Album | Lankum – Live In Dublin

Lankum are unruly. While they play traditional Irish music, they don’t play it traditionally. At times this folk group seems closer to playing Irish heavy metal. They assault the senses one minute, then hit another button and come out with the sort of music one finds at the neighbourhood pub. It can be raucous as hell and as sweet as a Sunday morning, making Live in Dublin a virtually perfect document of their live performances. 

They are shape shifters. ‘The Pride of Petravor’ works its way out of the ashes of ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ with slow moving bowed guitars giving way to pipes, while the drum booms with unimaginable fury. At times it almost sounds like Stackridge, circa ‘Slark’, on steroids. How one band can cover so much territory is nothing short of incredible and along the way they create music that simply stands the notion of what folk music is on its head. 

Ian and Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat have created a template that allows drones that begin in the shadows to take to the fore, gaining strength and adding a sense of evil and unknown to pieces, challenging listeners to listen as if hearing these songs for the very first time. Nothing is sacred and no one is safe. 

About four minutes in, ‘Go Dig My Grave’ takes on a murderous intensity. Spines tingle and the drums have a murderous intensity not usually associated with folk music. The shifting shades stun, the grave getting deeper and darker by the moment. When the drums fade away, the drones continue to offer more subtle shades of menace. 

Lankum are successful because they take the forms of Irish music and alter the context a little bit at a time until what you’re hearing has very little resemblance to where they started out. It’s like a painter who becomes more interested in the shadows and shading than in the main characters, as if Van Gogh became more interested in the picture at the corner of ‘The Potato Eaters’ than in the main canvas. 

It’s not that Lankum are merely interested in the dark places. ‘Bear Creek’ relishes in the shading and drive that starts with the violas and fiddles, even as the drums pound their way through the piece. The mixture and majesty comes to the fore in a way that leaves the audience wanting more, cheering for all they are worth. Lankum, Live in Dublin. Nothing more need be said.