Celtic Metal - no thanks!
For years people think only of a few big names like Primordial or Cruachan when it comes to the Emerald Isle. But especially lately the Irish scene started developing strongly again, and Irish bands can raise their degree of popularity because of the healthy and vibrant scene. One man who has been observing this buzzing of activity for many years is John Murphy, mastermind of FOR RUIN who introduce their first album "December".
"In fact these days there are almost too
many bands and gigs in Ireland. A number of promoters, events, websites and venues around the country have all helped
the resurgence of Irish metal and it's really taking off. We are one of a number of new bands in the scene who are
doing well. We have been fortunate to sign a record deal that suits us for now and we are going to use it as a
stepping stone to hopefully bigger and better things. All of the bands in Ireland are pretty well connected and know
each other. One of the mistakes an outsider looking in might make is that 'all Irish bands play Celtic/folk metal'.
That couldn't be further from the truth. Personally I dislike (intensely!) that type of music and only one or two
of those bands I can think of are worth listening to. Primordial have stayed clear of that path and are ambassadors
for the scene here - but the majority of bands in Ireland does not sound like them. There are many extreme metal bands
here who play death, thrash, grind and whatever sub-genres you care to invent. As to what we sound like - I think
it's safe to say we sound nothing like our Irish compatriots and have more in common with our friends in 90s Scandinavia
and the Mediterranean! I see the scene in Ireland with a view that many of my age group would see it - growing. There
was no scene to speak of in Ireland for ten years or more, until recently. In the early 90s there were gigs etc. in
Ireland but that faded away and in recent times with the growing popularity of metal again, Ireland has picked up on that."
There is a simple reason for John consistently using the 'we'-form. Originally founded as a one man project, John goes
through with FOR RUIN on his own for several years. In 2004 some of the written material ends up on a split demo.
These recordings are rough, unpolished... and no longer available. 2004 is also the year John moves to Valencia where
he writes and records the second demo "Shade". He distributes a lot of free copies of it at gigs in Ireland and abroad,
and this is the demo he really pushes hard in the press. "Shade" sells pretty well and helps getting FOR RUIN's sound
recognised. Back in Ireland John continus to write material and checks label offers coming in because of the "Shade"
demo. However, he turns them down and starts working on the third demo "Obsidian" on which he spends a lot of time
and only releases it in limited quantities in late 2006 when he is happy with the material and the sound. Around this time
the first line-up of FOR RUIN comes together.
"Obsidian" was rated very highly and really got us noticed - there are some very strong tracks on it, and the sound was
pretty good. We started gigging pretty soon after its release and the line-up had changed completely (other than
myself) by October 2006. Not for 'bad' reasons but the other three guys' lives were taking them abroad at the time so a
new crew came onboard and they are great! We signed a deal with Sentinel Records (Dublin) in early 2007 after releasing
a limited live DVD and recorded our debut album "December" for them in March and April 2007. It's out now and we're
playing in support of it. I coudn't set up a band in Spain because I knew I wouldn't be staying there indefinitely."
On the whole international music journalism seems to confirm these statements for "December" as the reviews mostly
turn out positive.
"True, some of the reviews have been over positive to be honest and that's nice to see. I have no illusions however.
We are a small band on a small label in a big scene and progression and recognition take time. We are doing well in
Ireland and that's where we have to start. Although the band as an entity has been going for a while it has only been
playing live a little under two years now so there's plenty of time for growth yet. Most people talk about the sound
on the album. It's not the most polished album in the world ever and it's quite 'live' sounding. However, everyone seems
to agree that the songs on it are very catchy and well written and that's the key point to my mind. Next time we record
I'm sure we'll use a better studio and the production duties will be shared between myself and a pro-engineer. We are
ramping up the promotion internationally now and we hope to play some shows in the UK/Europe in 2008."
Names which often appear in reviews are Rotting Christ, Katatonia or Death. And obviously John has no problems with
such comparisons as
"people have recognised my influences since the first demo, and they're still the same today. The demos only have my
influences on them and the album has some more with the guys playing on it. I have listened to artists like Rotting Christ,
Katatonia, Paradise Lost, At The Gates, Death, Amorphis, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Dire Straits, The Police,
Hypocrisy, Unanimated, old In Flames, Dissection... it's a long list! I listen to a lot of non-metal stuff so I'm sure
there's some of that in the mix as well."
Despite good reviews John still feels that some things can be done better on the next album for
"anyone who knows me is aware I'm a perfectionist, and nothing is ever good enough. To me there's no question about
the performances on the album, they're great. I'm a capable engineer but it was too much for me at the time to take on
with starting a family, moving house and changing jobs all at the same time as recording. We recorded on a tight budget
and next time around I'm sure that will not be a problem. I also took care of the artwork and design which was a lot of
work but I learn by doing. Next time the artwork will be done by a professional artist, the production will be shared and an
external studio, not my home studio, will be used. With all of these factors to think about it's more important in my mind
that we keep focussed on the main idea of producing quality songs."
The artwork has an almost otherworldly touch to it with the two moons and the landscape in the mirror. Nothing is left
to chance with FOR RUIN, and so we can also find a relation to the music and the lyrics here.
"The album is called "December" and the artwork has a cold feeling to it with the colour scheme and imagery used.
It's quite a simple piece of artwork to my mind that suits the mood of the album. Some people have noted that there
sometimes is a melancholic feeling to parts of our music ('Treading', 'Frailty', etc.) and I think the cover reflects that.
We could have put an illegible logo, crosses and sixes up there but what's the point. We're not into any of that shit so
we went with something more abstract. It's a decent enough cover but I personally want something better for the second