Irish CRUACHAN have been one of the unheralded heroes of Metal for many, many years now. With four excellent albums under their belt the band from Dublin managed to forge a sound of their own, but continuously changing to avoid uniformity, starting out with the pure Folk Black Metal of “Tuatha Na Gael”, continuing through pure Folk Metal to a Blackened variant of Folk Metal, so what would the band around mastermind Keith O’Fathaigh have on offer on album number five, “The Morrigan’s Call”?
Well, they have increased the Black Metal element a bit again, now forming a pretty well balanced union of the two extremes of Folk and Black, but they have not lost an iota of their true strength, the amalgamation of their Celtic roots and Metal and they continue to do so even more varied than before. They basically are taking the best elements of their Black Metal past (they even re-recorded “Cuchulainn” off their legendary debut “Tuatha Na Gael”!) with Keith Fay’s hoarse rasp and the newer Folk Metal with Karen Gilligan’s excellent voice, bringing them into a true union.
And with AFM Records they should finally have found a stable label to back them up long term, too, after their rather unfortunate past in this department. The array of instruments is as impressive as ever, with bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, bodhran, flute, violin and more accompanying the traditional Metal instruments, creating a unique atmosphere, which is showcased off the bat with “Shelob”, which puts the two extremes together, brutal Black Metal on the one hand and Folk Metal with female vocals on the other, a recipe that the Irish folks utilize more than once in the course of this album.
“The Brown Bull Of Cooley” continues in this vein, creating a whirlwind of Metal inevitably drawing you in and unleashing this inimitable energy at the listener, including a very unusually used violin in the heavier parts! “Coffin Ships” is a kind of intro for the VERY intense “The Great Hunger”, where the music perfectly mirrors the story of the song, another trademark of CRUACHAN, taking on a very traditional Irish in many of their lyrics. “The Old Woman In The Woods” right after stands in crass contrast, though, with its very light and merry rhythm, before “Ungoliant” conjures up a very dark atmosphere, so you can see that the Irish are at their best here!
The production is powerful, but still has this certain roughness to it, lending it its own charm and the cover artwork stands in full CRUACHAN tradition as well. “The Morrigan’s Call” has the potential to become CRUACHAN’s best album so far, but with the different approaches that their albums take, I would not want to pick one, but I would advise you to get them all!
(Online December 22, 2006)