Interviewer: Alan Daly / Pictures: Olga Kuzmenko
It’s hard to believe that another year has flown by, and it’s nearly time for Simon Hall to fly to Dublin to choose which Irish hopefuls will get to play the biggest gig of their careers thus far at Bloodstock Festival in August. The Irish Metal 2 The Masses final is imminent and held, as customary, in Fibber Magee’s Rock Bar on Saturday May 12th. Of the 35 bands that started out in the heats back in January, just six remain: Black Dawn Rising, Creep, Element X, Rouen, Sectile and This Place Hell. Interestingly, of those six bands, four reached the semi-finals thanks to the crowd vote in their heat. This Place Hell is the only finalist band who got this far thanks to the judge’s help in the first round, and Rouen were plucked from the round one misfortunates by the wildcard system (admittedly, also the judges choice). Food for thought for bands considering participating next year!
For now, the die is cast, and at least one of these six hopefuls will share the festival bill with legends of heavy music including Judas Priest, Gojira and Nightwish. The pressure is on and the stakes are high. We had a little chat with each of the finalists to find out a bit more about them and their thoughts on the Irish metal scene.
Alan: Hi guys. First of all, tell us about your band, your genre and your influences.
Black Dawn Rising: We are Ronan Nolan (drums), Colin Rossiter (bass/vocals) and Damian Nolan (guitar). We’re all from, and based, in a magical place of dolphin rides hot stone massages, also known as Carlow. We all started playing our instruments when we were or 16 or 17, but we only really started playing as a band a couple of years later. So we’ve been together as a band for roughly 12 years, albeit there was a few years’ hiatus during that 12 years where we done the whole adulting thing by concentrating on college and careers and such. But we’re back in a big way now and ready to blow a hole in the metal scene in Ireland, and hopefully further abroad! It’s hard to self-categorize our music, it might be easier from an outsider perspective. When writing we try to create heavy-ass, headbanging songs, but we also like to give them some melody. So its in your face, but also catchy. You want to jump around but also hum along. So in that regard I guess you could throw us in somewhere around the melodic death metal genre. Our influences include Sylosis, Devildriver, Children of Bodom, The Black Dahlia Murder, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Darkest Hour, At The Gates, Trivium, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Arch Enemy, Bleed from Within. And of course any list like this is sacrilege without mentioning Metallica. But we’re guys who just like all types of music, so it’s very possible you could catch one of us singing along to the latest pop songs on the radio when we think no-one is looking!
Creep: Our current lineup consists of Jason McGuinness (vocals), Layne McGuinness (drums), Jake O’Reilly (rhythm guitar), James Kearney (bass) and Liam Noctor (lead guitar). We formed as a band in 2010 and still have the original lineup, in 2013 we split as a band due to other commitments but reunited in 2016 to continue where we left off. We’re all based in the south side of Dublin and we grew up together as friends and family before forming the band. We wouldn’t tie ourselves down to one genre as we try not to shoehorn ourselves when writing music. If we were to give ourselves a genre we would probably consider ourselves a mix of hard rock and grunge. We have many influences with our music, all of the members have their own favourites and try to bring that to the table. Some of the main influences on our sound are Alice in Chains, Guns N Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Down and Soundgarden.
Element X: We are a 5-piece band based in Dublin, formed officially in January 2014. Our current line-up is Dave Cullen (lead vocals), Ian Kenna (rhythm guitar), Franco Buonocore (lead guitar), Hugo Hernandez (bass) and Rodrigo Alonso (drums and backing vocals). Element X is our style. We like to think that we are mixing different styles from the different backgrounds of each one of us, that’s where the name came from. If we are really pushed, we all agree that our main genre is Hard Rock… BUT! With traces of heavy metal and classic rock too. Each of us bring different influences and sounds, like for example Ian has Metallica as his main influence, Franco’s biggest influences are from 80’s hard rock bands, Dave as well has a variety of styles and bands but primarily Freddie Mercury and Bon Scott, our bass player, as a frustrated guitarist, he likes the 80’s, to name a couple of bands Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest or Iron Maiden and the man behind the drums prefers the modern rock, post-grunge and some splashes of funk. A wide range, in general.
