Galicia is a land where witches have had such a presence in society that it has attracted scholars from Europe to document this phenomenon. Different superstitions about witchcraft have remained alive almost to this day.
Where the Atlantic Ocean beats onto the farthest edge of the country named Spain, is a region you may not know about. It’s not where you find your Costa Brava or Costa del Sol, but Galicia has a proud and long-standing identity, quite distinct from the rest of the country. Mileth is an expression of that.
Formed all the way back in 2009, the band plays its very distinct mixture of folk music and metal. Though the project started light-hearted, their sound is now rich and filled with Galician traditional stories, the language and a feeling you can only get there. The urgency of slowly loosing ones identity, a recurring theme in all my interviews, has pushed the band in that direction. It’s without any form of malice, for all the good globalisation brings, it would seem that the responsibility of preserving what is ours rests with us.
Marcos do Relicario from the band was kind enough to answer my questions and tell me more about their unique background and history.
E&D: Hello, how are you doing?
Marcos: Hello Guido, Marcos here, willing to answer your questions with a good storm as a background soundtrack.
E&D: How did Mileth got started?
Marcos: We started playing with the excuse of having a few beers and playing songs from other bands that we liked, that’s been a decade ago. Then we realised that composing was more fun and we started looking for our own sound, we wanted to make the kind of music that we couldn’t find in our closest environment. This led us to look at our roots and delve into traditional Galician music. Taking our folklore as an inspirational element and bringing it to music was a slow process, as it has required and requires study time, but I think that today is our strongest personality feature.
E&D: Where you in other bands before you started Mileth?
Marcos: For most of us, Mileth has been our first project as a band and our musical baggage has grown in the shade of this tree. Although many people have been in the group and yes, other colleagues have been or are linked to other Galician bands.
E&D: Could you tell me what Mileth means and how you came up for the concept of the band?
Marcos: The name of the group is taken from the Gaelic word Miledh. This name appears in the Lébor Gabála, the book of the invasions of Ireland, and refers to a warrior descendant of King Breogán (hero of our mythology). But Miledh can also be translated as the “sons of a Thousand”, the Milesians, who, according to the story, epically conquered Ireland after leaving the Galician coast to avenge the death of their druid Ith, son of Breogán, killed by the Tuatha Dé Danánn.
This book, written in the Middle Ages, despite having an Irish origin, is important to us because it contains references to our Ancient History from the point of view of myth. In Galicia we have a very rich mythology of oral tradition, but it is difficult to find stories referring to mythological heroes of the past. And this fact, which is wonderful in many ways, helped recovering some figures that would represent the values of the resurgence of the Galician national spirit of the 19th century.
Perhaps it is convenient to clarify that today Galicia is a country without a state, or, seen from another point of view, it is a nation that is within the Spanish state (Like the Basque Country or Catalonia). For a band like ours, where the lyrical concept revolves around our land and our culture, I think using the myth to build songs is a good way, not only to keep this alive, but also to express our current beliefs and emotions according to the pagan and folk spirit of our music.
E&D: Who were your inspirations when you embarked on this project? I feel a clear link to Slavonic pagan metal, but that may just be my perception.
Marcos: Yes, some people have linked our sound with Slavic pagan metal, and it’s funny because there is no conscious inspiration in it at first. I think that the possible relationship comes from the fact that in both folklores there are some similar elements: there are some melodic forms with similar figures, in both folklores the female voices have a lot of presence and there are similar modes of expression. Also, the use of instruments such as the hurdy gurdy , the violin or the bagpipes can reinforce this perception when mixed with the metal. What’s more, groups like Arkona or Grai use the Galician bagpipe in their recordings … Perhaps the Slavic pagan metal is the one that sounds similar to the Galician pagan (just kidding, this has its explanation, but it is an indicator that we have a really alive folklore).
In short, I could not tell you who has influenced us directly, we have very eclectic tastes and we have fed from many sources. But I could tell you that my main references are Skyclad, the 90s melodic black metal and, above all, traditional Galician music.
E&D: All your lyrics are in Spanish, which I don’t happen to speak. Could you tell me a bit more about the Galician mythology, its fundamentals, and how that translates to your music?
Marcos: Our lyrics are written in Galician, not in Spanish. They are different languages. Galician, like Spanish, is also a Romance language, but in its origin it is as close to Spanish as it can be to Italian, Catalan or French. Yes, it is directly related to Portuguese since during the Middle Ages they formed the same language, Galician-Portuguese or Western Iberian. The Galician-Portuguese lyric of that time is well known for having a huge importance between the 12th and 14th centuries. Then, each language evolved independently; in the case of Galician, suffering different ups and downs. It has been an abused and even persecuted language over the years. Galicia’s history is complicated.
