Influenced by the epic sound of NEUROSIS, AMENRA, FALL OF EFRAFA, ISIS and CULT OF LUNA, Southern irish post metal act PARTHOLÓN caught our attention with its wider concept of a semi fictional character born from Irish history and mythology, but it also turned out to be one one of the most expansive and exploratory records representing the genre in 2016. We have teamed up with the band’s vocalist and guitarist Daniel Howard to reveal some of the details behind its inspiring underlying themes and the band’s ability to create moody stories built upon carefully selected and masterfully performed compositions.
PARTHOLÓN‘s debut release “Follow Me Through Body” is now available for purchase on Bandcamp. Recorded at Temple Lane Studios, Dublin, the album was produced by the band & Shaun Cadogan of Last Light Recordings, mastered by Magnus Lindberg of influential post metal band CULT OF LUNA.
Partholón is based on a semi fictional character represented in Irish history & mythology. He is said to have spearheadedthe second settlement of Ireland (Muintir Partholóin).The settlement was eventually decimated by plague inside a single week. No God, just life, and then, Death..
Hey there guys. Thanks for taking some time with IDIOTEQ. How are you? How’s Ireland? Warsaw is surprisingly sunny today. The gloom has been temporarily beaten, but the longer I play your recent record, the more I get trapped in the thick dark mood anyway.
Please drop us a little introduction on the band, your backgrounds in making music and what led you to deliver such bleak and atmospheric tunes.
Hi Karol, Ireland is hitting that time of year where darkness reclaims the day and dark moods are validated :)
Myself and the drummer have been playing together for nearly 20 years, we’ve been involved in many projects. FIVE WILL DIE was probably our most relevant project, we lasted ten years in that form. PARTHOLÓN began life in late 2015. We formed with the intention of embracing visceral reality and expressing ourselves musically through truth, not right or wrong. Being in FIVE WILL DIE for so long was a massive learning experience and we’ve taken those lessons and applied them to PARTHOLÓN with a new sense of fire and direction.
“Follow Me Through Body” represents our first four songs and is the beginning of a wider concept. The next release will clarify our beginnings and give the songs a new life beyond what they are now.
In truth, we’re collectively flawed musicians and humans. We know this and we’ve embraced it. In the Western context of things, we’ve all led difficult personal lives. This is very much music from our own point of view, it’s certainly not an attempt to represent anybody but ourselves. We’ve chosen to explore the darker aspects of our thinking and it’s a deep well.
The character “Partholón” is a mythological Irish figure. He was the second settlement on this island. He and his people conquered & prospered only to be wiped out by plague in a very short space of time. We use this character as a metaphor in order to find a common language.
Eternal recurrence is a well known and explored philosophy. We wanted to delve further into this through our own cultural mythology. It’s an ever present and relevant theme to PARTHOLÓN.
Has your identity always been based on that sort of dark themes and, shall I say, negativity?
In the context of Partholón, we’re not seeking to establish any real identity, but negativity is undeniable in it’s influence. It’s more a reflection of reality than outright and considered negativity.
Your music spans a wide spectrum from sludge, progressive metal, post rock to doom and even hard rock. Where do you find your main musical influences?
It’s hard to know for sure, but my first musical exposure was to the likes of THE TROGGS, THIN LIZZY, ROLLING STONES and so on. Very much guitar based music. I think THE TROGGS have definitely influenced my vocals in some capacity. Obviously NEUROSIS are a huge influence, however, I’m doing my best to turn my back on that. It’s a difficult genre to elevate yourself above without becoming another tribute act. Bands like ‘THE BODY’ and ‘ZEAL & ARDOR’ are very much modern influences. They’ve taken a genre and chewed it up into something special. Things like that excite me and plug me back into the genres I love, but to be honest, we’re far more influenced by emotion and visceral reality than anything musical.
How about some readable or visual art, like books, poems, films, or paintings (e.g. ANCRESS)?
Absolutely, all those things are essential to shaping an adult outlook on the world. Jackson Pollack, Seamus Heaney, Wilde, Yeats, Fritz Lang all come to mind. Art was my first love growing up. I spent many hours in the local library as a kid skimming through books, looking for things to draw. I went on to do a degree in art. It still lights a fire in me to this day when I begin an art project. Imitation, application, repetition were words I lived by in college. I was too young to appreciate it all looking back, but it was a fantastic experience. It took me out of my home town and opened me up to philosophy in a big way. Nietzsche in particular has been a huge influence on lyrical content. When I first read “Human, All Too Human”, I genuinely saw it as a comedic narrative around the seriousness of life. Joy in old age is still one of the funniest aphorisms that I’ve read to this day. There’s a defiance in that passage that is very relevant to Partholón. We have old Irish sayings such as “never bolt the door with a boiled carrot”, “Human, All Too Human” is very much in that space for me. Zarathustra & Eternal Recurrence also have a real tangible relationship with the mythology of Partholón as a character. There’s a constant battle between hope and nihilism with great intentions towards a life less ordinary. PARTHOLÓN is ultimately a reflection on the harder and darker aspects of life. We use the character and story of PARTHOLÓN to articulate our point of view using a reference that people can visualize and relate to. We keep the door closed on some points of view, but the window is always open for further investigation.
