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Irish band Death The Leveller may contain core members from Mael Mórdha, but they take a very different musical angle. As their debut full-length prepares for launch, drummer Shane Cahill tells Comrade Aleks all about it.

Interview with Death The Leveller.
"Death The Leveller (founded in Dublin, in 2016) is named after a poem by James Shirley (1595 – 1666), you know…
"The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings…"
What could be better when you play Traditional Doom metal? These gentlemen know what they do very well, as the core of Death The Leveller is the trio of Dave Murphy, Shane Cahill and Gerry Clince. They played in the now-disbanded Mael Mórdha and, together with vocalist Denis Dowling, they've now reached the point where they have enough material for a decent full-length album. Their debut, simply entitled 'II', will see the light of day on March 13th through Cruz del Sur Music, and that is the reason for this interview with Shane."

Death The Leveller (clockwise from top left): Denis Dowling (vocals), Dave Murphy (bass), Shane Cahill (drums), Gerry Clince (guitars).

Hi Shane! Thanks for your time, please accept my congratulations on the release of Death The Leveller's first full-length album, 'II'. Will you celebrate it with a release party or short tour?

Hey, no hassle at all and thanks, I can't say we're not happy to have that whole process behind us, but saying that we are really happy with the outcome. We had a few EU dates lined up with our label mates Argus with 2 dates in Ireland for our release. Sadly, real life happens and it wasn't to be so they were all cancelled last week. We are currently trying to salvage the Dublin and Limerick dates and are going to bring over some friends to make this all worthwhile….fingers crossed. We have Redemption Fest with Primordial, Malokarpatan and Rome coming up in April and then Little Devil Doom in Tilburg in May.

Knowing there are three members from the disbanded Mael Mórdha, one could expect a similar kind of Pagan Doom from Death The Leveller. Instead of that, you perform a rather deep emotional Doom with touches of Warning. Didn't you want to continue the line of Mael Mórdha in some way?

I guess if we wanted to continue with MM in some form or another we would have tried to pursue it. I think it ran its course and that is the reality of it...time to move and see what else we have going on.

Did you have someone who was responsible for songwriting in Mael Mórdha? Did you switch your roles concerning songwriting now?

For DTL we all get in a room together and write/arrange the music first. Once this is done, Den will work on the lyrics/vocals and then we can start working on the texture and layers of the music. Den, Dave and myself did work on some lyrics together this time around and I think we will pursue that a little more for the next release. Overall a very painful, glacial and at times insane collaborative effort.

Death The Leveller - 'The Day Before The Night Of Broken Glass' (Live, 2017):

Your first official release was the EP 'I' (Journey's End Records, 2017). It contains 38 minutes of material, why didn't you position it as an LP?

We didn't originally view Death the Leveller I as an EP or LP, it was essentially the band's first 'demo' recording that we put out ourselves online before Martin at Journey's End picked it up for the vinyl release. It was Martin's call as to what description to give the recording I suppose. He's a great guy by the way and was super easy to work with.

Did this release draw proper attention to the band? Were you happy with the feedback?

Yeah, as I mentioned we initially put the release out by ourselves online with relatively few expectations. We were very happy with the feedback it received, in particular from peers in the scene whom we highly respect. When Martin approached us to release the vinyl it was an easy decision to make because we know his approach to his label and that it would put our name out there in a very positive way.

You didn't hurry working on material for 'II', although three years is a rather normal period for producing an album. How much time did you actually spend completing these four compositions?

It's hard to find time in our lives to work together on music as much as we would like to do, you know. These songs came together gradually over that period of time and it's hard to pin down exactly how much time was spent. Between demoing tracks in March 2019 to recording in October, the work rate ramped up especially once we had studio time booked but it still has to fit into everything else we do. We do intend to get the next release together in a short space of time though!

Death The Leveller - 'The Hunt Eternal' (Lyric, 2020):

Did you face any difficulties working on these tracks at the studio?

