Quite a long time has passed since the last feature was published in Scrolls of Darmoth. Many events took place, some of them of great importance on a political level (at least for some of my fellow Romanians) and the others which were strictly related to my personal life. Overall, these events prevented me to write/create anything. In other words I lost the inspiration for a while. There’s no point of writing something just for the sake of it, when all you have in your mind are empty spaces.
I had this interview in mind after writing the review for the album “Pledge Nothing but Flesh“, but I could not compose the questions anymore. So I decided to wait and let things fall back into their own pieces again and last week the muse came back with the stolen inspiration. I was finally able to send the questions over to the Irish band Scáth Na Déithe, who, through the voice of Cathal Hughes, was very kind to answer them.
I thank them for the interview and I urge you to listen to the album first, then read the interview. You’ll learn many interesting things about this band and the country it comes from. Crack open a cold one and enjoy the reading.
Hi Cathal, apologies for the lateness of this interview. I wish it were ready sooner, but independent issues prevented me from finishing the questions in due time. First of all, thank you for accepting this interview for Scrolls of Darmoth and second, congratulations for the impressive album that is ‘Pledge Nothing but Flesh’, which was released one month ago. Let’s roll!
SoD: I have to ask this question, as I am extremely curious. What does Scath Na Deithe mean in the Irish language and who exactly are you guys? Please introduce the band a bit to our readers.
CH: Scáth Na Déithe roughly translates into English as ‘The Shadow of the Gods’. We wanted a name that would reflect our intent to take a large influence from Irish folklore and traditions. There are two of us in the band, myself Cathal Hughes and Stephen Todd. I live in a small village in the north of Dublin called Rush and Stephen is from Co. Tyrone.
SoD: Scath Na Deithe is a young band, but the music on your releases begs to differ. Did you guys spend your “apprenticeship” in other bands, or this is your first and most serious project you have been involved in?
CH: We have both been involved in numerous projects; we came to know each other through playing shows together in different bands. We have both released music with other projects in the past so we have had a lot of experience in writing and recording music, but this is the first band were we have created music together.
SoD: Until now you have released a demo tape (“The Horrors of Old” in 2015) and the first full length, “Pledge Nothing but Flesh”, which came out in January 2017. Both releases are DYI, independent. Why is that? Is it easier that way or it’s difficult to find a decent label willing to support a young band these days?
CH: The EP was released independently because it was the very first material we were releasing so we were planning on attracting the attention of labels with that release. We had some offers for cassette releases but they ended up falling through, so we self-released a limited cassette edition of the EP last year. We tried to gather some label interest for the release of “Pledge Nothing but Flesh” but we didn’t receive any offers that were well suited to us. We have since confirmed that a cassette version of “Pledge Nothing but Flesh” will be released this March on Metal Defiance Productions. We purposely take an extremely DIY approach to the recording and mixing of our albums. We do this because I really feel that we require a very specific type of production to reinforce the feel and aesthetic of our music.
SoD: Your music is not something which I can call happy nor very easy to listen to. On both your releases you have created a suffocating, sinister and addictive atmosphere which the listener can easily be sucked into, if not careful. Where does your inspiration come from? Is it something related to the famous bleak Irish weather, is it the world you live in or it’s just you, as persons?
CH: It comes from many places, but yes for sure the darkness of the Irish weather and the landscape we live in have a huge impact on the music we write. The main source of inspiration for the actual music itself is very hard to pin down, I would say I am moved to write music by books I read, the images or feelings they can evoke, more so than by listening to music. Of course listening to extreme forms of metal have a direct impact on what we write, but rather than being able to list off a few bands that we are trying to emulate, it is very much the mindset that listening to extreme metal pulls you into that inspires me to write.
SoD: Besides the 2 instrumentals, the 4 songs on “Pledge Nothing but Flesh” are very long, lasting more than 10 minutes each. I don’t think that their length is an enemy here, because the despair which permeates from those tracks cannot be unfolded in just a few minutes. Was this something you planned from the beginning, or it just happened in the process of writing and then you decided to go with the flow, so to speak?
CH: From the start our goal for this album was to have long track lengths for the exact reason you mention, the type of atmosphere and emotions we are trying to convey can’t be properly expressed in shorter songs. I treat the arrangement of a song like a story, it should rise and fall, take you on a journey through different emotions. Our vision for how the album should progress was clear while it was being written, it is an album of two halves, the first half is meant to convey pure rage and aggression, and the second half to be more somber and reflective. The second instrumental track is there to give contrast to the harsh tracks that go before, to give the listener a brief departure from the weight of the oppressive atmosphere of the music, and to lead you into the second half of the album.
SoD: While the vocals have a very death metal vibe, the riffs and the drumming combine genres, reminding me of Dead Congregation mixed with Ataraxie and with a serious touch of black metal. What music are you guys listening to, when not involved in Scath Na Deithe? Do you listen to (extreme) metal at all?
CH: I am a huge fan of Dead Congregation so thank you for the comparison. Yes, we mostly listen to extreme metal, lately I have been listening to the “Hero” album by Bolzer, Kyrpts, Imha Tarikat, the new Teitanblood EP, The Ruins of Beverast and the latest Blaze of Perdition album. We both listen to a lot of the same bands when it comes to extreme forms of metal.
SoD: The fact that this album has been mastered in the famous Necromorbus Studios (Watain, Armagedda, Funeral Mist and many other great bands) could have enhanced the sinister atmosphere contained on this record?