Rouen: Currently we’re a four piece. We’ve got Andy on Vocals and Frontman duties, Dan on Guitar, Alex on Bass and Morgan on Percussion. We’re a 50/50 split of Dublin and Kildare origins. We started jamming, recording and preparing our launch over the last few months of 2017 alongside Stephen Cannon of This Place Hell who was a key member during the early stages of this band (big shout-out to him, the band probably wouldn’t exist without him). Officially, we launched in January 2018 and dropped our first single ‘Breed’ soon after, which makes us only a couple months old! We have difficulty ourselves trying to figure out what genre we are! We take influence from so many different genres and bands across the heavy music landscape. If we had to decide, we would probably say post-hardcore or post-metalcore. Collectively, we’d all agree that Every Time I Die, Deftones and probably Code Orange have definitely contributed to our sound overall, where songs can sound both melodic and discordant in pieces. We also love to incorporate the odd math-y/prog riff or time sig and then settle into a lot of grooves and lighter portions too. We’ve been likened to La Dispute in that sense by a few friends, which was a big compliment! All four of us have a ridiculously large penchant for classic Nu Metal too (Low key though – Limp Bizkit are heroes to us but don’t tell anyone).
Sectile: Our current lineup is Gabriel Gaba (vocals), Mark O’Reilly (guitar), Michael Sheridan (guitar), Cormac Hennigan (bass), and Zachary Newman (drums). We’ve been playing together since around November 2016 and we are based in Dublin. We identify ourselves as a progressive metal band. Taking influences from many areas of metal and also prog rock. Individually we’re all influenced by a lot of different bands and artists but we all share a common love for bands like Mastodon, Gojira, Leprous, Pain of Salvation, and Opeth.
This Place Hell: Our current line up consists of Stephen Cannon (vocals), Mick Hynes (guitar), Damien Regan (guitar), Dylan Scully (bass) and Ryan Cummins (drums). We’re based out of Dublin. We’ve been around for the last 5 years. We used to be known as The Devil wants her Swagger Back but we recently changed our name to This Place Hell. We play straight up Heavy Aggressive Metal. Metallica were a huge inspiration and influence on us growing up and still are to this day. Slipknot are another big one for us. If 10/20 years down the road we can be as big as either of those bands that would be a dream come true. We love all the bands we grew up listening to like Metallica Slipknot, Rammstein and Hatebreed but we also love Modern bands like Ghost, Dyscarnate, Parkway Drive and Gojira. While She Sleeps are a more recent inspiration for us, seeing them be so successful as a now independent band is very inspiring and a testament to hard work paying off.
Alan: Very few Irish metal bands have made it big internationally. Why do you think that is the case? And what can be done to fix that?
Black Dawn Rising: Its hard to say really. I guess on one hand you don’t see a huge amount of publicity for metal bands in Ireland, but even if a band does have a bit of public recognition there still isn’t many rock/metal venues in Ireland for bands who aren’t going to be selling out the likes of the Academy or Vicar Street. Personally speaking, if any of us wanted to go out on a Saturday night to watch a live band, or even just have a beer and listen to some rock tunes in a pub then we’d have to come from Carlow all the way to Dublin. It’s not exactly ideal. But on the other hand we’re lucky that we have the likes of Overdrive and Jetrocker organizing events like this, and online magazines like MyGlobalMind covering it and giving the bands some exposure.
Creep: It’s a major shame metal doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in this country, you can even see it when metal legends like Slayer play, they seem to get the smaller venues, which isn’t a bad thing but they could easily be headlining in the Three Arena! More radio play for metal music in general would be a start, with very few stations really diverting from standard pop music. Also more showcases like M2TM would certainly help, if there were something similar for the other major festivals in Europe, such as Hellfest or Graspop, it would increase the chances of local bands getting noticed outside Ireland.
Element X: The main problem we have in the rock and metal scene in Ireland, especially from our Dublin point of view, in our opinion, is the lack of venues focused on those genres. If more venues take the chance to put on metal nights they will see the talent and the great support that is in the Irish metal scene.
