Written by Kirk
Dratna – Fomóraigh
> Black/folk metal
> Releasing May 26
> Fiadh Productions
Confession time, Noob Heavy readers: I have no idea which wave of black metal we’re in. I’m pretty sure it’s the fourth wave. Or maybe it’s the fifth wave? Not that it matters, what’s important is that the music is raw, powerful, and pushes boundaries. And if you’re not out there seeking music that challenges you, can you even call yourself a music fan?
Dratna is all of these things. What started off as a pretty standard black metal project—more passion than polish—has turned into a dynamic, vibrant, and unique blend of raw black metal, atmospheric black metal, and Irish folk metal. And since releasing Clíodhna, the debut EP, in April 2018, Dratna’s sound has expanded with each subsequent release, in both musical ability as well as influence. What started out as raw black metal has grown and matured into something wonderful and exciting as Dratna incorporates more and more elements of Irish culture and heritage into its music.
Disproving the theory of the “sophomore slump” with the passion of a Karen asking to speak with the manager, Fomóraigh is yet another step in the evolution of Dratna’s unique sound. Opening the album is “Indech the Treacherous”, the sound of the waves heralding in a gentle instrumental milieu of keyboards and strings creating a truly haunting atmosphere. I don’t think it’s fair to say this song falls under the umbrella of dungeon synth, but it is certainly adjacent to it. Dratna continues to layer instrument over instrument, the song building and swelling into a crescendo until the drums kick in at 3:03 and the music explodes in a burst of blast beats, distorted guitar, and raspy vocals. Here we can experience all the elements of Dratna’s sound combined.
Then, like a swarm of angry hornets defending their hive, “Summon the Morrígan” buzzes to life with enough primal fury to kill Macaulay Culkin several times over. What follows is four minutes or so of the most brutally intense black metal I think I’ve heard all year. With riffs fast enough to give Demonaz tendinopathy all over again and blast beats that sound reminiscent of the éored going to war, this song will make the hairs on your arms stand on end. The closing 1:45 consists of layered acoustics (and do I detect an accordion?) interspersed with more raw black metal.
The rest of the album follows—at least for the most part—this model: interspersing or layering black metal with Irish folk instruments. “Riders of the Sidhe” balances the two elements beautifully, leaning more into the gritty black metal side but with a little bit of extra flair. “Echoes of Mourne” is just pure atmospheric black metal, acoustic guitar, piano, and vibes. Those vibes carry over to “Fomóraigh Reign” but don’t stick around long as raw black metal once again takes over. “Ships from the Nordland” once again combines atmospheric black metal with Irish folk instruments, followed by “Goiltaie from the Harp of the Dagda”, which embellishes the folk music while the atmospheric black metal serves as a backdrop. And then we close with “Moytura Conquest”, which may be best described as blackened folk metal. The number of instruments featured on this song is enough to turn your brain into soup (and yes, that’s indeed a banjo you’re hearing).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Is Dratna the first to combine black metal with folk music? Far from it, but, as an Irish artist, they do an excellent job of infusing their style of black metal with elements of Irish folk music and heritage in a way that uniquely enhances every aspect of their work. From beginning to end, this album is utterly vibrant and absolutely captivating, and not a single moment feels wasted or misplaced. But above all else, there is passion. I think it’s too early to start calling an Album of the Year, but I’ll be giving some serious side-eye to anyone who overlooks this record.