentiment exists within an armored framework of thorns and fire. Powerful extreme metal that never loses its edge when it gets thoughtful.
I’ll Eat Your Face
The name doesn’t quite say it all, but it gives you the right idea. Cork’s I’ll Eat Your Face may create grindcore that’s at times a little weirder and artsier than your average blast merchants, but it’s definitely grindcore. The duo, whose members’ other credits include Altar of Plagues, For Ruin, and Molde, are all about the chug, even if that’s tempered with odd sound effects and song structures on records like 2013’s The life of Jean Vauvais. For fans of the more traditional sonic assault, 2011’s HOT BRAINS TERROR will stomp your eyeballs out just fine.
It’s a real shame that Mael Mórdha are on hold, because man, this band did something awesomely unique. The “Gaelic doom metal” quartet were damn talented at combining groaning riffs with pagan folk influences. The end product was music that made the listener feel less like they were cosplaying an ancient Irish wizard and more like they were a soldier dragging their Sparthe axe through a field as the arrow in their leg slowly poisoned them. A rad, uncommon band with an excellent discography.
Words by Chris Krovatin