CH: Absolutely, Tore did an amazing job mastering the album and got us the exact result we had hoped for. He has done great work for so many amazing bands so we were very excited to have him master our album. It was his work for Tribulation that attracted our attention initially.
SoD: While reading the lyrics from “Pledge Nothing but Flesh”, I could not help to notice the topics have nothing to do with the occult, devil worship and other subjects one can find in so many songs/albums these days. Instead, they are more anti life, so to speak, like each of the 4 tracks is a hymn to death and what lies beyond. Why did you choose this lyrical approach and who’s in charge with writing the lyrics and the music?
CH: I write the music and lyrics, which are greatly inspired by Irish folk stories and traditions, but rather than simply recount what happens in these tales I want to channel the emotions they convey or the lessons they teach, and apply their imagery to create a world of our own within the lyrics. For example, the song ‘This Unrecognized Disease’ is inspired by the true story of a woman called Bridget Cleary, who is often referred to as the last witch to be burned in Ireland, but the term ‘witch’ is a misleading take on what happened to her. Her tragic story is entwined with the Irish fairy traditions, and the very real fear and superstition that people in Ireland held about the fairies. I won’t go into the details of what happened to her here, but I would really encourage people to research her story themselves. For the lyrics inspired by this story I wanted to imagine the overwhelming fear and isolation she must have felt in her final days of life, and try to convey these emotions in the lyrics.
SoD: In the past years, the Irish scene has seen quite a revival, when it comes to extreme metal bands. (Zom, Vircolac, Coscradh, Malthusian, just to mention a few). Where do you see Scath Na Deithe in this picture? Do you feel like you belong?
CH: The Irish scene has seen an explosion of bands making a name for themselves, both at home and internationally. It’s not really up to us if people decide to hold our music in the same regard as those bands, but I hope that we will carve out our own place among the well regarded Irish extreme metal acts. As it stands currently for such a small country and small metal scene all the bands really do have their own distinct sound and approach to their craft, and I do feel that we can make that same claim about ourselves, in that sense I would say we belong.
SoD: Last year, you were supposed to play at the Dark Arts Festival, but eventually that did not happen, as I have mistakenly mentioned in the review I wrote for “Pledge Nothing but Flesh” (apologies for that misleading info). Do you have a live line-up, can we expect some concerts or even a small tour in the future, in support of the new album? Or you are not that much into touring and you just want to keep it as simple as possible, with only a couple of local shows?
CH: We have never ruled out live shows and we had a full line-up prepared for that show but we were unable to play due to the same reason we are not able to commit to live shows at present; it is simply work commitments that are getting in the way, which unfortunately can’t be helped.
SoD: The cover of “Pledge Nothing but Flesh” was done by Luciana Nedelea (Luciana Nedelea Art) and it turned out amazingly great. I think that drawing suits the whole concept of the album extremely well. How did you get in touch with Luciana, after all?
CH: I had seen some of her art being shared on social media and had been an admirer of her work for some time. We contacted her directly and explained the general concept behind each song and sent her over all the lyrics, that was the only direction we gave her. We wanted to see what the reading the lyrics would inspire her to create and were blown away from the very first idea she sent back to us. She really understood what we were trying to create through our music and was able to represent it perfectly in her art. She is truly an amazing artist, an absolute professional to work with, and we cannot recommend her highly enough.
SoD: Officially Scath Na Deithe is a duo. How hard or how easy is for you guys to write, record and play the music in this format? Have you considered adding another member to the ranks, or you’re happy with the way things are going right now?
CH: Writing the songs comes relatively easy to us, considering their length. We usually focus on one song per rehearsal and at the end of that rehearsal record ourselves playing the song start to finish so when we came back to rehearse a song before recording it for the album we would be certain of what we had decided on playing. We had a potential bass player but he was unable to commit so we decided to go ahead as a duo, for recording this isn’t an issue for us.
SoD: There is a strange noise which connects the first track, the instrumental “Si Gaoithe”, to the final part of “Search Unending”, the last song on the album. I am almost sure I can hear someone’s footsteps slowly walking, but where exactly, I don’t know. I find this idea of linking the 1st and last song very original and interesting, it’s like an ouroboros is connecting the dots on this album and completes the circle. Was that something intentional, or it’s only my imagination playing tricks on me?
CH: Yes, you are correct, we wanted the album’s end to be linked back to the beginning, completing the journey. The sound is actually supposed to represent someone working in a field. The title ‘Sí Gaoithe’ translates as ‘fairy wind’. I should probably clarify that the Irish fairies are nothing like the nice, kindly creatures that the word is usually associated with, the word fairy was placed by English speakers on what the Irish called the Sídhe. They are extremely dangerous and had inhabited Ireland long before people had, until they were forced to live beneath the earth. The tradition of the fairy wind is that people who would stay out late working their fields would be swept up in a great wind and carried away to the other world were the Sídhe lived and a changeling would be left in their place to torment their family. As I mentioned before, these superstitions were taken very seriously in rural Ireland and there are many recorded cases of people, both adults and children, being killed because they were believed to be a fairy who took the place of a real person. So the sound you are asking about is there to represent someone out working alone who is swept up by this fairy wind and taken through the journey of the album before returning to were they had begun.
SoD: It seems we have already reached the end of this interview. I want to thank you again for your time and as usual, my guests have the last words. Feel free to add whatever you like. Cheers!!
CH: Thank you for taking the time to compose these questions and a massive thank you to anyone who has listened to our music or supported us in any way. Sláinte!