Cork post-metal band God Alone are a band of their time. In this millennial age, youth subculture has all but ceased to exist. Thanks to the advent of social media and streaming services, young musicians and listeners alike have a wealth of sounds and styles at their fingertips. Gone are the old ways of finding music and blind faith in one genre of music.
These notions are abundantly clear in the quintet’s sound; a purgative, esoteric and learned fusion of black metal, shoegaze forming the foundation of dizzying moods and textures. Folkish twangs resonate at the apex of the dark, jagged crevasses. Overblown auto-tuned vocals sit atop progressive passages, recalling math-rock and late-‘00s R&B and hip hop all at once.
Feeling On Tic
“When we were 14 or 15, there were a lot of pop punk bands in Cork and we were annoying hipster lads that didn’t want to do that,” explains Jake O’Driscoll, the band’s guitarist and vocalist of the band’s eclectic style.
“We spent a few years taking the piss out of them and then we were like: ‘we should probably start actually making music to show that we’re a bit different than that’ So, it’s kind of that we make weird music for the laugh. We just wanted to make music that we’d like to listen to.”
We caught up with Jake and Cian Mullane (bass/vocals) over Skype to discuss all things God Alone. The lifelong friends had just wrapped up recording at the CIT, Cork School of Music. When pressed on what they were working on, the lads are mischievously sheepish. “We’ll keep it a secret for a bit longer,” says Cian.
Despite their early affronting of the local pop punk scene, the lads soon learned that there was a small but thriving alternative scene in their native Cork.
Cian explains “I didn’t know anything about the Cork scene until we started playing gigs. There’s a savage metal and hardcore scene in Cork and really nice electronic stuff as well but it took us a while to realise that these bands existed. When we formed I was 15 so I couldn’t go to gigs anyway.”
“The first gig we played was with Horse (Cork post-hardcore band) – they’re the nicest lads ever, we’ve done loads of gigs with them since. A load of the hardcore bands in Cork are class, Worn Out, Bailer. Ten Past Seven are a class math rock band and so are The Magnapinna. There’s only about 20 lads in the scene but there’s about 40 bands and they’re all really good.”
"The dancey parts are dancier and the heavier parts are heavier"
As they were underage when they started, God Alone were resigned to playing all ages gigs at YMCA, where they would eventually record their debut EP, ‘Invitum’, and debut album ‘Poll Na mBron’. The band were eventually able to break away from playing youth club gigs thanks to some local contacts.
Albert Twomey and Jimmy Horgan, founders of beloved independent Cork record store and venue Plugd, championed the band, booking them alongside the likes of Hands Up Who Wants To Die, landing them slots at bigger venues, playing to older crowds.
“I think we played two all age’s shows to about 10 people each before we did the EP. After the EP came out, we started playing venues that we shouldn’t have been playing ‘cos we were all like 16 or 17,” explains Cian.
Reflecting on their early shows, Jake is somewhat bashful. “We tried to do what we do now but the only people who liked the same music as us was another band – so they would just be watching us before they went on stage. Some of them were fun but most of them were like 10 people in a room.”
Nowadays, gigs are much more encouraging, as Cian asserts.
“We haven’t done a bad gig in 2 years. Even the shows we did abroad, where I thought there’d be no one there, were full. We did a UK tour in November . We’d never played the ‘God Alone’ EP live before and they were all full. They’re really fun now. The gigs are class. People throw shapes or bait each other or whatever, that’s really nice.”
2020 would have been a productive year for God Alone either way. A tour of Western and Central Europe with Dutch black metal band Terzij de Horde was ultimately axed due to the ongoing issue with Covid-19.
“We played a gig with them in Galway last year and they’re one of the nicest bands I’ve ever met in my life. They’re all about 7 foot tall,” Cian laughs.
It comes as no surprise that the lads have spent the day recording. As a reaction to the sudden stop in live activity due to the increasing effects of Covid-19, the band released an eight-track album that truly reflects their multifaceted nature: a remix album.
“We wanted to do it for ages,” explains Cian. “We picked the 8 people that did it and just said ‘do whatever you want to it’. We didn’t have any boundaries or guidelines, we just said ‘whatever you do with it we’re gonna use.’”
The resulting album, ‘God Alone²’, carried a vast array of creative, electronic sounds and styles that deftly rebottled and flavoured the band’s piss and vinegar.
Cork hardstyle producer Doubt’s reworking of Feeling On Tic takes the song’s most cavernous moments and backs them with throbbing percussion while Carlow/Kilkenny’s Fomorian Vein scours the sludge of Madting and resurfaces with glitchy breakbeats and chopped vocals. The results varied only sonically, the quality was consistent throughout.
“They’re all unreal producers and savage musicians. We’ve played gigs with Actualacid and Fomorian Vein,” says Cian. “We’ll definitely end up doing gigs with the rest of them. I was really happy with how it came out.”
Jake, chiming in, says “We didn’t have to get back to anyone and say ‘look bud, you might need to have another look at it.’ We got back exactly what we wanted. Well, I don’t know what we wanted but whatever we got back was what we wanted!”
While the band’s material has always been experimental, the development of their sound has been exponential. While rooted heavily in dark post-metal sounds a la Altar of Plagues via metalcore titans Converge in its earlier days, the band have taken cues from multiple, unlikely sources to reach their current sound, their recent self-titled EP being a turning point for the band.
“We were listening to the first Foals album a lot. I think that there’s a lot of stuff in that that we get influenced by,” explains Jake of the writing process. “We were listening to a lot of math rock and we were playing gigs with metal bands and that all started to meld into one.”
However, God Alone. wanted to use those influences without imitating them. “They were repeating themselves using a lot with distortion and reverb so we thought we’d do something different. I think when you’re playing music you should be having a bit of fun with it. We were like “Jaysis, we have great craic at the rehearsal, why are we trying to be all sad when we could just have a party with it.”
The need to be more vibrant goes beyond the music for God Alone. Their self-titled EP was promoted with press shots of the band in Hawaiian shirts with brightly coloured backgrounds. “Some lads outside the warehouse in a black shirt.” says Cian. “That’s just boring.”
"The music is serious but we don’t take ourselves that seriously"
Just to make things clear, Jake describes God Alone’s philosophy: “The music is serious but we don’t take ourselves that seriously. We’re not a joke band but we like to have fun.”
It shows. God Alone shows have been described as a cathartic experience. Moshing, dancing and crying are all encouraged. The band’s self-description “Sad metal with dancey bits” might be somewhat reductive but is no less accurate. But what’s next for the Northside Cork boys?
“Trying to do what we did this year, or what should have happened,” Cian says “A lot of the gigs and festivals we were booked to play have been postponed like ArcTangent, It Takes a Village, Monolith. Hopefully we can play those next year and hopefully do a first tour on the continent which would be nice. Probably make more cool shirts.”
Jake reveals a little more. “Next year, we’re gonna push everything a bit further. If we can, do more gigs, do more than we’ve done.”
Will this include new music? “Oh definitely. The dancey parts are dancier and the heavier parts are heavier on the new stuff. We got into making electronic shit as well, none of us playing guitars or drums. We were dicking around and it sounded kind of cool. It’s like the sound of the self-titled EP but the ideas are a bit more set-in now. So if you liked the last self-titled EP, you’ll probably like this.”
Just what form this will take, we’ll have to wait and see.