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That Irish Metal Article In Full // Primordial, Darkest Era & Drainland

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I meant to post this a couple of days ago but wel u no how it be. Sorry about the clumsy embedded meeja – they’re deadly songs though.

As published in the Irish Sun, August 5, 2011 (with a couple of minor amendments for clarity).

“We played to over half a million people in 2008. I doubt there’s any other Irish indie band who could lay claim to that, probably not even The Script.”

Alan Averill – or A.A. Nemtheanga to give him his stage name – has built up an enviable reputation in 20 years at the head of Ireland’s most celebrated heavy metal band since Thin Lizzy, yet he remains a relative unknown in his own country.

Primordial play to tens of thousands on a nightly basis around Europe and the Americas. They’re a constant fixture on the festival circuit in mainland Europe where the appetite for heavy music is much stronger.

“It’s at the stage now where in Dublin we can pull, maybe, 800-1,000 people but that should really have been 10 years ago,” Averill says.

“Most other bands can rely on a couple of thousand sales in their home country whereas we sell more in Finland or Greece. I also think that every subculture in Ireland is sort of pushed to the periphery. You’re made to feel a bit like a social pariah.”

Much of it he puts down to Irish culture itself. “A lot of that is to do with the ingrained Irish conservatism. Musical conservatism pushes every sub-culture to the boundaries of society.”

Media culture also plays a strong role, however. “You’ll hear a band who can’t sell Whelan’s on indie radio. Until Nova came along, AC/DC could pull 82,000 people but you were never going to hear AC/DC on the radio.

“If you look at the top 100 best-selling bands of all time, they’re all generally white guys with guitars. It’s this sort of illusion that, somehow, nobody likes this stuff in Ireland, you know?”

2011 has been an unusually bountiful year for high-profile Irish metal, with records from Primordial, Darkest Era, Altar of Plagues, Cruachan and Drainland all seeing release via large international labels such as Metal Blade, Southern Lord and Candlelight Records.

Averill himself has been tasked with A&R work for US label Metal Blade, and he turned the label on to Darkest Era. Like Primordial, the Fermanagh band mix folk and traditional metal influences with a love of Celtic culture and history.

Guitarist Ade Mulgrew is unequivocal about the source of the malaise. “Metal is less of an underground subculture in mainland Europe. It’s more acceptable to be a metal fan if you’re in your twenties and thirties whereas over here in Ireland you’re expected to grow out of it, so it remains underground. I’m young – 23 – but when you’re out of uni people ask if you’re still listening to metal.”

Darkest Era – ‘The Morrigan’

He’s perplexed by the Irish lack of interest in Metal: “Primordial for example, would be seen as a very successful metal band from this country but mainstream media don’t have a clue what’s going on. They don’t realise these bands are playing to tens of thousands of people and have a worldwide reputation. Primordial have had records that are, relatively, as big as anything Thin Lizzy were putting out in the Seventies.”

The 25th anniversary of Phil Lynott’s death this year has given rise to a high-profile exhibition in celebration of his life and a best-selling biography written by Lynott’s mother, Philomena.  For all the nostalgia and fond recollection of the tragic rocker, however, it hasn’t given rise to any sort of thoughtful reflection on the music he created and those who continued his artistic legacy.

Jamie Grimes of Dublin sludge metal outfit Drainland points out the irony: “Thin Lizzy were – shock, horror – a metal band and one of the greatest ever, so you’d think maybe there’d be a little more interest in the genre held up as [that which] our best helped to found and inspire.”

Drainland – ‘Alpha Rat’

Coming from a hardcore background rather than traditional metal, Grimes is less concerned by the scarcity of coverage. “With the purer metal bands, ambition and competition are higher with the drive to ‘make it big’. We don’t have that and I imagine it’s a bigger source of frustration for bands who actively want mainstream press attention.

“For us, opening for Neurosis the other night was a more practical form of exposure than getting three paragraphs in a newspaper.”

Nevertheless, he’s at a loss to explain the root source of the stigma. “Going on their recent releases and the size and influence of their record labels, it’s odd that the likes of Altar of Plagues or Primordial don’t have the same amount of press dedicated to them as And So I Watch You From Afar or Adebisi Shank locally.

“I was joking recently to Mick (Roe, of the Richter Collective label and drummer in Adebisi Shank) about putting Richter Collective stickers over our label Southern Lord’s logo on CDs to send to local press for review. That would automatically get us more attention.”

Ultimately all three agree that the close-knit scene and siege mentality means that Irish metal will always do just fine on its own but its low public profile is nonetheless a missed opportunity for all involved.

Mulgrew says: “If you want to push your band forward then you want as much coverage as possible. Iron Maiden and large bands can come in and sell out arenas in this country because we have people that are into this kind of music but aren’t plugged into the underground.”

Grimes adds: “I’d love to hear Myrkr or something equally mental blaring out of my radio on Cormac Battle’s show while I do the dishes of an evening. Sure who wouldn’t?”

The final absurdity is observed by Averill: “We actually won the award for the best Irish video for our DVD but no one told us. The awards ceremony was being shot for the final episode of Fade Street so that would give you some idea of how things go in this country.

“Unfortunately, in this country the way the music industry is a microcosm of the ills in Irish society; the snobbery, greed and vacuousness that we championed through the Celtic Tiger.”


Written by Dave

August 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Great article. Excellent exposure for Irish Metal.

    Piotr Sargnagel

    August 10, 2011 at 8:34 am

  2. […] Blade and have made impressive inroads in the UK and Europe, though curiously less so in Ireland. I interviewed Ade for the Sun earlier in the year and he had some interesting perspectives on why that […]

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