Cruachan @ Camden Barfly

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@ The Camden Barfly, London

October 9th 2015

Review by Ann Sulaiman

After more than a decade since their last appearance on British soil, Irish folk metal band Cruachan teamed up with Swedes Ereb Altor and Hertfordshire-based Gévaudan to play their London debut show at the Camden Barfly. While strong competition was ahead in the form of Taake and Ufomammut, which did impact the number of people in attendance; it didn’t detract from what was overall a well played concert all around.

The night began with a lively set from local doom outfit Gévaudan, who immediately burst into full-on rock ’n’ roll mode. Never mind that only a few people were there to begin with, it did little to deter from the pure passion and enjoyment on the band’s faces as they played. ‘Lord of Decay’ and Lament of The North’ were just some of the songs played with immensity, making this young band one to watch out for in future.

By now, Ereb Altor were ready to take the stage, with a special set dedicated to the legacy of Bathory.

While Bathory shout outs are nothing unique in themselves, from tribute bands to compilation albums popping up from time to time, it worked in Ereb Altor’s favour that they chose to intersperse this with original songs (such as ’Myrding’) throughout their time onstage. It also helped that they went from Quorthon’s earlier black metal and thrash days with ‘The Return of the Darkness and Evil’ to expected “epic” classics. They showed that they could muster the change from drilling staccato and deep grunts to grandeur notes and clean vocal soars. It was due in part to Bathory’s special place in the metal underground, as well as the band’s own tight performance, that the crowd was moved enough to join in the wails on ‘Twilight of The Gods’.

Main headliners Cruachan were a stark contrast to their peers, performing in traditional Irish kilts and using traditional instruments (a violin, flute and bodhran respectively). Even the choice of some of the members to stand onstage barefoot must’ve raised a few eyebrows! Yet far from being a potential laughing stock as much folk metal is considered to be (within reason, admittedly), the group delivered both down to earth humour and a decent performance which grew stronger throughout their set. It certainly doesn’t hurt when someone in the audience decides to buy everyone a round of whiskey, while you’re playing!

While Cruachan’s London debut wasn’t without issues in itself, from sound problems which kept some of the background filler music from between sets into the start of ‘Sea Queen’ and the obvious lack of a co-vocalist for the fiercely angry ‘Pagan’, overall this didn’t detract from a decent show.

Giving the crowd a journey through their career, from first demo track ’To Invoke The Horned God’ to latest song ‘Blood for the Blood God’, Cruachan kept up their hard-nosed style of folk metal. Pummeled guitars and anguished screams matched well with bodhran marches and flutes, which brought the “traditional Irish anger” side to the music to life in the show’s intimate, small room setting. While the London audience weren’t fully keen on singing along as German audiences, when frontman Keith requested as such for Teutonic crowd pleaser ‘Ride On’ towards the end, it did little to take away from the decent reception and good natured reception of their show.

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