As the tourists from near and far trudged through the winding streets of temple bar, taking pictures of themselves as Leprechauns and buying Irish souvenirs made in china, there was something else about to erupt just a stone’s through away – Redemption Festival. A true demonstration of Irishness and tradition combined with a flare of the foreign was taking place in the Button Factory. Any passersby who were not aware of the event, may have thought there was some kind of Viking convention or black mass taking place, and they wouldn’t have been too far off the mark either. Redemption Festival was brought to us by Dublin Metal Events who are keeping the scene alive by constantly presenting us with incredible shows like the fore mentioned. DME are keeping the doors from being shut on the Irish metal scene which is still relatively unexposed in comparison with others.
Admittedly, going into this I was unsure of what was going to entail. Having little experience of any kind of Doom or black Metal shows infused with Irish history or Gaelic tradition I was a little sceptical as to how this was going to work. Any experience I’ve had of this has been rather disappointing, more of an indifferent ‘meh, come and fight, maybe, whatever, I don’t care…oh and by the way my tin whistle is clogged, so….’, rather than a demonstration of a full blown call to arms. With all of that said, Mael Mordha have completely and utterly converted me. They were the first to greet the masses. As the crowd went silent and the atmosphere became charged with suspense, the eerie sound of front man Roibéard Ó Bogail’s tin whistle rang out. As the stage lit up and the band came into view covered in war paint and ready for battle. It was like I’d stepped into a J.R.R Tolkien Novel or back to the ages when it was the Vikings sailing up and down the river Liffey and there were no Junkies throwing rabbits into it. The showmanship of Mael Mordha is a rarity, they aren’t just making music, instead they take you on a journey and at the heart of it all they are fantastic story tellers. The inclusion of the tin whistle makes for an extraordinary combination. The pounding guitar with seesawing riffs, the crypt keeper look alike on bass along with the galloping of the drums behind them sounding like warriors stampeding into battle make for an awe inspiring performance. Vocals are entrancing with the backing vocals reinforcing the heaviosity. Every single member gives his all to the performance as they regale us with tales from the battlefield. The crowd’s chants sounded like the heave hoeing of oar men about to invade and pillage a small village as they were captivated by tracks like Bloody Alice and Pauper of Souls. Mael Mordha should lay to rest any doubts people have about the capability of Metal musicians in Ireland. It was an incredible experience and if Mael Mordha are looking for a wench or even a triangle player I can be ready to go on tour/ go to war tomorrow.
Next to perform were Winterfylleth who brought a touch of Anglo-Saxon to mix with all the pasty Anglo-Normans. Hailing from the UK, the name Winterfylleth is an old English word for ‘October’ and what do you think of when you hear the word October? Death, graves, the living dead and the cold – that’s what. If you hadn’t guessed yet, Winterfylleth are a black metal band minus the corpse paint. Their set started abruptly with an epidemic of blast beats crushing the skulls of the crowd. Under the haze of this disorientating yet intriguing start, the real capabilities of the band started to emerge. Although the blast beats are a major feature, they never drowned out the guitars and their tone which makes for a welcome change. Their deliverance is ferocious and thus making it believable. I truly think that if there was a soundtrack for the impending zombie apocalypse Winterfylleth would certainly feature. The growls of Nick Wallork filled the entire venue, slicing through the crowd and reaching everyone. The clean vocals were a welcome addition and illustrated variety in their performance. For their first time playing in Ireland they really did a good job at showing us what they’re made of. There is a fear of flinging bands like Winterfylleth into the same box as other black metal bands but this would be ill-advised as their themes and messages behind their music should keep them firmly outside the box. The beers of the audience remained Iced with the cold reality that Winterfylleth unleashed.
Now, next came Grave Miasma and this will be a short one – like their set. At first they came out with fake blood on their shirts and I was eager to see what they had to offer. However, it then got to the stage where I had to stop myself from screaming ‘PLAY THE MUSIC WHITE BOYS!!!’ After roughly three minutes they stopped due to what seemed to a broken guitar string. What’s that? Fix it and play on you say? Oh no, not these guys, not for at least another eight or so minutes and it certainly was not a one man job either. Finally, they came back on and although I have been harsh I can understand they were probably disappointed and disheartened at how things began that they admitted defeat. If they were on the bill they deserved to be there especially with the calibre of the other bands. This is Metal – if you feel like you can’t join the crowd just prove them wrong by showing us what you’re made of! With their return they demonstrated little on stage presence. Out of all the bands they gave little we could relate to compared with the others. It proves that live performance is so important to get right. If I was so inclined I would say it was my first and last time to see Grave Miasma but I think there is enough potential to warrant another go at them but for the love of God the turnaround time for fixing a guitar string should not be the same as that of a Boeing 747!
