Edinburgh-based husband and wife duo Hand of Kalliach have developed a distinctive blend of melodic death metal melded with Scottish folk music, which is showcased beautifully on their upcoming release, Corryvreckan, which will be released via Prosthetic Records on February 23, 2024.

The band’s name is borrowed from the legend of the Cailleach, the ancient witch god of winter from Scottish Celtic mythology. The story goes that she lives at the bottom of an enormous whirlpool, Corryvreckan, which lies between some of the western isles of Scotland and lends its name to this album. As the herald of winter, she rises from the depths to wash her plaid (cloak) in the waters of the Corryvreckan. Once washed and restored to a bright white, she casts it across the earth where it lands as snow. This is done at the start of Samhainn (beginning on 31st October, which was the Celtic precursor to Halloween and the name of the band’s debut album). Her reign ends as spring arrives with the festival of Bealltainn in May, and she turns to stone to await the next winter.

The Cailleach is depicted in various, contradictory ways – both as a symbol of death, loss and despair, as well as a source of nurturing and protection. Taking inspiration from all this, the music that Hand of Kalliach creates is centred around these dual concepts of benevolence and malevolence, all against the backdrop of the history, mythology and land/seascapes of the Scottish islands.

The threads of Celtic and Gaelic folk music and folklore weave throughout the album, against a backdrop of spectral, melodic death metal. Blending the robust brutality of death metal with the ethereal wisps of folk is an intoxicating brew. Corryvreckan was recorded with Wynter Prior at Sphynx Studios, Brighton, UK. The resulting album is a phantasmagorical journey through ancient tales and truly progressive modern metal, with an unmatched eye for detail that brings every single element of Corryvreckan to life.

We asked John and Sophie from the band about three albums that have influenced Hand of Kalliach and their album Corryvreckan

Fallujah – Dreamless

John: I’m a huge fan of Fallujah and while their previous album The Flesh Prevails seems to get more attention, I find the atmosphere in Dreamless really outstanding. It was the first album that really showed us that ethereal vocals can work incredibly well with extreme metal, despite how jarring that might seem on paper.

Sophie: We’d of course heard plenty of examples of more powerful, operatic vocals being contrasted with harsh ones, but the additions from Tori Letzler and Katie Thompson on Dreamless were something really quite different. We’ve heavily leaned into that and probably gone a fair bit further, with even softer, spectral vocals throughout all the Corryvreckan tracks.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

Sophie: My mum (a way better singer than me) played this non stop when I was a kid so it’s ingrained in me like grooves on a record. Joni’s fearless range will always be a massive inspiration and I try to channel her when I’m trying to hit the really high notes in our tracks, and also encourages me to not be afraid of a sound that’s a little unusual or weird – which Corryvreckan may well be to some!

Cradle of Filth – Damnation and a Day

John: Cradle of Filth was probably the first extreme metal band we’d both listened to when we were teens. While our individual tastes have changed since then, this album remains a great example of what is possible when you bring in tons of orchestra and choir to complement, but not overpower, some searing extreme metal instrumentation. While I totally accept this album is a bit ‘love it or hate it’ with Cradle of Filth fans, the intensity and pace they drive with the tremolos and blast beats is balanced incredibly well with the softer orchestral dynamics, but all in that gloriously dark and heavy atmosphere. While our resulting sound and style in Corryvreckan is quite different, ‘atmosphere, dynamics, energy’ are the key things we want to hit in our writing, for which we definitely take a cue from Damnation and a Day.

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