After their excursion into more progressive sounds, SUIDAKRA are back in their very own niche of Celtic influenced Black Metal, a step that I am greatly welcoming, as this is where they can show their true A game and had they already been a very good band in the past, holy smokes, have they stepped things up on “Caledonia”!
Is it, because original guitarist Marcel Schoenen is back in the band? I do not know, but if so, it was a great decision to return into the fold, because “Caledonia” might very well be the best album SUIDAKRA have released among a string of already strong releases. Their already eighth album is a concept album about the Picts, a tribe that had inhabited what is now Scotland, and their fight against the oncoming Roman legions, so an almost perfect topic to go back to their roots.
Now the Germans have not gone retro on us and completely reverted to the sound of old, oh no, they have kept the clear vocals, which Marcel has taken over now, but embedded them into their original sound, so by taking half a step back, they made a huge step forward in my opinion and that they have decided to keep the clear vocals around does in no way mean that they are aiming for a more commercial approach.
The opening to “Highland Hills” with the sounds of a little brook, wind and bagpipe is only the herald of things to come, because once the acoustic guitar and the flute set in to raise intensity and heaviness until reaching full traveling speed, it becomes clear that SUIDAKRA have created a killer of an album, very dynamic, with incredible melodies, vocal interplay between harsh and clear, covering the whole spectrum from slow to blastbeats within eight minutes, this is a future classic! So from the get-go the band engages the listener in this album, make him part of it by creating an atmosphere so dense and palpable that you feel as if you were there in the Scottish highlands!
And they continue with hit after hit, be it the faster “The Blackened Shield” with its very melodic riffing and chorus, the completely acoustic, half sung, half spoken “The Ember Deid (Part II)” (complete with Scottish accent), the very powerful “Forth-Clyde”, the playful “The Distant Call” which is completely cleanly sung and also features a great acoustic guitar solo or the grand epos that is “The IXth Legion”, they all are great songs and despite forming a cohesive unit, they manage to have their own identities and that is one thing that makes “Caledonia” such a strong effort!
The production is clear and powerful and for the cover they also have returned to Kris Verwimp, who has captured the story of the concept perfectly in another master piece of his. I wish I could have read along the lyrics, too, but unfortunately my promo did not contain any, so I have to go with what I could understand…oh well…
If you liked SUIDAKRA in the past, you will absolutely love “Caledonia”, if not, check them out, this is one highlight of 2006!
(Online November 15, 2006)