Words by Robert Moore
In the digital age, it is easier than ever for young bands to soak up disparate musical influences, overcoming whatever geographic or scene-specific hurdles may have existed before. These eight young Irish bands have culled from some of the wide-reaching musical influences that have become global over time, ranging from Florida death metal to the Bangles. These upstarts also add to Ireland’s rich, diverse musical palette, representing the country that continues to offer way more than obvious Celtic folk and punk sounds.
Though some outsiders think hardcore bands all sound the same, its history is filled with subgenres and fusions with other heavy rock styles, creating a variety of reference points for young bands. Some of these styles are associated with national scenes and points in time. For example, there are scads of young hardcore acts in America inspired by the early UK hardcore sound of Discharge. Ireland’s Gaze resembles classic Japanese hardcore band Gauze in not just name alone, as the group mixes the modern Swedish-inspired d-beat style with the early ’80s Japanese hardcore style that continues to leave a mark on all sorts of heavy and loud rock ‘n’ roll.
This group caught the attention of many within the global death metal scene late last year with its MMXIII demo cassette. Despite its singer’s gruff growls, Malthusian’s time-tested influences extend beyond the 1980s Florida death metal sound of Deicide or Morbid Angel. The dim, cinematic soundscape at the heart of each intricate track owes a lot to Swedish black metal progenitors like Bathory. That’s not to say this does not sound sleek and modern, as Malthusian would not sound out of place on the current Relapse Records roster.
Dublin songsmith and Grand Pocket Orchestra frontman Paddy Hanna has been getting some press attention on the home front for his recently released solo indie pop debut, Leafy Stiletto. it’s well deserved, as the 12-track album shows off Hanna’s range as a vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. At certain moments on the record, like the country and folk inspired “Mud,” which demeans love as being faceless and “the mud that clings to my shoelace” before Hanna admits that “if I had another chance, I would do it all again,” it is easy to picture the introspective songwriter, strumming in his bedroom alone. But the real album highlights find Hanna getting assists from friends, such as on the effects laden “Heaven of Heavens” and “Rattling Chains,” a duet with album cover artist Jill Redmond.
Self-billed as a “kraut-house” and “crossover pop” band, Princess is the type of group that muddies the often calm waters of mellow, introspective guitar rock with an array of distortion petals. The Dublin foursome’s 2013 Black Cat EP contains sounds as dissonant as the melodic shoegaze pop of “Fall Slow” and the pure post-punk noise of “Junk Mail.” By embracing multiple underground rock sounds, Princess is following in the tradition of post-punk progenitors like the Fall by blurring the line between yesterday’s pop and tomorrow’s art.
Though they’ve been known to cull from a mixed bag of garage and punk influences, Rural Savage’s finest songs to date owe more to the music of the American South than anything near their hometown of Galway. For example, “Straight to Hell” looked to rockabilly legend Hasil Atkins for inspiration. And with lyrics that are surreal, if not absurd, this raw cut could also be considered a nod to the Dead Milkmen’s earliest home recordings.
Dublin’s September Girls would fit in well with a number of stylish and pop-minded acts from the American West Coast, such as Dum Dum Girls. But while their transatlantic counterparts dig 1980s goth-pop and post-punk vibes, the Dublin quintet seems to be more moved by that era’s mainstream chart-breakers. Their fuzzed-out take on accessible sounds from yesteryear should come as no surprise, as the band’s name was inspired by the Bangles’ cover of Big Star’s “September Gurls.”
Though a lot of gay punks try getting their message across with humor, be it ’90s queercore bands like Pansy Division or Hunx and His Punx’s recent redefining of the term “street punk,” Dublin hardcore band Strong Boys uses its musical platform to rail against social and religious intolerance. Though its lead singer’s growls are hard to decipher, a lyric sheet included with the band’s lone seven-inch EP reveals the personal and social politics behind songs like “No Choice” (“Was born this way, I’ll always be gay and I’ll always want bears in jeans”). This band is not completely humorless, though, as its lampooning of the familiar Germs logo is akin to imagery used by the better known, less serious, Black Fag.
The thrash and hardcore crossover, which in the ’80s narrowed the already slim sonic gap between lightning fast metal and politically-charged skate punk, continues to be a slamming and skating soundtrack for urban youth. Though thrashers Visceral Attack is a metal band at heart, the darkness addressed by its lyrics and album artwork is grounded in the same dim political reality railed against by UK ’82 punks.