HAND OF KALLIACH is a Scottish husband/wife duo that I have fallen for. Read what they have to say and keep checking them out. Anders Ekdahl ©2021
What fascinates me is how you can still come up with new combinations of chords to make new songs and sounds that have not been heard before. What is it that fascinates you into coming up with new songs and albums?
-Well, we’re delighted to hear that you find our sound pretty unique! We try to put a lot of atmosphere into our tracks, through a lot of high melodies, echoes, haunting vocals and even choir samples. We put that over some more typical melodic/death metal tones, but Build in elements of traditional Celtic and Gaelic Scottish folk music, which when combined results in something that we don’t think has been done much before, and are really pleased with the results and of course the reception so far!
For those of us not too well versed in the Celtic and Gaelic music tradition, how do you incorporate it into your music and what parts do you use?
-Celtic music is most commonly associated with Scotland and Ireland, but does by definition commonly include the music of Wales in the UK and a number of sub-national regions across Europe. The Scottish/Gaelic version is of course the one that we incorporate into our music (though there are very close similarities to Irish Celtic music given the shared heritage and influences), and they key elements we lift are the heavily melody-driven structures, keys, rhythms and time signatures. Whilst we can appreciate and applaud the use of traditional folk instruments in a lot of contemporary folk metal, in our music we tend to make minimal use of these and instead adapt the traditional melodies and rhythms for distorted guitars instead - for example, the high melody in ’Fathoms’ which is one of the more aggressive tracks on the EP is actually the sort of melody you might hear on Scottish bagpipes, but we think it works really well adapted for the guitar in a metal track instead. We also use a bit of Scots Gaelic, which is a wonderful language for metal - there are a great number of guttural pronunciations that really lend themselves to the atmosphere when screamed!
How do you come up with song titles? What do they have to have to fit the songs?
-We wrote the EP on the Scottish west coast Isle of Islay, where half of John’s family are from. The themes and song titles of the EP, and indeed the band more broadly, are inspired by the mythology, landscape and history of that coast. Islay is a bit of a nexus of cultures, from Scottish, Irish and Norse heritage, and there is a huge amount there to inspire. The name ’Kalliach’ itself is a play on the word for an old Scottish hag god of winter, called the ’Cailleach’. In Celtic mythology the legend goes that she lives at the bottom of a whirlpool of the coast of Islay, where John has family. The story goes she emerges from the whirlpool to usher in winter, but is also a creator deity that nurtures life. The dual nature of this primitive, sometimes benevolent, sometimes malevolent being was a key inspiration for our sound. The titles and lyrics are largely abstract, but we do think (hope!) that we have captured that atmosphere of the EP within them.
How important is it to have a message in your lyrics? What kind of topics does each song deal with? Is there a red thread to the songs?
-To us, the meaning of songs are very personal things, and when you write them they will inevitably be charged with a huge amount of significance. We do write fairly abstract lyrics, but there is absolutely a common theme through them in the EP, closely tied to time,
mortality, mythology and emotion. That said,we don’t think there has to be a single, unambiguous message through songs; our personal view is that songs should first and foremost hold the meaning to the person that listens to them - whilst we do have meanings in mind, that’s not to say that’s what a listener might hear, or want to hear, or even need to hear when they first play the track.
Is it important today to stand out to be noticed, to have something that sets you apart in for people to discover you? How do you get people to hear about you?
-We certainly don’t shy away from the fact that we’re trying to do something different with our music, and there is no denying that despite this it is still always a challenge to get heard. There are so many extremely talented musicians playing in very capable bands out there today that it can be quite daunting to try and find an audience; however, we have been lucky in that some radio stations have stumbled onto us on Bandcamp/the Metal Archives/Spotify, and really engaged with us and played our tracks, which is of course a massive boost for us. But that said, whilst it might sound like a cliche, we are just delighted that people are finding and resonating with the music we’re making - to have even just one person take the time to listen to your music, and for it to resonate with them in the way that only music can, is a hugely validating experience, and we’re very grateful for that.
How did you go about choosing art work for this new record? What was important to have in it?
-We actually did the cover ourselves! We really wanted to capture the dark, atmospheric vibe of the EP, with reference to seas, space and time, and of course the central focus of an abstract interpretation of a Cailleach-like female deity, representing that duality of malevolence and benevolence. It took a lot of time to get right, but we’re really happy with the result.
Something that scares me a bit is this I hear from more and more bands that they aren’t that bothered with art work anymore because people today download rather than buy physical. To me the whole point is to have art work that matches the music. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed by weak art work to an otherwise cool album. What’s your opinion on this subject?
-We would agree that that’s a real shame; even if you are only releasing on digital, the artwork is frequently the only visual cue for the listener as to what you are trying to covey in the music. Accurately capturing the essence of a song, EP or LP in a single image should be a really engaging and exciting process for the band/artist, and it’s such an opportunity to really fly a banner for what you and your music is about.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-We find our collections these days are mostly digital, for the reasons you mention really - it’s just so much easier to transport and play a (very large!) collection when it’s on a phone or device. There is a lot of benefit to that, but we definitely miss the joy of the physical product, the artwork, the lyrics; humans like physical things and that’s sadly something that gets lost in the digital world. It can be hard for bands to commit the funds to getting the hard-copies produced in the first place, especially early on when you don’t know how much people will like your stuff - it’s much less risky to get your digital tracks put out. That said, we are actively trying to gauge interest from our listeners in what sort of physical medium they would be interested in if any, and are keen to get some produced. Additionally, we are seeing more broadly that cassettes, vinyl and CDs are all making something of a comeback, particularly amongst the underground, which indicates a demand which is really encouraging.
How much of a live band are you? How important is playing live?
-We have not yet been able to play at any gigs due to COVID-19 restrictions, but hope to play our first gigs later in 2021! John has played a fair amount of live shows previously, plus we’ve both attended plenty, and we really value the experience and connection that you get from them. There is definitely merit in the amount of creative space you have in recording tracks, but nothing compares to the atmosphere of a live show.
What lies in the future?
-We have been really humbled by the positive response so far, which to be honest took us a bit by surprise - this was a fairly ‘out-there’ project that we didn’t think would resonate with many people at all, however we’ve had thousands of track plays since launch and are blown
away that so many have enjoyed it. We’ve been hugely motivated by this and are already writing new material, and once venues reopen we’ll definitely be looking to play some live shows and see where we go from there! We would like to say a massive thanks to all of those that have supported us so far, including writers like yourself - we are incredibly grateful for it and we wouldn’t be where we are without you.
Members: John and Sophie Fraser
Instruments: John - vocals, guitars and drums, Sophie - vocals and bass