Somewhere beneath the lustrous Boyne Valley of Ireland lay Dowth, a Neolithic passage tomb of more than 4,000 years of age. The mystique of this landmark is doubly so when considering the amount of history that has likely been lost amid the onslaught of Viking plunderers whom looted its contents. One would all but wish for a book containing a history, even if a collection of tall tales, to fill in the gaps left by the tides of providence. It might be a suggestion that wise tales are made of, but regardless, it’s fertile ground for the concept of the next SUIDAKRA album, and this year such a book was written, albeit with speeding riffs and primal shouts aplenty.
Those who were taken in by the pristine pipes of “Caledonia” and the epic masterworks of Folksy Melodeath that was “Crogacht” need not fret, for the latest venture of these German Celts has proven a faithful and riveting continuation of the same auspicious revival of the olden ways. In fact, “Book Of Dowth” could easily be described as the most animated and evenly balanced of the latest batch of offerings. The song lengths have been streamlined to sub-six minute durations throughout, but no complexity is spared within this shorter template, and a very well distilled dose of majestic tunes of druid deeds and gallant heroism emerges.
Right from the onset of “Over Nine Waves”, sporting a highly animated bagpipe melody and enough distorted guitar poundage to turn a simple jig into a dance of storm giants, the name of the game on this album is catchy, and it’s played to its logical conclusion. The theme work and guitar lines are still notably active and complex, but the general flow of harmonies and progression is quite accessible and even predictable. The songs are also notably fast with plenty of fancy drum work, almost as if a cross between Thomen Stauch and Bill Ward was found in the back of Lars Wehner’s mind and trotted out for all to see.
Pointing to one individual song as a standout is actually a forbidding task here as the whole album is pretty evenly paced and jam packed with memorable moments. The obligatory cookers with frenzied riff work come about in “Dowth 2059”, “Battle-Cairns”, “Balor” and “Fury Fomoraigh”, shifting through a veritable grab bag of beats too frenetic to be danced to, though the infusion of Irish Folk and formulaic Melodeath riffs will all but make the listener wish he could. Tina Stabel is also gives an exemplary performance on “Birog’s Oath”, the first out and out Metallic number featuring her for the entire duration, matching the standard set on “Feats Of War” with ease.
Perhaps the one thing setting this apart from “Crogacht”, which also happens to set it back a little, is the lack of that dense keyboard atmosphere that gave it that epic, ENSIFERUM-like feel. This is more of a thrasher of an album with a fair share of Folksy interludes featuring the obligatory acoustic instrumental breaks. Only “Stone Of The Seven Suns” fully tries to recapture that denser, slightly orchestrated feel, and it stands out pretty handedly from the rest of the album. Still, this never fails at presenting a vivid picture of olden times, albeit in more of a jagged, rocky manner instead of the open plains feel of the two preceding albums, which is fairly appropriate given the subterranean nature of the site that is this album’s namesake.
Those who’ve acquired any level of familiarity with this band will come to expect the best, and “Book Of Dowth” doesn’t fall short. Few can boast a career this long and this strongly consistent, and fewer still can stake a claim to the unique subject matter of the albums they’ve put out. Since the days of IRON MAIDEN Metal fans have stood out as not being beyond the concept of getting some sort of an education while enjoying music that is otherwise too loud to think while hearing, and anyone not familiar with Irish history will find a few interesting tidbits of the past to go along with an obvious kick ass listen.
(Online December 30, 2011)