Posted on by Oran

Uragh is one of those bands that have their sound sharpened to a fine point. When you listen to their new album ‘Maelstrom’, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Ever the visionaries, they messed about with their sound to get it just right, and the results speak for themselves.

Commencing at breakneck pace with ‘Monarch’, drummer Jason Hodgkins lays the foundation for an alternate beat-laden opening track that has a killer riff absolutely beaten into it by guitarist Marcelo Varge.

Vocalist, Craig Murphy catches some magnificent air with his deep and heavy bellowing that slots into this style of metal like a well-oiled bolt in a complex machine. Spattered with breakdowns that would snap a horse’s neck (and a few Tom Morello-isms from Varge), ‘Monarch’ declares war on the listener’s ears, daring them to play it louder.

The basslines from Sebastian Sparr on the second track ‘Apparition’ are fluid and give the song a gliding effortlessness, allowing the vocals from Murphy to really punch the ceiling.

Hodgkins’ double bass drum assault complements the bass section perfectly and makes this one of the standout tracks on the album. Track three (Gewissenbiss), allows us to take a breath for exactly one minute, allowing Sparr to play a tranquil and harmonious melody, right before ‘The Widening Gyre’ breaks open, and punishes those who thought the album lacked any culminating properties.

Murphy screams for the opening of the gates of hell with accompanying fury, and the song carries this pace and purpose right past the 4-minute mark where it slows down to a sombre melody. All of this happens within the first four songs which showcases Uragh’s ability to blend the smooth with the brutally heavy.

Capsize’ is a standout track on its own at over 9 minutes, but the length of the track does not hide behind the talent and special ability needed to create a behemoth like this. There are punishing verses of rhythmic head-banging ruthlessness and these, in time, make way for a quiet and spectacular drum-wizard-worthy passage of play. Hodgkins’ drum skill strikes again as he keeps time in an immensely profound and off-time section, but as soon as that’s over, the off-time assault starts again held together by Murpyhy’s vocals and Sparr’s bass. ‘Ar An Trá Fholamh’ is an Irish saying that has many different meanings, one of which is ‘to be utterly destitute’, so I’ll go with that (there are 4 or 5 more, but let’s keep it simple). It’s a haunting track in Irish, ever encasing Uragh in their Irish roots. It’s a slow burner, but allows a breather once again. ‘Regrowth at the Mouth of Sickness’ is the jewel in this crown, as the drums keep time in an array of ear-splitting cymbal crashes and piercing snare smashes.

It ebbs and flows, soars and falls, and never sits still for more than a few seconds (this is my favourite track on the album). Varge’s simplistic solo work gives the song more breadth, proving that Uragh is not just a palm-muting and harmony machine. Murphy soars again in prolonged vocal ability, setting him among some of the finest metal singers in the underground metal scene.

El Cazador’ is a slow and chugging monster, that sets itself down in front of you and refuses to move. The only way past is through you, and it bludgeons with ease. This all seems quite straightforward but it is anything but that. It’s a complex and meandering track that relies on the downtuned palm-muted riffs that spew from the hands of Varges, Hodgkins and Sparr. Its’ presence is a fitting prelude to the last song on the album ‘Mo Dhia Mhaith’ (‘My Good God’, or ‘My God is Good’ in Irish). This track lasts for over 10 minutes and culminates in a trance-like melody worthy of any Tool album, but is still heavy as hell. Murphy preaches from the pulpit, speaking to the downtrodden who may feel like the world is against them. His message is clear; keep going – it gets better’. He’s right too.

Overall, this album unlocks a lot of doors in the prog genre – it has everything: velocity, ferocity, tranquillity and aggression. Uragh’s album is up and coming in the prog metal roster, and is definitely one to watch.

Maelstrom’ is magnificent in its complexity, and the band itself heralds a new era in prog metal in Ireland. I, for one, can’t wait to see what this band does next.  4/5

Track of Choice: Regrowth at the Mouth of Sickness

Shaun Martin 2024