Released: 2013, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Can’t say I’m the biggest fan of folk/pagan metal, but I really like what this Scottish quartet do with those elements on their first full-length. Despite a band name and album title that conjure images of Renaissance faire extravagance, animal pelt adornments and period instrumentation, Cnoc Au Tursa play it smart when it comes to frilly extras by treating them as such.
At its sonic heart, The Giants of Auld is actually more of a symphonic black metal/power metal hybrid with its furious riffing and opulent keyboards countered by lush melodies and rousing choruses. After the acoustic intro “The Piper O' Dundee,” the band launch headlong into the bracing “The Lion of Scotland,” which gives a clever Scottish accent to the typical black metal tremolo guitaring. It's reminiscent, of all bands, Big Country, but that fleet-footed guitar line is just brilliant – and it comes into play elsewhere.
“Bannockburn,” “Ettrick Forest In November” and “Hail Land Of My Fathers,” though, play it pretty straight, recalling Primordial or Immortal as they blaze along, whereas “Culloden Moor” takes a page from Dimmu Borgir's Enthrone Darkness Triumphant era with its prominent piano and chunky, galloping hooks.
At midstream, however, Cnoc Au Tursa pull a 180 with “The Spellbound Knight,” which showcases their folk/pagan influences in full with operatic vocal effects, bag-pipey guitar licks, whistles, etc., layered onto a mid-tempo epic that is certainly the album's most grandiose. The curiously uptempo “Winter: A Dirge” brings those elements to bear again, though they are not as pronounced.
Kudos to the band for this sort of approach. A more liberal slathering of bygone window dressing throughout would have been a distraction from the already majestic power the music, not to mention the magnificently literate lyrics steeped in old Scottish poetry – in some cases, the aforementioned “Winter: A Dirge” and “Ettrick Forest In November,” using the works of Robert Burns or Sir Walter Scott as source material.
A fantastic and fascinating debut.