Having said that, please give us some more details on the origins of the PARTHOLON name. How popular are these medieval tales within modern Irish communities? How do you view them personally?
Partholón himself is from an old European tale of a cursed traveller, banished from his homeland. It’s been adopted by many cultures over the years, but the Irish one is what I am most familiar with. Essentially, he was the spearhead of the second settlement in Ireland. He brought a collective identity that resulted in a prosperous and progressive civilization. He defeated the Fomorians who represented the harsher aspects of nature, implementing a harmony with the elements. He once returned from a long trip away to find that his wife had been unfaithful. She had been drinking his ale with her lover and he tasted both of them from his own vessel (or her lips). In revenge, he murdered both her lover and her dog. His settlement was eventually decimated by plague. I was always fascinated by Cú Culainn and tales of the Fianna in Irish mythology. I come from an extremely religious education, nothing biblical ever made sense to me, but these old stories did. We used to have a great connection to pagan tradition and mythology in Ireland, but it sadly seems to be less important than it once was.
We named our band quite late in the context of things. The songs were there and a story was being formed. It’s given us way to communicate things that may not make sense otherwise, but we had already demoed the release before we took on the name.
Was there a particular book, painting or a movie that sparked your interest in this history and folklore?
It was mostly from listening at school. Stories of Cú Chulainn, Fionn and The Fianna, Tara and so on were commonly read in most Irish schools. For me, it would have been something like the “Salmon Of Knowledge” where an old poet is grooming and training a young Fionn Mac Cumhaill for bigger and better things. The poet had been hunting a salmon for many years. It was said that whoever was the first to taste it’s flesh would inherit it’s wisdom. The poet tasked Fionn with catching the fish. He did so and was asked to prepare it for eating and to be careful not to taste the flesh. Fionn burned his thumb and put it to his mouth instinctively. The poet realized what had happened and despite his sadness, he encouraged the young Fionn to finish eating the fish and carry it’s knowledge as a leader for a better future. It’s an imagery I can relate to, it stirs something beneath the skin. Stories like these are a big part of PARTHOLÓN as a band.
How does the amazing artwork of the record relate to your lyrical content?
Thank you for the complement, it took a lot of time to complete. I was working on something surrounding the idea of killing the divine in order to become an individual. It’s about reaching inside your primitive self and educating it towards the stars.The third track ‘Light’ is written around the image and concept. “Blind men shuffle to the beat of their martyr”, the image is the more or less the opposite of that line.
I feel these concepts are so vast. Are you now working on new material for the next release? Do you plan on broadening these stories?
We’ve been very pro-active with the next release, there’s plenty of new material to choose from. We actually recorded a fifth song for “Follow Me Through Body”, but it didn’t follow the narrative. I was very happy with that track and it was a shame to drop it, but it was the right thing to do. It might surface in some capacity before the next full length. The next wave of music we’ve been writing has a more dissonant and menacing feel, it’s a more full on approach so far. I fully expect us to be in the studio before next summer.
In terms of concept, it’s an expansion of the first release. We’ve just landed the ship so to speak and the hard work begins now. I’ve been looking at old Irish folk songs recently, and they’ve left their mark to some degree. More so the imagination and interpretation of hardship than anything else. It’s important for us to be able to relate to these tales on a personal level, otherwise it just doesn’t sit right.
How about touring? Can you afford leaving your spot and hitting European roads?
It’s difficult for a band like us to commit to these things, mostly from a financial perspective. We’re DIY band just starting out. It is part of our plan though, we’ve a few dates in England to announce soon for early 2017. We plan to reach the continent once the next record is tied down.
Ireland is limited, this kind of music doesn’t have much of a demograph here so I think that if we’re really serious about this project, we’ll have to visit Europe as often as possible.
Alright buddy, so lastly, what creative direction do you see yourself going with PARTHOLÓN?
It’s hard to say. As clear as the vision for PARTHOLÓN is right now, so many things can come in to play. Up to this point, the more recent stuff is in a more uncomfortable listening space than “Follow Me Through Body”. I feel like we’ll continue in that vein for some time. We’re considering a fifth member, but it’s difficult to say how that will play out. I don’t see us surviving past three releases, how long that takes is hard to measure right now. Either way, we hope to leave something relevant behind us. Time will tell.
Thank you kindly for the words Karol, greatly appreciated. Stay in touch!
Sure! Many thanks for your time!
I’m happy with the truth :) Thanks Karol! Don’t be a stranger