Next review: » Cruachan - The Middle Kingdom
Blood On The Black Robe
Released: 2011, Candlelight Records
If the sight of grown men clad in Dungeons & Dragons regalia sends your heart a-flutter, there's a good chance that Ireland's Cruachan has been on your radar for a while now. It may be even more likely that you've at some point attempted to invoke Odin's wrath on my name and legacy, given the childish dispersions I have regularly hurled at the neofolk/pagan/Viking subgenres over the years. And yes, I suppose it is a tad hypocritical of me, mocking aesthetics when the black metal acts I've championed receive no such base-level treatment.
To be fair though, my almost blanket disdain has had more to do with the insipid fireside singsong melodies employed by so many of its exponents. That being said, you'd have to be stone deaf to ignore the bristling potency of an album like BLOOD ON THE BLACK ROBE. Here's an effort bearing all the tell-tale hallmarks of its niche - ethnic instrumentation, folk melodies, the incessant caterwauling about freedom, honor and fighting - but boy, does this troupe have a knack for riffs of the mean and nasty variety. The likes of "To War" and "The Column" hulk their way through around six very solid minutes each of neck-snapping goodness, boasting a sense of dynamics, anger and atmosphere reserved for the upper tier of heavy metal's food chain. "An Bean Sidhe" is another stunning number, actively recalling the epic pedigree of Amorphis' TALES FROM A THOUSAND LAKES. It helps that Keith Fay's voice is perfectly suited to this racket; a raw screech that lends real credence to lyrics that might otherwise have had him laughed off stage.
Still, it is consistency that at times proves to be Cruachan's undoing. "Thy Kingdom Gone" is a definite low-point; Celtic warriors taking a stab at sounding like Slayer and instead coming across as a bit shit really. But there's no denying that BLOOD ON THE BLACK ROBE is a solid release, bound to go down a treat with its intended audience and a fair few more besides.
1. To War
2. I Am Warrior
3. The Column
4. Thy Kingdom Gone
5. An Bean Sidhe
6. Blood On The Black Robe
7. Primeval Odium
8. The Voyage Of Bran
9. Brian Boru’s March
10. Pagan Hate
11. The Nine Year War
Keith Fay – guitars, keyboards, vocals, bodhrán, mandolin, percussion
John Clohessy – bass
Colin Purcell – drums, percussion
John Ryan Will – tin whistle, violin, banjo, bouzouki, keyboards
John O’ Fathaigh – tin whistle
Previous review: » Crowned - Vacuous Spectral Silence