Again, the fact that we had to fit recording time into our working and day-to-day lives wasn't optimal. If we had the luxury to book a studio for a long stint it would help with keeping the vibe going and staying in the right mental state - as we were fortunate enough to do with Mael Mordha's last album (Damned When Dead). Death the Leveller takes us to particular emotional places that it's not ideal to get dragged out of back to the real world all the time, so we will look at our options next time to see if we can work it a little better.

Death The Leveller compositions are longer in general than what you previously did with Mael Mórdha. Was it a kind of challenge for you to work on songs of that scale?

It's not so much a choice as just the way this music developed organically. I suppose when we started jamming again after MM had finished we were conscious that we didn't want to write something too similar but that's about as close to a decision on this as we got. When Denis came on board as lyricist and vocalist it seemed to fit with the themes he was approaching that the compositions became longer and more involved.

The name "Death The Leveller" is taken from a poem by the English dramatist James Shirley, and your songs have this noble vibe of "good old days" (which probably never existed). What kind of concept did you aim to channel through your music?

We found affinity with the title of that poem because it approaches the meaning of Death in the human condition and that Death is what unites all men in the end. But it also balances the hubris of trying to leave a legacy with the understanding that we do have a continuation of memory.. Death the Leveller comes at this from an angle, so we don't have a defined concept as much as an approach of honesty to this theme and exploration of the spiritual and mystical elements of it. I think Irish culture has some sort of innate melancholy that naturally colours our thinking and perhaps directs us to darker paths.

Cover art for 'II' (click to expand).

There's the track 'The Golden Bough' on the album: is that connected with The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by James George Frazer?

Not directly. Frazer references the golden bough as the talisman to gain entry to the classical underworld, which is referred to in Book VI of Virgil's Aeneid, when the hero Aeneas enters the Underworld. But we're aware of the connections of course with Frazer, Campbell, Greg Stafford and others and their exploration of religion, mythology and magic. If you listen to a song like 'How to Break Pernicious Spells' on I, this interest and element in our music is clear I think. You also can't escape the age-old connection between performance and magic and that's something to be conscious of when taking to the stage.

I bet that 'II' will get pretty good exposure, as the album is being released by Cruz del Sur Music: what are your ambitions towards this release?

As with Journey's End, it was an easy decision for us to work with Enrico and Cruz del Sur Music. The quality of releases and the bands that the label works with speaks for itself. Our ambitions are simple enough, we want the album to get as much exposure as possible and for us to follow it up by playing live as often we can. We're looking forward to seeing how these new songs evolve in the live environment now.

Live, 2018.

If I remember correctly, Mael Mórdha performed one gig after disbanding in 2018. Do you plan to reunite once more and play few shows for your fans?

We did play at Hammerfest in Wales, as an opportunity to play one last show and to bring back our former member Anthony Lindsay, which was a special moment for us. We don't have any future plans for MM, but having said that if there was interest and under the right circumstances nothing is ever ruled out. The band is not actively in our minds at this moment.

Do you already have general ideas, or perhaps just sketches, for the next album?

We do and the one after that. This the second of a 4 part series looking at life, death, the worlds in-between and there after. The last song on II being called 'The Crossing' links the pieces together nicely and sets out our stall for the next venture. We have a small amnount of material written but are not too concerned or stressed about the writing at the moment. We know it is in us, so its just a matter of finding the right time and atmosphere to be in that place. It's a gravely honest and personal journey so can be tough going at times.

What are your plans for performing live with Death The Leveller in the near future?

We want to gig as much as possible to get out and see as many people as possible. Sadly, the tour with Argus was cancelled but we just managed to book 2 dates in Ireland with our mates in Dread Sovereign, before playing Redemption Fest and moving onto Little Devil Doom in Holland in May. We are working on some other EU dates for the end of the year but nothing is confirmed yet. If you want to hear us live, get in touch.

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Interviewed on 2020-02-23 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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