Having wowed Bloodstock booking agent, Simon Hall at the Metal 2 The Masses Ireland showcase final earlier this year, the band proceeded to venture into the UK scene where they executed a blistering performance to curious punters, once again proving to the international market that Ireland has a wealth of Metal talent, just waiting to be discovered.
We spoke to vocalist/bassist, Dáire Coburn about their experience at Bloodstock, their plans for new music, and much more…
OD – For those that don’t know, can you give us a background on the band, and in particular, the influences, and sound that you have evolved too since forming?
DÁIRE – The band has really grown over the years from essentially a sort of musical infancy. When we formed in 2017 (2018 if you count being able to play shows as having formed), we were very much influenced by the likes of Opeth, Amon Amarth, Be’lakor…, that side of melodic death metal, with very little nuance applied to it. As a result, all of our songs sounded pretty much the same, and we actually got a decent following from that style. I remember remarking at one of our first shows that the bearded Fibber’s clientele loved us!
Nowadays we’ve had a bit of a line-up change, most notably changing to a four-piece. We’ve evolved through many many influences (the likes of which include: Agalloch, Neurosis, Stan Rogers, Horslips, Mastodon, Immortal, Woods of Ypres, Sun Kil Moon, Baroness, YOB, Bolt Thrower, Wolfheart; as well as various modern death, and black metal bands), and now all our songs still sound the same, but they’re harder to remember. So, success!
An important part of our creative process is that we go through phases of laboriously loving one specific album, or artist, for a while. For example, we all listened to that one Khemmis album, (Hunted, 2016) in 2020 when we were apart, and Whispers… was just that. I think it’s good to have obsessions as a band that remind you of what you strive for and agree on creatively.
OD – Looking back over the band’s discography: 2020 saw ‘Crá’ EP followed by your debut album ‘Whispers Among the Trees’ in 2021 to the next EP, ‘From Across The Moors’, and most recently the single, ‘The Ferryman and the Lock Keeper’, all which have seen a huge evolution in the band’s sound. Is there a conscious effort, when writing, to keep pushing the boundaries?
DÁIRE – Absolutely not. We love to play it safe here at Fornoth, and nothing makes that clearer than our newest singles, The Ferryman and the Lock Keeper, and Assembling Trees (released on the 9th of September and 29th of October 2022, respectively). The B-sides to these are as lacking in innovation as you can get!
On a serious note, there really is not a conscious effort to develop. The writing process is always about, “what do I like?”or “what would be fun to play?” rather than, “what would be new?” I don’t think we’ve ever decided to do something because; “nobody else is doing it” or to be “prog”. It’s just not our style.
There are often odd times, and strange melodies in the music, but these idiosyncrasies are descriptive, not prescriptive. For Fornoth, writing is more or less stream-of-consciousness.
We’ve done the verse-chorus formula, and sometimes it works out that way (our song ‘Rubble’, off our ‘Crá’ split with Horrenda for example, we wrote as a structure), but the sections of our songs are always written in a row, rather than with the intent to be a “chorus”, or what have you.
OD – ‘The Ferryman and the Lock Keeper’ was the most recent single as of October. Do you have any other new music that we’ll see before the end of the year?
DÁIRE – Yes, we have another single out now! Assembling Trees is a song about trees that kill people that kill trees – so only those totally deserving, of course. Incidentally, who watches the watchmen, again? It will come with a prequel B-side, Roots of Ritual, which we think people who liked our song, Stranger to the Sea will really, really enjoy! Featuring prose in the Irish language, so it basically counts as much as going on Duo-lingo.
OD – There is a very different take on how people digest music these days, and seeing as Fornoth’s release history has been pretty consistent since 2020, have you considered releasing a slew of singles and EPs, rather than a full album going forward?
DAIRE – Ah, you’ve found us out! We don’t have an album ready to release featuring these two singles. However, we’re all pretty staunch advocates of the concept of releasing an album. We intend to have one at some point, we just need it to be right, you know? It’s gotta say something, and work together thematically. Otherwise, it’s not an album, it’s just a compilation of songs.
To better answer this question, we’re looking more at a slough of singles, than a slew of them. We have technically yet to release an album as Whispers Among the Trees, our current sole “album” is one by number of tracks alone: it runs a paltry 20 minutes! For reference, From Across the Moors is about 22 minutes.
