Cruachan – The Living And The Dead
Release Date: 24/03/2023
Running Time: 51:55
Review by Chris Galea
Probably before Folk Metal was even a genre, somewhere near Dublin Cruachan were already giving traditional music a rougher, more Metal edge. That was 30 + years, 8 albums and several line-up changes ago. Multi-instrumentalist Keith Fay is the only original member still in the band and on album no. 9 the services of a number of session musicians are called upon to lay down these new songs.
The album is called “The Living And The Dead” which at first glance seems to be thematically based on feelings of loss and the ensuing pain. But more to the point is that it’s quite possibly Cruachan’s magnum opus.
All the hallmarks of folk music are here… Violin, tin whistle, bagpipes, accordion, sing-along choruses… But they never interfere with the heaviness of the music. Likewise even when the music gets quite furious – as in ‘The Ghost’ for example – the Folk traits are never snuffed out. All this is due to the superlative songwriting quality that pervades the whole album.
In ‘The Changeling’ during a bewitching intro you can sense that riffs are round the corner but you’re still floored when they do burst forth. And it’s not just ‘The Changeling’, great riffs can be found elsewhere in the album too. ‘The Witch’ is another headbanger that has a classic Thin Lizzy vibe to it and is embellished by a solo from Rage, Venom’s guitarist.
Speaking of guests, it’s worth noting that the aforementioned ‘The Ghost’ owes some of its intensity to the singing of Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns, vocalist of Finntroll, another Folk Metal pioneer.
‘The Dead’, which closes the album, has a deceptively simple but haunting melody using acoustic guitar and violin which alternates with some truly caustic Black Metal vocals. Weirdly enough it all works beautifully.
I have taken a few songs as examples to back up my assertion that although the album has its own character, there are many shades and facets to that character. Although the album impressed me straight away, I found myself liking it more each time I gave it a spin and uncovered more of its facets.
Personally I only reserve 10/10 ratings for great albums that also have something unique about them. “The Living And The Dead” does indeed have that special ingredient. I dare envision that this one is destined to be a classic of the genre.
‘The Crow’ Promotional Video:
01. The Living
02. The Q
03. The Hawthorn
04. The Harvest
05. The Festival
06. The Ghost
07. The Crow
08. The Reaper
09. The Children
10. The Changeling
11. The Witch
12. The Dead
Keith Fay – vocals, guitars, banjo, mandolin, percussion
Dave Quinn – guitars
Audrey Trainor – violin
Joe Farrell – bass
Tom Woodcock – drums
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