Answering your question, our mythology has lived through oral tradition until almost our days. There is a strong connection to the pagan world, with old cults to nature that, curiously, have mostly lived through Christianity. These cults have been transformed and adapted to the new religion, as it has happened in almost all Europe. But, under different forms, the stones, the sources and springs, the stars… they continue to be blessed. Rituals marked on the Celtic calendar are still being celebrated such as the Imbolc (here Entroido), the Beltaine (here Os Maios) … Hundreds of stories are collected about characters from the Hereafter, such as “os Mouros”, creatures who live under “castros” and dolmens. Galicia is a land where witches have had such a presence in society that it has attracted scholars from Europe to document this phenomenon. Different superstitions about witchcraft have remained alive almost to this day. But if there is a fundamental god in our popular mythology, it is Death.
E&D: Last year you released Catro Pregarias no Albor da Lúa Morta, what can you tell me about this album and was it well received?
Marcos: Catro pregarias no albor da Lúa Morta is a journey through the paths of tradition and myth I was telling you about, it is a journey where a dialogue is established with the elements of nature, not always explicit, and where also Death has its leading role.
Musically, it is an extreme melodic metal with sounds inspired by traditional Galician music, but also connected with these natural elements of our landscape. It is really a canvas with many nuances that, despite being a humble production, public and critics have been able to understand and value very positively. So yes, we are happy with how it was received. Our expectations were low and the album has had almost no promotion. So it is incredible that it has reached its public outside our borders. Although publishing with a Russian label like SoundAge has made this a bit easier.
E&D: Mileth contains 8 members. Did you start out with this format? And what is it like to compose for such a sizeable band? The sound feels still spacious.
Marcos: In the original line-up we were only two guys, but we immediately decided to look for more people to be able to take our proposal to live shows. Actually, composing for a big band is not the problem, the problem about being many people (and with many instruments) is that it sets a strong limit for us to tour and play live (paradoxically). The technical requirements, space and costs of each show are tripled. It is very difficult to be able to bring such an ambitious proposal to the stage as an underground band. Even so, we are always making our fixes and tricks.
E&D: Why is it important to you to specifically express your roots through music and has it become more important in recent years?
Marcos: Globalisation has positive things, but it has many others that are very negative, and on a cultural level, it means sentencing people to gradually lose their own identity marks. The paradox of this is that anyone in the world can access information about Galician culture, they can read about aspects that I have been talking about, or even that in Russia they can have Galician bagpipes or edit an album by a group called Mileth, unknown even in their land. But at the same time, here in Galicia, Galicians increasingly speak less of our language, we destroy important archaeological remains, or we cut down our native forests to plant more economically productive foreign trees. It could be said that our culture is being transformed, adapting to new times, or that it is being enriched by contact with others. In part it does, and it has positive points. Societies have always advanced through communication between people. But we should not allow omnipresent cultures to overwhelm and monopolise all aspects of our society, especially when they mock your roots and erase your identity. Let us build a free and connected world, but not from the culture of capital and economic powers that do not understand neither people nor cultures or nations.
E&D: Are there other Galician bands people should check out? I’m familiar with Sangre de Muerdago.
Marcos: Of course, Galicia has always had a small but high quality metal scene. I would recommend listening to other projects by people from Mileth such as Dioivo, Metalxis or Dysnomia. As well as I would invite you to listen to some of our most mythical bands such as Xerión, Balmog, Dantalion, Absorbed, Unreal Overflows, Machetazo, Kathaarsys, Talésien, In-verno, Fallen Sentinel, Barbarian Prophecies, Wisdom, Madame Germen … or fellow bands such as Atreides, Aquelarre, Lóstregos, Iron Hunter, Utopian Visions of Earth …
And in terms of traditional and folk music we have a lot of renowned bands around the world such as Milladoiro, Berrugüetto, Leilía, Mercedes Peón, Luar na Lubre, Carlos Núñez, SondeSeu, Susana Seivane, Budiño … . or groups of musicians who have collaborated with us such as Caldo, Quempallou, Rodrigo Romaní trio, Güintervan … Sorry, I start and I can’t stop.
E&D: What future plans does Mileth currently have?
Marcos: A vinyl edition of our album is going to be released through Darkwoods label, but we had to postpone it due to the pandemic. Although if everything goes well, in a few weeks (or in a few days) we will have a release date. Darkwoods had already released a special edition of the album that was impressive. It sold out very quickly, so those interested must be aware because this will also be a limited edition.
On the other hand, this year we had closed the participation in several festivals, even abroad. But we have passed from scheduling trips to not knowing when we’ll be able to rehearse again.
E&D: If Mileth was a type of food, what would it be (and why)?
Marcos: “Cocido galego” (a Galician stew). It is a mixture of vegetables, legumes and potatoes cooked with different parts of the pork (ribs, ham, tail, “chourizo”, “botelo”…). It’s usually accompanied with a good “do país” red wine. The richest parts are the ones that people are most shy to eat: the ears and the muzzle.
Why a stew? We make a mixture of various elements, and there is always someone who finds something disgusting, but if you do not like meat you can eat vegetables, and elsewhere, you will always have the broth, such an amazing thing to both have the body coldness removed or to get rid of a good hangover.