Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Doom music is universal it seems. It can come or originate from anywhere upon the globe and do so at any point in time. Take Northern Ireland for example, back in 2015 as that’s where a five-fold set of riff worshipers united within one entity, Elder Druid. In doing so, Gregg McDowell (vocals), Jake Wallace (lead guitar), Mikey Scott (rhythm guitar), Dale Hughes (bass guitar), and Brien Gillen (drums), set events in motion that have thus far led us all to this point in time.
After a string of well-received live recordings, Elder Druid made a really lasting mark with 2016’s ‘Magicka’ EP. The 5-song recording garnered the band some intense interest. Their extremely heavy, oft-times sludgy yet always crushing sound was just as impressive on record as it has been on stages.
Now, right at nearly one year to the day that EP was released, Elder Druid is about to unleash their full-length debut. ‘Carmina Satanae‘ finds our five-piece “occult-laced riff dealers” at the top of their game. Just one intake of their new Official Video for “Witchdoctor” (below) will reinforce that belief beyond any hint of doubt.
Their recent performance at The Obelisk-sponsored stage of the Emerald Haze Festival still has people talking. So, with talk in mind, I recently conferred with guitarist Jake Wallace about having a discussion with the band. Drummer Brien Gillen was kind enough to provide the band-approved answers to my inquiries so without further ado…
Riff Relevant Presents: The Elder Druid Interview:
Riff Relevant [Pat]: Brien, for anyone that may be unfamiliar with Elder Druid, would you mind giving us a brief origin story about how the band was first formed?
Brien Gillen: Yea man no problem, the band was originally formed by guitarist Jake and our vocalist Gregg. Their search for a drummer led them to myself through a mutual friend. Mikey and Dale joined soon after on second guitar and bass to complete the line-up. Things gelled together pretty quickly because we all had a lot of the same interests music wise. In terms of our sound, it’s constantly developing, we draw influence from everywhere so we like to think we have quite a unique musical output.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: You guys released a handful of live recordings in your early days, was there any specific reason you all went that route early on as opposed to putting out a studio recording at first?
Brien Gillen: Not really, to be honest we just found ourselves in a situation where live recordings were easier to achieve at that point and we enjoyed playing so much that we just wanted to get some of our stuff out for people to hear.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: Speaking of live, how is the turnout and reception to Elder Druid at your live shows? Also, how was the recent experience of playing The Obelisk’s stage at the recent Emerald Haze event?
Brien Gillen: The turn out at gigs has blown us away so far. It’s great to be on stage and look down to see the same faces up front getting involved. At the same time we love it when people come see us for the first time and chat to us afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed it. The scene around Belfast and Ireland in general is great for people being friendly and wanting to support the band. Emerald Haze was a great experience, we’re massively grateful to Sid Daly for setting it up and getting us involved. Having the opportunity to open the Obelisk stage, and also the whole festival, was huge for us. The fact that we received photos and a few words from JJ Koczan afterwards just really topped off the whole experience, it was phenomenal.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: It has now been a year since the band’s studio debut, the ‘Magicka’ EP, was released. Was the band at all surprised about the immense critical acclaim that effort received and what did you all take from that? How did the distro deal with Black Bow Records come about?
Brien Gillen: The reception of Magicka really caught us off guard. We just play the music we enjoy and the fact that people seem to dig that makes us so happy. We’re eternally grateful to Andy Shields from the band Hornets for recording the EP for us, as well as everyone who bought a copy. Our biggest takeaway was probably just the fact that we should keep doing what we do and hopefully people will continue to enjoy it. The Black Bow deal was digital only so we were still selling physical music ourselves but the weight of having the Black Bow name tied to us for that release was beneficial in terms of people turning their heads our way.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: What stage of the process are you all in concerning the new album, ‘Carmina Satanae’? When might we expect to see it officially released and what can fans expect from it?
Brien Gillen: We’re now just finalizing things with Niall Doran at Start Together Studios in Belfast who has recorded and mixed the full album. We have our album launch set for 6th October in Belfast with our friends in Nomadic Rituals, Molarbear and Voodoo Blood, who are travelling from Manchester to be there. In terms of the album people can expect a very different sound from us. The new tracks are much heavier than anything we’ve written before. The album also features new recordings of two tracks from Magicka, Reigning Hell and Rogue Mystic, where the new maturity in our sound can really be noticed.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: Elder Druid has begun to tour throughout Ireland and some outside of the country as well… are there any plans for larger scale touring?
Brien Gillen: We have a few things in the pipeline at the minute, we enjoy gigging so much and had a great time on our mini-tour of England. The only issue is with the majority of the band working full time jobs getting the time to properly invest in a large-scale tour is a bit of a struggle. However we would love to head stateside sometime in the near future.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: If Elder Druid could play with any three bands from music history, past or present, who would it be and why?
Brien Gillen: Oh that’s a tough one, you could ask any of the guys from the band and I’m sure you would get a variety of different bands and artist. I’m also sure though that the one name that would crop up from everybody would definitely be Black Sabbath, bit of an obvious choice but as a band we are huge fans and their sound has been such a huge influence to us. Another band would be Sleep, again they have just had a massive impact on us and the music we enjoy. A final more personal choice would be Kyuss with their full line-up, I’ve always loved their music and the opportunity to see them live, let alone play with them, would not be something to ever pass by.
Riff Relevant [Pat]: In closing, I have a tradition of letting our guests have the final word so is there anything you would like to say, share, state, or whatever, now is the time, my friend:
Brien Gillen: The rest of the guys and myself just want to extend a thanks to everyone who has bought merch, came to gigs or supported the band in any way they could, we’re eternally grateful and humbled by it all. From 5 guys who just love to play big tunes with filthy riffs and hope to continue to do so for a very long time, thank you all.
I am sure I speak for all interested parties when I say that we join you and Elder Druid in sharing that hope as well. Also, thank you to Brien Gillen, Jake Wallace, and all of the guys in the band for their help in making this exchange happen. We are all counting down the days and eventually, the minutes themselves, for the imminent release of ‘Carmina Satanae‘ to arrive on October 6th.
Check out the links below for all that you need to know concerning Elder Druid at this time and of course, the official video for “Witchdoctor“!