Review: SCÁTH NA DÉITHE – “Pledge Nothing But Flesh”… Posted: 11/04/2017 by Philip Morrissey
The success and international recognition enjoyed by both PRIMORDIAL and ALTAR OF PLAGUES in recent years has been a blessing and a curse for the Irish Black metal scene. On one hand, they have been flying the flag at festivals across Europe and the world, and this has certainly helped to shine a light on what is taking place over here. On the other hand, there is a temptation for many bands to try and replicate their success by incorporating either the pagan elements of Alan Averill and Co or the post metal feel of the Cork band. By having a swathe of copycat bands, fans will quickly lose interest. This could also lead to a dilution of the talent base available. Over the years, Ireland has seen a number of Black Metal bands come and go. The traditional association with Scandinavia, Greece and South America may have something to do with this.
Thankfully, there seems to be a re-birth of straight up black metal in the past few years. CORR MHÓNA have long impressed many, ETERNAL HELCARAXE and DRAKONIS have led the Northern challenge, SCYLLA from Kerry are renowned for their blistering live shows, and SODB created a stir up in Dublin while SLIDHR, ZOM continue to do so today. A relatively new name to add to that list is that of SCÁTH NA DÉITHE. And it is somewhat of an about turn considering the members past associations. Cathal Hughes does vocals and plays guitars in NAUTILUS whilst Stephen Todd hits the skins with ASTRALNAUT. Both outfits more closely aligned to the doom and stoner genres. It was the Hughes led DÚNMHARÚ that first pointed the way in this direction. Essentially a one-man black metal band that became more fleshed out and came to the attention of Todd. A desire to work with him brought the two men together. What began as a side project quickly developed into something more substantial. (Check out IMA favourite “The Light” by DÚNMHARÚ…)
Their name, roughly translated as “The Shadow of the Gods” is perhaps an indication of their mindset. Whilst not overtly playing pagan metal, it is more the sense of loss and melancholy that is inherent in the Irish psyche. Whilst not being a carbon copy of these type of bands, the feeling may subconsciously seep into your ideas and music. The question of how much your roots will affect future endeavours comes to mind. The sadness and despair from our folklore will always prevail. The shades of light and dark from their doom backgrounds was reflected in their 2015 debut “The Horrors of Old” EP. Its quaint looking artwork hid the quality of the music. It’s grim, bleak power held impressive comparisons to Eastern European bands such as HATE FOREST and DRUDKH. A release that held substantial promise and power. Surprisingly, it did not gain as much attention as it deserved.
The step up to their debut album will hopefully alleviate that. All that was great about the EP has been kept and built upon. Opener ‘Sí Gaoithe’ sets the scene. It is a moody ambient sounding track which is mainly driven by the synth work of Hughes. ‘Bloodless’ begins in a similar vein. What can only be described as a dirge, created by the dirty sounding guitars and slowly driven drums that then crashes full speed into vicious sounding vocals and the two blast away ferociously. The guitar lines about mid-way through are particularly impressive. ‘This Unrecognised Disease’ continues in a similar feral vein. It slows down gradually whilst Todd hammers away at the cymbals to down-tuned guitars. Its nature feels more akin to the post metal of ALTAR OF PLAGUES and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. ‘Failte Na Marbh’ (Welcome the Dead) reverts back to the atmospheric sense of the opener.
The previous full tracks were lengthy enough, but the closing pairing each noticeably stretch out past the ten minute mark. ‘The Shackled Mind’ begins slower than the previous ones with the guitars leading the way. The vocals retain their spite and the pace increases steadily. This comes to a climax about half-way through when the speed drops considerably. It is more reflective and allows for the subtleties of the guitars have their say. This does not stay long and the ferocity slams back up again. This speed is book-ended by more moments of shade in between. Closer ‘Search Unending’ is the piece that gives Todd his moment to shine. He brings cymbals, toms and beats to the party and it definitely creates something more interesting. It is definitely one of the more claustrophobic of the numbers which is dense and unforgiving. The melodic and plaintive plucking that sees this piece out is something of a delight. It retains the sense of being haunting and melodic while also feeling desolate and windswept at the same time.
Unfortunately, it looks like we will be unable to see the band live in the foreseeable future due to geographic and logistical constraints. But hopefully this won’t be the last of their recorded output.