Mael Morda - Manannan

Mael Mordha started their epic journey back in 1998, when they came together to perform folk music based on heavy metal. Album after album, this Irish group has refused to back down from their traditional, rough music. While many folk metal bands are trying to flesh out the 'folk' elements with lots of flute passages, mandolins, and mixing it with black metal inspired riffs, Mael Mordha strive down a different path. The vocals are the only thing that really represent anything 'folk metal' about it. The guitars are more along the lines of doom metal (such as Gates Of Slumber, not a band like My Dying Bride) and even though they can get repetitive sometimes, their catchiness makes the latest album, Manannán, bearable.

Tracks such as "Through The Lungs Of The Dead" and "A Nation In Ruins" have slow, churning tempos and earsplitting solos. The drums pound away in the background with the intention to do some damage, but they don't beat mindless. Each stick that comes down holds a rhythm that makes the album grind and crunch like a violent storm, and the only thing that keeps this boat of a band afloat are the vocals, which sometimes sound as rough as the ocean it is being tossed in. "The Doom of the Races of Éire" is a bit more of the typical folk metal that is heard these days; the beginning is much more melodic and the rhythm crunches along with the guts of an Amon Amarth track- melodic death metal, per say- while some flutes make their way in every once in a while. The good news is that they are not overused.

"Manannán" features more acoustic work that is tempered by the usual doom metal/ melodic death metal riffs. But, the interlude is just downright awesome with the way the flutes interact with the guitars and the whole droning effect makes them extra distorted and epic, like a march towards battle. "A Nation In Ruins" is true doom metal for it's singular guitar notes and then cohesive buzzing, dirty riffs, raw and powerful. The vocals even sound rougher, like he's sing-screaming rather than the usual deep singing he does. "Gaelic Twilight" focuses on the drum pattern which is very simple, but effective with the way it just plods along. The guitars are there in their mournful, epic tone, but the drums somehow soar above everything else with a rhythm that the listener can really focus on. Somehow, this rhythm continues into the final song, which is almost the exact same in tempo. The only difference is that the flutes are involved to create more atmosphere with the doom metal aspects. The vocals keep to their steady, convictive wails until the song fades out to the bass just tapping away a singular melody. It's not typical of folk metal at all, but sounds pretty neat and should be applauded for its unorthodx style.

Folk metal fans who are used to bands like Eluveitie or Finnitroll will probably be disappointed by this style of folk metal. The vocals are cleaner and the whole musical concept is so much simpler. It's basically the guitars, vocals, and drums that do all the work while the flute comes in a backing instrument every once in a while. However, it is this simplicity that also can turn listeners off who may think that the music isn't 'folk oriented' enough. Without the flutes it just feels like viking death metal, which is very borderline of the folk metal genre. Manannán is still an enjoyable album overall for those who don't mind the rougher vocals that border between doom and power metal and the melodic riffs that could easily inspire plenty of headbanging and drinking mead at the same time.

  1. Through The Lungs Of The Dead
  2. The Summoning
  3. The Doom Of The Races Of Éire
  4. Our Ancestors Dwell Here
  5. Manannán
  6. A Nation In Ruins
  7. The Gaelic Twilight
  8. Back To Éire I Go With A Heavy Heart

Grau Records
Reviewer: Colin McNamara
Sep 20, 2010

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