One must give credit to CELTACHOR, this unsigned Pagan Metal outfit from Ireland – they do not lack ambition. This demo, rather than being a collection of songs to demonstrate the band's sound and hopefully attract the attention of a label, is actually a full concept album retelling the mythical story of Balor. In Celtic mythology, Balor was the king of a race of giants called the Fomorians, and was prophesied to die by the hand of his own grandson. In tradition similar to that of the classic Greek tragedy, Balor attempted to avoid his fate by locking away his daughter to keep her from ever becoming pregnant. When this failed, and the girl indeed gave birth to triplets, Balor cast the children into the ocean. One of these, named Lugh, was however saved by a druid priestess, and given over to be fostered by Manánnan mac Lir...
Musically, this is Melodic Black Metal with occasional Folk elements injected via some melancholic melodies played on whistle. These whistle segments were occasionally off-putting during the first few listens, for they often did not keep time or meter with the rest of the music, and created an impression that player Steven Roche should have been using a metronome. A few listens later, this characteristic began to sound more intentional, creating two competing personalities within the music: one majestic and powerful, the other melancholic and resigned. This stark juxtaposition conveys the emotional conflict inherent in stories such as this one in which Fate will not be denied, despite the mechanizations of those who would thwart it.
Vocally, the performance here is a raspy growl in which the words are intelligible, delivered in a style similar to SKYFORGER. This is welcome, in that music written to tell a story should actually communicate that story without the listener having to rely on the aid of the lyric sheet.
The riffs actually mix things up quite well. There are standard Black Metal tremolo riffs, but often these are not distorted to the point of creating a mere wall of sound. The pick strokes can usually be deciphered, as the band seems to place more emphasis on melody over atmosphere. “The Wavesweeper” is compositionally the most dynamic track here, mixing tremolo riffing with some punchy E-string downstrokes, and punctuated by a bass than is fatter than on all previous tracks.
Folk and Pagan Metal are becoming crowded scenes these days, with plenty of new bands jumping into the fray with little more to offer than imitation. CELTACHOR are still a bit rough around the edges, but are stepping forward as good storytellers. I look forward to hearing more from these guys as they mature.
(Online December 8, 2010)