Manchester’s Castle Hotel is one of the city’s finest pubs, and last night saw the alehouse play host to M(h)aol; an Irish five-piece at the forefront of the new wave of punk.
Their debut EP Gender Studies is a brilliantly placed grunge-punk offering: dual bassists plus drums and guitar combine with Róisín Nic Ghearailt’s assessments of relationships, the patriarchy and sexuality.
Crammed onto The Castle’s tiny stage, M(h)aol capture the Manchester crowd effortlessly – their set was packed with short, vital punk numbers. Tracks from the debut EP peppered the setlist, as did a number of new cuts. We caught the quintet as they toured the Gender Studies EP towards the end of 2021, and the band’s progression is apparent from the outset of the performance. Despite having lost her voice earlier in the tour, Ghearailt’s stage presence holds the sweaty room from the outset, her light-hearted demeanour contrasting with the very real lyrical content.
The musical progression is there for all to see as well, with M(h)aol’s sound is honing and maturing throughout the new numbers. The duelling bass guitars of Zoe Greenway and Jamie Hyland brings such gravitas to the songs, adding interesting riffs as well as powerful basslines. The mysterious Sean Nolan adds feedback laden guitar to the mix and the whole thing comes together with Connie Keane (AKA Fears) on the drums, who whips the guitarists into danceable, moshable groves.
M(h)aol are a fantastic example of where modern punk is headed: they are heavy and loud with the nihilistic overtones that so perfectly capture the mood of today, especially that of women and the LGBTQ community. Their lyrics speak so eloquently on the stigmas and societal obstacles that these groups face. And when combined with such dark, brooding instrumentals, the band create a truly powerful live performance.
Whilst there is a significant sense of doom and dread within their sound, M(h)aol deliver it with a seasoning of hope and empowerment, as any punk band worth their salt should.
photo credit: Susan Appleby