It would definitely be a smarter move in the current streaming-focused climate to only release singles, but that’s not what we’re doing. We’re looking to record demos of our songs, and get an album written, maybe pitch to a label depending on how it goes. Not for a lack of material – we have lots of songs that probably will not end up on the album – but getting something out of a similar quality to Ferryman costs a fair bit of money, and we can’t just keep pumping them out, unfortunately. I suppose sub to our notional, hypothetical patreon! Or whatever.
OD – What plans are in place for 2023?
DÁIRE – Plans for 2023 are to play whatever gigs come our way – we’re hoping to play some more higher-profile supports for touring bands – and really focus on writing an album. We don’t want to rush this, but after a lot of turmoil, we’re stabilising creatively, and are very eager to refine our ideas, and release a piece of art we can be proud of… that encapsulates who we have become to date.
We have a Fibber Magee’s headliner, and then Crypt of the Riff coming up in December.
We are working on a “Four Provinces” tour, and are hoping to make that as big an event as we can muster. Four bands, one from each province, all supporting each other on a big old metatour. Two nights per province, with the headliner being the band from that province. It should be absolutely insane. The bands playing might be easy to figure out, but we’re keeping it secret until we get the posters ready.
OD – Having performed at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air Festival, did it have an impact (or insight) into the wider market for heavy music, and also, did you take anything away from that experience that you’d like to share?
DÁIRE – Impact, insight, intrigue, indeed! Bloodstock was a great opportunity for us, and was a fantastic learning experience.
I think the main thing we took away was to bring lots of sunscreen, and plenty of nonperishable food. The part leading up to the performance itself felt pretty rushed, it wasn’t easy getting in all the interviews we could before 12 pm, and then rushing to get our gear backstage to load in, plus sound check, was basically non-existent.
It’s a stressful time being on stage at a festival, it turns out. Now that we’re prepared for it, it’ll probably sting a bit less next time, but it really is not all it’s made out to be on the level we were at. Hopefully in future we get to be on bigger stages, with all the comforts of home!
We’ve learned more about the wider market from shows supporting bands who have “made it” in a sense, we had a nice chat with members of Elephant Tree about the industry, and their thoughts on going DIY, versus joining a label.
There weren’t many chances to do similar at Bloodstock, as the bands you meet backstage are all at the “local” level – you wouldn’t be knocking into Machine Head around the Midgard camp! Perhaps there’d have been more of a chance to meet if we’d slept in the artists’ campsite, but we were coerced into it by Tooms! It was a fantastic time though, no regrets about that choice.
OD – There is a very rich standard of talent that exists in the Irish Metal scene, are there any bands in particular that Fornoth are currently enjoying, or would perhaps like to perform with?
DÁIRE – So many – when listing our influences, none of our Irish contemporaries were included in anticipation of this question! I’d like to think we don’t keep secrets about who we love in the Irish metal scene.
We just recently got to achieve our (literally!) years-long dream of playing the same stage as Grey Stag and Elder Druid – in the same night, no less!
Next dream gig is with God Alone, we’ve been pestering them for almost as long as we have Elder Druid, so if you’re reading this: “Alri let’s play weird jazzy screamy songs together!“
We play as many gigs as we can with Organ Blender, but they’re in Galway, so it doesn’t happen enough. They are really doing something new, and getting more polished by the day! You can just feel big things are coming after the release of their dazzling (if a bit Ziltoid-y!) album, ‘Teemu Khan‘.
In a similar vein, I’ve been to see a band called Tvashtar Paterae, and they’re a pretty cool blend of surf rock, and blast-beaty [sic] metal. One to watch out for, I’d think!
We’ve warmed-up very nicely to ex-Infectious members, relative newcomers, and rapid up-and-comers, Unmaker. They are really giving it socks! Lovely guys, we spoke with them incessantly at Bloodstock, and they’re writing new music, and playing shows at break-neck speeds. They even cite us as an influence – what a trip! Heard them play a new song at that Psykosis show two weeks back called, Drop Dead…that looks to be a future hit.
We played a set at an Overdrive event in I think 2019 with The Crawling, and Snowblind also. We love both these bands. Each doing two different sides of what we’ve been doing!
Tooms have grown on us, especially with the new material they’ve gigged now. We’ve said a couple of times that theirs was one of our favourite sets at Bloodstock – next to stiff competition! They also played with the mountainous, True Home, who we love, even if we’re sort of biased given that it’s our own Charlie on drums, and our friend Declan on bass.
