GUTTER ANTHEMS (2009)
Over the past three albums and five years, Toronto's Celtic rock band Enter The Haggis has found itself at the center of a grassroots success story ever teetering on the brink of mainstream success. From playing Celtic festivals to headlining them, and from the festival circuit to selling out multiple nights in rock venues, ETH has blazed a path with heavy and almost constant touring up and down the East Coast, to Canada, the West Coast and back again, winning over success one fan, one town, one region at a time.
The band has made waves in the musicality of the genre, landing Billboard and iTunes World Music charting as well as major television appearances on shows like Live With Regis And Kelly, A&E Breakfast With the Arts and PBS' popular program Out of Ireland, with its multi-influence style of Celtic rock. It's the kind of overall sound and devotion package that has created not only die-hard fans, but Haggis Heads that follow the band from gig to gig.
Alternating between upbeat rock numbers with sing-along choruses and slower, more introspective alt pop songs, the band plays progressive and lyrically driven music that's strongly rooted in Celtic tradition - from the storytelling to the bagpipes.
"We like to experiment musically, pushing the boundaries of what people think of as Celtic music," said vocalist and guitarist Trevor Lewington. "Some of our grooves, melodies and lyrics are quite different from other bands that we play with."
For instance, Suburban Plains, one of the songs on the band's new album Gutter Anthems, mixes an African-inspired drumbeat in 5/4 time with tin whistle melodies and lyrics in English and French. The Death of Johnny Mooring combines a fiddle melody with Rage Against the Machine-inspired riff-rock. There's a fiddle solo in the song in which fiddle player Brian Buchanan uses distortion, wah pedal and whammy pedal on the instrument. Béla Fleck's done that with a banjo, but fiddle might be a first.
It's been a long time coming though, and Enter The Haggis has definitely been reworking its music and building success over the past several years. 2004's release Casualties of Retail (United For Opportunity), not only stretched the limits of Celtic rock musically, but topically as well with straight-shooting socio-political tracks like Gasoline. 2006's Soapbox Heroes, produced by four-time Grammy award winner Neil Dorfsman (Sting, Dire Straits, Paul McCartney), hit number two during its July release on the iTunes World Music chart and later marked the band's Billboard debut when it landed at number eight on the World Chart there. 2007's Northampton (Live) was recorded over four sold-out shows in one weekend at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA, and was a testament to the band's focus on touring, fan participation, and its regional stronghold in the Northeast U.S.
Now, the band's seventh studio album, Gutter Anthems, is Enter The Haggis' most mature and cohesive record to date, yet one that makes the band's eclecticism shine. Songs like opening track The Litter And The Leaves with its upbeat tempo and rousing anthemic chorus see the band embracing a jig-punk direction ala The Dropkick Murphys, while tracks like Did you Call Me Albatross? embrace the more traditional feel throughout. Noseworthy and Piercy and The Death of Johnny Mooring find the band embracing its Canadian roots in true tales from the homeland. There's also a marked little guy vs. the world theme, derived from the trials of being an indie band trying to make it in the current music industry climate.