Rouen: The Irish metal scene is so niche at the moment that, while it’s lovely and familial and a great community, nobody’s pushing abroad enough, there’s too much local routine mindset where bands are playing their local halls every week on a showcase gig instead of pushing the geographical boundaries and reach of their music by organizing a simple ferry across to the UK. Our goal is to get ourselves across to the UK ASAP! We think there’s not enough of a connection between Irish and British metal scenes. Contacts tend to be scarce or rarely advertised unless you really go digging for them. Which is what needs to be done unfortunately, and can be a pain. Looking beyond the Pale is a start for Dublin bands! Start gigging outside your hometown to spread awareness of your existence beyondDublin/Your County/Ireland and also try to get attention via social media by changing up the regions you target your advertisements too! Talk to other bands, if you’re at a gig and see another band from the opposite end of the country as you, march right up, be courteous and start a conversation! Just don’t start with ‘Aw great set man…Listen..’, that’s the UNIVERSAL band slang for ‘I don’t really care but you have something I want.’ Be sound!
Sectile: We guess one of the problems is the lack of a large metal scene in Ireland. While there are definitely a great group of people who want to support Irish bands and get started, it just doesn’t seem to attract enough people to help kickstart bands and launch their careers. Having more events like Metal 2 the Masses can really help with this problem. Giving Irish bands good opportunities to get their names out there in other countries.
This Place Hell: I honestly think that’s down to the individual bands and their members. You have to get yourself out there and play to as many people in as many places as possible in as many countries as possible to get noticed. Being in a band comes with an inherent amount of sacrifice. You have to sacrifice being there for people when they might need you the most so you can tour. You have to sacrifice being able to save for your future because the band needs any spare cash you’re not using. Whatever the case may be, the struggle of trying to make that work and be happy doing it, I think, can make some bands fearful to venture out past our own waters and really give it a go on an international scale, which is understandable. We’re all human and its quite natural to want to be able to have a life outside of your band as well. We’re not here to judge, but for us, whether it be touring Russia in the freezing cold or driving across Europe to play a festival in Czech Republic in the scorching heat in a car with no A/C, getting off stage after playing a show anywhere in the world and finding out you were able to reach even just one person with your music makes that sacrifice worth it tenfold. I know if we were to call it quits tomorrow, in a few days time we’d be back sending each other song ideas or planning our next step. This isn’t just a life “style” for us, it’s all we know. It is life.
Alan: What Irish metal band (other than yourselves or any band you are involved in) do you admire/enjoy most, and why?
Black Dawn Rising: When we were younger, (back in the good aul dial-up internet days!), the 2 local metal bands would have been Ground of Ruin and Old Season. They were the ones we looked up to at the time, and made us believe we can make an impact in the metal scene. More recently of course you have Primordial, and Dead Label who we actually shared a stage with once many moons ago when we were fresh faced teenagers! The metal to the masses competition has actually opened our eyes to a lot of quality Irish metal bands we wouldn’t have been aware of previously.
Creep: A band that we’ve always admired are Psykosis. They are a band that started a few years before ourselves and we had the pleasure of playing with them when they were still playing youth centres in the southside of Dublin. Needless to say we go way back. We’ve always admired their attitude and how determined they are, and this shows now with their recent success. And most of all they’re sound lads and always up for a laugh.
Element X: Dead Label, Primordial, Two Tales of Woe, to mention some that we admire because they managed to break outside of Ireland, which is the path we want to follow.
Rouen: What a stinker of a question! There’s so many savage bands to choose from right now! It’ll have to be a toss-up between good friends of ours This Place Hell (aka: This Place Smells, fite us!) and Bailer. They’re both incredibly hard working bands who are getting more and more recognition lately and really re-inventing the sound of Irish Metal and Hardcore respectively. Their work ethic is something that inspires us each and every day and pushes us to strive to at least get on their level and contribute as best as we can to the scene as a whole. Extra shout outs to bands like Minus Ten Thousand Hours (We love you DJ, Dylan and Tom <3) Worn Out and Chancer (more Irish Math please!).
Sectile: We enjoy and are very good friends with the guys in Sixth Extinction. We’ve played a couple of gigs with them so far and always have a really great time with them. Also, in the past few weeks we shared the stage with the Cork band God Alone. We’re still in awe of their sound especially given how young they are. Hoping to see a lot of them in the future.
This Place Hell: There’s a few actually. Hero in Error, I think were the first Irish metal band we saw really break here and when that happened it was hard not to be inspired. They really made it seem possible for the rest of us. They’re such a sound bunch of lads and we really hope they get back doing what they love doing soon! Dead label are another band that inspire us a lot. Not only do they have the tastiest of riffs but they’re really getting out there and blazing the trail for the rest of us and for that they deserve a huge amount of acknowledgement and respect. Great band. Ten Ton Slug are also good friends of ours. Great, hardworking, band, they’re constantly putting themselves out there and you can see its paying off because they just opened for Black Label Society for their string of dates here which is fucking awesome!