Then there’s our Northern Irish counterparts and fellow Metal 2 the Masses winners, Haint, who coincidentally play something very similar to what we’ve been leaning towards, with our most recently written song (as yet unreleased). It’s so cool when you hear someone coming at the same idea, but from a completely different direction!
There are tonnes of bands with heaps of talent each, but these are the most relevant ones, I think. If you’re in a great Irish band, and we missed you, message us, and we’ll gig together as consolation! Or if you’re in a band mentioned, we obviously do want to gig with you anyway.
OD – If there was anything that you would like to see change here in Ireland, with regards to underground/heavy music, what would it be, and why?
DÁIRE – The doom, and sludge-infested scenes of the North and South are doing it right. Dublin feels like it has a shortage of venues willing to host, and promote ground-level metal gigs.
Belfast only really has Voodoo, but they’re working very hard; every week you hear about another Voodoo gig. Meanwhile in Munster, you have Dolan’s, Fred Zeppelin’s, An Spailpín Fánach…
Dublin has a few venues for larger crowds (Grand Social and Workman’s come to mind, then of course the likes of the Olympia, Button Factory, etc.) and smaller venues that are suited to very intimate shows (Sin É is a popular one, but realistically almost any pub will do). However, if you want to allow for a good crowd for your metal show that you haven’t gone and herded yourself there’s always Fibber’s. They do a fantastic job of pulling a regular crowd upstairs, and down. We’ve been trying to get shows booked in other similar sized venues recently, and with a scene where you’re incredibly lucky to get more than fifty people coming to a show, it’s rough going out there. Fibber’s won’t look empty if you have twenty people going, but it won’t be full, if you have a hundred!
So in summation, we’d like to see more venues like Drop Dead Twice (pre-burning) that are willing to put on any event, but ideally allowing for a slightly larger scale.
OD – With a very limited trajectory for Heavy music in Ireland, would it be right in assuming that you’ll be focusing on trying to break into the UK and mainland EU scene going forward?
DÁIRE – It’s sad that there’s such a negative outlook of our Island’s scene. As you’ve said, we have some of the best talent out there, and you’d have trouble finding someone clued in who disagreed with you. Then we run into problems hosting these fantastic shows. We’d love to stay home, and help heal the scene going forward, but it’s really not up to us. The same social problems that are becoming more and more apparent in all aspects, are affecting the local music scene.
We of course would love to be heard by as many people as possible, and touring would be a wonderful way to spend time, but it’s hard to find time to take off, and shout at people. The issue with being from Ireland is that touring is instantly more expensive since we need to leave the Island, with all our gear. Tours are pretty likely to make a loss at our current size. We did a short UK stint a while back, and that definitely was a rude awakening to how unwilling venues are to reply to (let alone research) a band they’ve never heard of. Market penetration is everything, it seems.
That said, breaking into Europe is definitely what we’re looking to do. As soon as we can, we hope to be going on a European tour. Nothing crazy, but we want to start spreading our sound into as many ears as possible… all around the world. We may even have to piggyback on someone else’s tour to achieve it.
OD – If you were to describe the true essence of Fornoth’s sound for someone who has never had the pleasure of hearing you, what track would you recommend?
DÁIRE – Just listen to Amon Amarth, you’ll get the- oh wait, I forgot what year it was.
The essence of our sound stems from our own made-up version of a mythic world, the troubles of a desolate landscape full of dread. There are no new stories, so we are telling, but also criticising somewhat the filiopietistic tales of old. Tradition is great, but it’s not everything. We take a lot of influence from many genres, and sub-genres from Irish trad to doom, black and death metal, to folk.
Music is music and we like to play music. That said, we definitely tend towards leaning on the negative side of emotions. Blending, and forcibly smashing genres together, and mixing clean and harsh vocals has always been a part of our sound, and with the addition of our triple-threat backing vocal extravaganza, we can really melodramatise the anguish, and almost desperation of certain clauses. I, uh… hope that helps.
I think our newest single, Assembling Trees will tell you all you need to know. If you read through this entire interview, and you like that song, you’re a fan! We’ve got some shows coming up in December that you can get to!
Fornoth will be performing alongside Tooms, True Home, and Cantered Soul on Friday, 2nd December in Dublin’s Fibber Magees. Admission is Free, so be sure to arrive early to avoid disppointment.
All photos – Down The Barrel Photography © 2022.