Fós – Rinne mé iarraidh Review

Prior to this review, you could have jotted down what I knew about sean-nós singing on the back of a postage stamp and still had most of the stamp free for other notes. Still, we are where we all are and probably only Fós, a collaboration between Irish singer Orla Cadden Patel and multi-instrumentalist Fionn Murray, have much right to feel aggrieved. Sean-nós turns out to be a traditional form of Irish singing. Typically unaccompanied, the singing is highly ornamented in terms of melodic style and the lyrics often deal in laments and tales of historic events. That description does not, perhaps, suggest it as the obvious partner for electronica-driven drone but then, as I always try to explain to non-metal friends and colleagues who ask (and usually regret doing so), one of the things I love about metal is its seemingly endless ability to blend genres and influences. In the case of Fós’ self-released debut Rinne mé iarraidh, do the pair go off hand-in-hand or should Cadden Patel’s vocals have been left unaccompanied?

Rinne mé iarraidh – or I Asked1 – is a haunting and, at times, spellbinding record. Cadden Patel’s voice soars, swoops and dives around the drone of the music, conjuring in me an image of a seabird dancing just above the waves. Now, as all the vocals are in Irish, I have not the slightest notion of what she is singing about, with only dubious internet translations of the song titles to go on, but the mood is one of loss and longing, sorrow and heartache. Indeed, Rinne mé iarraidh would be quite at home playing over harrowing post-battle scenes in some historical film. Sean-nós is a style all its own, making comparisons hard to draw but, if I were trying to convey a sense of Cadden Patel’s voice – though not her style of delivery – I would be tempted to suggest that it occupies ground somewhere between the richness of Beth Hart and fragility of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

The music to which Fós set these vocals is heavily influenced by the likes of Sunn O))), the more ambient aspects of Apex Twin and 65daysofstatic, and even some Old Man Gloom (the sprawling “Shuddering Earth,” for example). Built around an almost constant and unremitting wash of synths, feedback-laden strings and keys, and percussion that fluctuates between traditional folk and trip hop, Murray’s compositions rise and fall very like the ocean over which I picture the vocals soaring. For the most part hypnotically slow and always seething with barely repressed threat, Fós never reach the bowel churning intensity of Sunn O))) but nor should they. The music is there to create a palette and a canvas on which the vocals paint the melancholic picture.

Clocking in at just 25 minutes, this is a brief record but this restraint was the right call for Fós’ debut. Had this been pushed out to 40 plus minutes, as many purveyors of drone might have done, much of the experimental impact would have been lost. Even so, there is relatively little variation across the album and not everything on Rinne mé iarraidh works. “Gabhaim molta Bride” (dubiously translated as “Recommended Bride”), incorporates more electronica percussion than the other three tracks and is probably the most Aphex Twin-like thing on show, but blending this with Cadden Patel’s voice feels somehow discordant, where on the rest of the record – particularly the second and final tracks “An buachaillín bhán” and “A choramaigh aiobhinn ó,” respectively, which feature more traditional-sounding percussion – music and vocals complement each other.

Rinne mé iarraidh is ambitious and starkly beautiful. It will not be for everyone. It certainly won’t satisfy anyone looking for riffs  – there are none – and I suspect big fans of drone may also be disappointed, as the vocals are very much the beating heart of this record. Some though will be captivated and borne away by what they hear from Fós. I find myself somewhere in middle, definitely pleased I picked this up but not blown away. I love Cadden Patel’s voice and her style of delivery, but the music to which it is set is underwhelming and not hugely memorable. The potential is undeniable though and I hope to see Fós’ constituent elements progressing from holding hands to developing a more intimate relationship.2

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 259 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: fosmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fosmetal 
Release Date: March 14th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I am relying entirely on a well-known search engine for translations here, so profuse apologies as appropriate.
  2. This duo are tricky to track down – I failed to find any pictures of them; although I eventually found a Bandcamp page for them, and included a link to it below, it is blank at the time of writing; and I failed to find anything to embed other than what they describe as a trailer on their Facebook page.
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