Alan: How do you attract (and keep) fans of your music in this era?
Black Dawn Rising: We’re in the process of trying to figure that out! We feel we’ve gained the majority of our fans because of our model good looks and boyish charms…not! You definitely need to write good songs, that’s a given, and our songs have definitely garnered us attention. You also you need to be active on social media. Whether you love or hate social media, it’s really the easiest way to reach a large audience. But we’ve also found we’ve gained a lot of fans from our live performances. Although we take playing our songs seriously, we don’t take ourselves very seriously, so we have a laugh on stage and I think people appreciate that, because at the end of the day what you really want is to listen to good music and have fun.
Creep: First and foremost the music itself has to be good, otherwise it doesn’t stand in any era. It always helps to make the songs relatable and enjoyable for the crowd. Making live performances engaging and fun is also crucial, as it means the crowd will want to come back!
Element X: We try to keep our feet on the ground and give 200% on the stage, trying to make people enjoy the gigs as much as we do. We also keep ourselves very active on social media, making people involved in the band as much as we can.
Rouen: Consistency. Take advantage of all the platforms we’ve got nowadays on social media. Content is King! We post regularly and keep an active image. We don’t just share a link and say “hey, we’re playing ANOTHER gig which you’re somehow obliged to come to!”. That’s not how you keep people entertained anymore, with all the rapid scrolling and ingesting of click-bait media that everyone’s guilty of these days. You’ve got to post something eye-catching; a sick gig photo or a funny image takes seconds to add to a post and if you know your audience and their humour, run with it. Numbers are nothing unless people are engaging. So don’t sweat it, don’t over-post walls of text, have fun, be patient, and let people see that you’re good craic! That’s what keeps fans, and helps them develop their own urge to see you live and click on that Spotify or Youtube link.
Sectile: First thing for us as a band is to have a sound that is unique that intrigues people and makes them want to listen. It’s also important in this era to be competent at every aspect of being a band. Recording, designing graphics, promotion, social media. We’re trying to have our hand in all areas currently, learning as we go in some cases.
This Place Hell: That’s a great question. If you find the answer, please let us know! Haha! I think in this day and age where social media draws most of peoples attention you just have to constantly keep pushing yourself into peoples news feed and keep generating new ways of engaging the fans you do have, so that they might tell 10 of their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and so on. Having a quality product is essential also, you can build hype and buzz around whatever it is you’re doing, but if you’re delivering something half-assed it’s not going to connect with people.
Alan: Finally, With almost all of the bands for 2018 already announced, what band would you (realistically) like to see added to the Bloodstock Festival Lineup next year (2019)?
Black Dawn Rising: Well, there’s only one answer for this question. The band we really want to see at the festival this year, next year, and every other year is… Black Dawn Rising!
Creep: Aside from ourselves? As easy as it is to name any metal band to play the festival. We would just love to see more small band’s, Irish or otherwise, given the chance to play at the festival to try make a name for themselves.
Element X: Element X (laughs)! But “we would love to share stage” with Ghost, Avenged Sevenfold, Iron Maiden or Volbeat.
Rouen: Limp Bizkit! (if only!) Nah, it’s gotta be Code Orange, the HEFT off of their most recent album is insane and would annihilate a Bloodstock mosh pit.
Sectile: It really depends who you ask in the band, we’d all probably give a different answer. Names that sprung to mind for us were Leprous, The Ocean, SikTh, Pain of Salvation, Plini.
This Place Hell: I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch of the imagination that we might see Jinjer playing mainstage at Bloodstock in the coming years. Possibly 2019, who knows? We played with them in Limerick late last year and now they’re away touring America which is great to see. It’d also be great to see Ghost play it again. They have that new album coming out too so… maybe.
So, there you have it. Some interesting words from six of the best metal bands in Ireland right now. Check them out on their social media pages, Spotify or YouTube, and most importantly, get your asses down to Fibber Magee’s on Saturday night at 7pm for the biggest night in the calendar for home-grown Irish metal. There will be a special guest set from former M2TM champions Animator, as well as raffles for weekend tickets to Bloodstock Festival hand-delivered by Simon Hall, and much, much more. Get there early! It’ll be standing room only (moshing is also an option)!