Solstafir’s performance was highly anticipated after witnessing the problems of the First World metal head in the previous performance. As they came on stage dressed similarly to drifters and vagabonds I was expecting Bob Dylan to follow them. Our Icelandic Brethren held our interest with a long intro that built us up for the inevitable face melting we would endure. Now it has to be said that Solstafir would not usually be my thing but they were captivating in their own, unique way – unique being the key word here. If ever there was a band that was difficult to compare and contrast with their peers Solstafir is that band. Their oneness means they are difficult to place in terms of influences and vision. They demonstrated great musicianship and diversity their entire time on stage. The vocals were the cleanest out of all the bands. Eerie and soulful, fans of Opeth will probably appreciate Solstafir. Songs like Fjara created a stirring atmosphere. You can take them or you can leave them but you can’t deny that they have something.
It was with great anticipation that Rotting Christ’s arrival on stage was met. The chants began almost immediately, the crowd was ready to embrace and ear kicking. Rotting Christ were something exotic to add to the mix with all the Celtic mythology, old traditions and storytelling of old days, we were all ready for something from a band that would know exactly what to do to prepare us for our appointment with Primordial. With over twenty years experience in metal, we couldn’t have been in better hands. Their music is dark and evil and in your face. There will be no lapse in concentration as you are taken on a Rotting Christ journey. They participated with the crowd and for the first time there were pits, finally – Hell had opened up. There is an epic quality to their well constructed tracks, their speedy strumming and low tones along with shredding solos built up to exploding chorus’. Rotting Christ put on a great show and a strong performance. They are another band who I believe mean every word they say and so I buy it. They got us ready for the impending annihilation that Primordial would bring.
Then finally it was time for the Kings of the night, the darks sons of Eireann. Everything came full circle with Primordial ending the night. Redemption Festival was a voyage – we started out with unshakeable faith that all would be in order and we were right to believe this. Mael Mordha awakened the metal beast in sleepy Saturday metal heads, Winterfylleth strengthened it, someone mixed up port and starboard with Grave Miasma, we got back on course with Solstafir, We knew we were in the right place with Rotting Christ and Primordial solidified our faith in everything.
Primordial arrived on stage, remaining in the dark. All that could be heard was the intoxicating call of Front man Neamtheanga‘s sean nos singing. As the band came into view so did their war paint and just as quickly as the lament began it had ended. The realisation kicked in that this was no typical set but an odyssey we were to be brought on. Primordial were leading us into battle. Primordial are another band that have decades of experience and for an Irish Metal band to be around that long and have so much success both at home and abroad is a demonstration of sheer triumph over adversity. They should be an example to all the deserters in the Irish metal scene who complain constantly about the scene not being this way and not being that way – Primoridial started off in the eighties and nineties and they’re still around.
The combination of black metal and Irish folklore makes them completely authentic. There is something undeniably Joycean about this band in the way they write their music while at the same time delivering a more brutal reality that would have brought a tear to Patrick Kavanagh’s eye. They subtly infuse the traditional with contemporary and current themes making them timeless; thus creating longevity that most bands long for. The on- stage presence of Primordial is rivalled by few, there is a sense of being part of some kind of Brotherhood especially with songs ‘No Grave Deep Enough’, with the lyrics ‘ Rise my Brothers, Rise from your grave, throw your shackles off and stand by my side’, rebelliously echoing from Neamtheanga and resonating with everyone. Their practically infallible set had the crowd hooked from the very beginning, drinking in the band’s every word and inhaling the dark, melodic riffs.
Primoridial have been compared to the greats of black metal like Bathory and Celtic Frost and although they are fair comments I think that Primordial have carved out a unique niche for themselves among the black metal community and the metal community in its entirety as when the combination of Celtic, Black, and Folk metal is mentioned, few others come to mind other than Primoridial.
One of the highlights of their time on stage was when they were joined on stage by Addi from Solstafir for Empire Falls leading to utter hysteria from the crowd. Primordial’s set was intoxicating from beginning to end and playing for two hours meant that the fans got a generous helping from the Lords of Irish Metal. For those of you who have not heard much of Primordial’s material, I urge you to indulge in some impulse buying of their albums I promise there will be no buyers remorse. I can’t wait for these guys to come back and for any future releases.
Redemption Festival was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a very long time. Not being able to put names to the many faces made for a welcome change. A packed venue full of real metal fans restored my faith in the Irish scene. All we can hope is that D.M.E and the bands will continue to put on these amazing shows and there will be continued support from the fans. I can’t wait for next year!
Big ‘thank you’ due to Steve Dempsey ( Down the Barrel Photography) for taking some really fantastic snaps, Check out his gallery below