Released: 2013, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
DAMNED WHEN DEAD, for many fans probably represents the most important album of Mael Mordha's career. It is the record that follows on from their slow uphill climb to breaking-through, and could possibly be the one sees them overcome the final hurdle. This doesn’t mean that the band has stuck to what they’ve always done in a delusional hope for success, but it certainly doesn’t mean they’ve lost their angle or what made them exciting in the first place. Their first record for Candlelight sees a greater incorporation of melodic death metal elements, with greater grooves and much catchier riffs and choruses.
Laudabiliter kicks off affairs in the doomy fashion that Mahl Mordha has become known for. It builds and thickens, incorporating a catchy whistle melody, There is slightly less of a folk tinge included, but Roibéard Ó Bogail’s vocal style remains as unique as ever, so this four piece’s identity is safe for now. Dawning of the Grey follows on, starting with a blast attack of pace, whilst eerie guitar feedback maintains atmosphere in the background. The track has an airy feel to it, and progresses and moves easily. A ton of delay on the drums gives them a more shattering sound, adding to the overall power. All Eire Will Quake breaks in with rumbling bass, before introducing a bouncy drum groove, suited well with a memorable vocal line.
The record is a more upbeat affair, but I feel this addition of further variation makes the whole album much more interesting to listen to all together. Bloody Alice is a stand out track, with great melodic death metal influences and a high flying sing a long chorus. The drumming is engaging and creative, and the whistle solo is beautifully composed and placed. After their performance at Bloodstock, I can also say that this track is sounding colossal live. Roibéard’s voice is soulful and is pitched well, with still the right amount of coarseness and rasp to maintain its character.
There are influences of At The Gates and early In Flames present in the musicianship, but the band have still retained their folky and Irish elements, which is what will always set them apart from others.
DAMNED WHEN DEAD is somewhat a paradoxical album. It could be seen as the ultimate Maehl Mordha record, it incorporates all their main elements they have previously shown, and their new larger record deal promises to bring all these elements to a wider audience. However, some factors have become more pronounced, such as the melo-death riffing and bouncy grooves-the latter of course enhances their live experience. With this said, all eight tracks are eight punches in the face to any cretin who could try and call them a mainstream band now; in fact, that idea is laughable.
More tracks, such as The Sacking Of the Vedrafjord are amongst the most folky and native tracks the band has ever put out. When speaking of songs like this, few connections with other bands will be made, because there are few bands that have such musical similarities. This is possibly one of the band’s strongest appeals and selling points, we live in a world of an over-saturated metal scene, especially in the extreme end, and an identity as new and interesting as Mael Mordha’s is certainly a breath of fresh, Irish sea air. The band may be yet to create their masterpiece, but this album should plant them in a good position in the underground metal “scene”, a leave them with a nice lie for which they can strike off their grand breakthrough from.
There is serious potential here, and some great songs, highly recommended for all those after something a little unusual and something with promise for the future.
Review by Jarod Lawley