6 Great Irish Bands to Blast This St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick's Day is a beautiful day. In the more devout parts of the world, it's a time for Catholic families to go to church, have dinner, and remember how a Romanized Briton who was captured by pagan raiders managed to survive and help convert an entire island to a foreign faith. Also, the whole getting rid of snakes thing (which is more than likely an allegory about how Christianity supplanted native Celtic paganism) is super appreciated. I just wish he had done the same to America, as well.
Despite such history, St. Paddy's Day is better known as the drunkard's holiday. Wearing green, kissing people under false pretenses, and puking. These are the holy trinity of the thoroughly secular celebration of Saint Patrick's Day. More than likely you'll be doing the whole shebang soon enough, but, if you don't mind, I'd like to add a fourth tradition. Namely, loud, brutal, and ginger-headed metal. Instead of getting blotto to the same old Top 40 tunes, let's spend this Saint Patrick's Day bog-deep in some Irish metal.
As the crosseyed doctor once said to the man on the horse: it'll be good for ya.
When Norwegian bands took to dressing up like Vikings, it was cool. Vikings are cool generally, but the fact that Varg, Oystein, and others might be distantly related to actual Vikings is what made it really cool. You see, seaborne pillaging is part of Scandinavian heritage. It's their thing, brah. When other bands from other parts of the world do the same type of Viking cosplay, it's not as cool.
For Waylander, even though Ireland can definitely claim Viking blood, horned helmets need not apply. This band from Armagh in Northern Ireland is all about playing the tin whistle while wearing woad (a possibly hallucinogenic blue dye famously sported by ancient Celtic warriors). Waylander, like a lot of other bands on this list, make folk-y, Celtic black metal that bridges "Black Metal ist Krieg" grimness with the traditional bounce of Irish melodies.
A track fit for boozin': "Born to Fight"
5. Mael Mórdha
Speaking of woad, get a load of these lads. Hailing from Dublin, Mael Mórdha also dig traditional Celtic music. As for metal, their tastes run closer to classic heavy metal (they often get labeled as doom metal for some reason), which gives them a slightly Eurotrash vibe. Don't fret; Mael Mórdha is a rocking good time. Their music is perfect for burning through a Morgan Llywelyn novel or an all-night session of medieval Stratego. If neither of those things are available this Saint Patrick's Day, then just stand around and pretend that the Roman army is at the pub next door.
A song for an Iron Age fightin' man: "All Eire Will Quake"
Taking their name from an ancient Celtic curse, Geasa are some of the earliest proponents and producers of Celtic metal. Marrying low-fi black metal with Celtic music, Geasa helped Eire to rock in the 1990s. Nobody seems to know a lot about Geasa. Most websites still list them as active, even though they haven't released an album since 2005 and only maintain a Myspace account. No bother – you don't need anything current from these guys; the gloriously necro old stuff will do just fine.
A paean for public drinking: "The Last One on Earth"
3. Abaddon Incarnate
Not all Irish metal is face paint, flutes, and ditties about fog-shrouded battlefields. Some bands, like Dublin's Abaddon Incarnate, just want to rip your face off. On the more grindcore end of the death metal spectrum, Abaddon Incarnate call to mind metal titans like Suffocation, Deicide, and Cryptopsy. Their riffs are chaotic, with blast beat drumming and Cookie Monster impersonations rounding out the brutality. This is Irish metal for people who don't like all the predictable Riverdance comments.
Guinness Smashed Face: "I Hate"
From the small town of Skerries, County Dublin, Primordial are the gold standard for Celtic metal. A veteran act who formed during the thrash '80s and managed to breakthrough during the black metal insurgency in the early 1990s, Primordial were one of the first acts to mash the bang of black metal with the dulcet tones of Irish instrumentation. Any education in modern Irish metal has to start with these guys, and any course worth its weight in colcannon has to start with Imrama, the band's debut LP.
A strain of the profane: "Awaiting the Dawn"
1. Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy are the greatest band to ever come out of Ireland. U2 isn't even a consideration. Led by the charismatic Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy were the most underrated and under appreciated band of the 1970s. Their songs are tough, streetwise anthems about tricky women and beer-soaked nights spent shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and strangers alike. Classics like "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back in Town" are staples of FM radio, while the band's version of "Whisky in the Jar" still remains the greatest rock and roll repackaging of an Irish classic.
However, too few know that Thin Lizzy also wrote stirring odes to Irish history and mythology. For example, "Roisin Dubh" not only name checks the legendary Irish warrior Cúchulainn, but it also muses about later Irish luminaries like William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Van Morrison. The band's self-titled debut includes a song called "Eire," which recounts the history of conflict in Ireland, from the Viking invasions to the Catholic versus Protestant mess in Northern Ireland. Still, the most metallic Lizzy masterpiece is "Emerald," a song about bloody conquest. If you want to conqueror this year's Saint Patrick's Day and earn friends, then start your playlist with "Emerald."