Hanging out with a fellow multi-instrumentalist friend once, we came to the conclusion that we both played one or two instruments well, and were sloppy on about ten instruments. ‘Good enough to be in a (expletive deleted) punk band’, I believe he summarized. But how would sloppy mandolin and tin whistle fit into such a punk band? Most Celtic-Punk bands are full of ace musicians. Ulster, New York’s Templars of Doom have that precise answer, though the band is far from (expletive deleted.)
(hear the first Templars Of Doom album Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist on the Bandcamp player below. Available to download at a knockdown price!)
The five-piece band features bagpipes, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, tin- whistle, bass and drums, often with members doubling up on instruments. None of them show great virtuosity on their instruments, but therein lies the point, and with their powers combined, they form one of the most punkiest acts in all of Celtic punk.
The Templars Of Doom : Rory Quinn * Marty Shane * Josie Rose * Michael X. Rose * Eric Pomarico *
On ‘Hovels of the Holy’, the Templars approach Celtic-Punk in an non-obvious way, owing more to the sloppiness of The Clash and The Sex Pistols than the wall-of-sound distorted guitars of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys.
The opening instrumental, ‘Templars Rise From the Crypt’, works as a sort of overture and evokes background music in a pulpy adventure movie. Indiana Jones, Perhaps? Opening with a picked bass line that fits comfortably between Celtic and old-school punk, the song builds up with mandolin, bouzouki, tin whistle, electric guitar and, best-of-all, hellish screams. It’s reminiscent of some of The Pogues’ early instrumental numbers like ‘Metropolis’ or ‘Wild Cats Of Kilkenny’.
The next track, ‘H-Block Escape’, sounds like the rebel song that The Clash never wrote, starting with the shout-along staccato chorus.
’38 in ’83! H-block escapee! 38 IRA Free’!
and features some bagpipe work that’s oddly like of some the Clash’s unassuming lead guitar lines, backing up and strengthening the vocals. ‘H-Block Escape’ sets the tone for the album overall, establishing that the album is packed with strong choruses, brazen about its punk influences, and is full of lyrics that will send you to the history books.
Next comes ‘Black Friday On My Mind’, proudly continuing the the funny-but-sad aspect of Celtic-Folk, telling the story of a truly destitute individual looking forward to the US’s celebration of commercial decadence known as Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving. It opens with the line:
Black Friday’s on my mind, waiting on the breadline
The rent money’s all been spent, and the children have no clothes.
In addition to sing-along Pogues-like chorus and bluesy lyrics, it has a jaunty 3-chord instrumental breakdown that I found hard not to mosh to.
The Templars’ rendition of ‘Leaving of Liverpool’, with it’s driving 4/4 rhythm and sloppy mandolin part is a good reminder that playing as fast as humanly possible isn’t the only way to make a traditional song punk, a reminder I myself probably need. The Templars also include the rebel songs: ‘God Save Ireland’, ‘Wrap the Green Flag’, and the send-you-to-the-history-books ballad ‘Roddy McCorley’. All three of these rebel songs involve the characters dying at the end.
‘Beggar on the Road’, is one of the spookier songs on the album. Starting with a tin-whistle and banjo intro, it tells the story of a drunk helping an impoverished and badly injured beggar. The narrator gives him bread, clothes and whiskey (they are a Celtic-Punk band after all.) ‘Jesus Christ! what happened to you’? the shocked narrator asks the beggar. The beggar responds, ‘How did you know my name’? ‘You’re a bastard and a scoundrel, but this day you saved your soul’, concludes the final verse.
Also on the album a cover of Slade’s glam rock classic, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, which works surprisingly well as an all-acoustic drinking song, and the bawdy-but-frightening ‘Tattoo Covered Hag’, whose three-chord, and three-word, chorus is one of the strongest on the album.
The album finishes with a bagpipe-and-lead-guitar-heavy rendition of the Ramones’ ‘Chinese Rocks’, a song about addiction ruining a life, but also, in classic Ramones style, a joy to listen to. It proves a fitting way to conclude the album that deals with some dark themes, is a pleasure to hear and a celebration of the band’s old-school punk influences.