Sometimes I feel like I'm a bit sick of Folk Metal, what with the tedium being peddled by ELUVEITIE, KORPIKLAANI (though I'd still bloody love to see them live), BLACKGUARD and EQUILIBRIUM these days making the whole genre seem totally cartoonish. That's a bit of a moronic stance for me to take though - like thinking heavy Metal has become watered down because of the presence of Metalcore, Deathcore and tech-fuck. A Metalhead is someone who spends their free time weeding out the gold from the crap (although who decided to keep these things together in the first place?) and doesn't even get paid for it. Let's do it again.
SUIDAKRA have had a checkered, prolific career the past decade plus, putting out the rocking, grooving “Command To Charge” before veering directly back toward folky Melodic Death-Black thing with Caledonia and sticking firmly there with 2009's powerful showing ”Crógacht”. The brilliantly illustrated latest, ”Book Of Dowth”, gets going with - of course- pipes and - of course - epic drum-rolls plus chugging guitars. No-one anywhere is surprised at this point, but it's nicely done and gets the head nodding. Just in time for the all-out melodic assault of “Dowth 2059” and “Battle-Cairns”, both combining the Blackened Death Metal warlust of maybe GOD DETHRONED with exciting shredding in the vein of ENSIFERUM...plus Folk instruments. The production is BIG, the riffs almost badass enough for the Folk bits to be dropped and therefore largely avoiding the sub-par Folk tune meets sub-par Metal riff recipe many opt for.
Listening to the album beyond this point becomes a bizarre experience however. Having triumphed over enemies both fictional and fantastical, SUIDAKRA veer fully into the realm of Folk. “Biróg’s Oath” features a mournful, folky-sounding lady singer crooning some thoughtful lyrics over mournful, Folky-sounding guitar leads with a mourn....fuck, it's mournful and folky sounding alright. There's nothing wrong with it - the singer has a great voice - it just didn't really merit inclusion as far as I'm concerned. It's not a good enough take on classic folk balladry to stop me thinking that a MIDNATTSOL album would surely be the obvious choice if I wanted to hear this sort of thing, rather than SUIDAKRA. “Mag Mell” is another Folk song, entirely acoustic, and I must admit that with the excellent clean male singing, the cute symphonic licks and chirpy melody, I like it a lot. What it's doing here, I still don't know, but in itself it's a nice pipe and ale by the fireside tune.
The last half of the album stays in the realm of killer, blast-laced, propulsive Metal, gleaming with melodies and harmonized riffs. Arkadius spits up entirely capable rasps and growls, Lars Wehner's drumming is awesomely tight, his presence is needed in a Death Metal band, and Marcus Riewaldt plays bass. “The Dark Mound” (heh heh) is a particular standout, fully in the realm of epic, “Balor” a crushing Folk-augmented Extreme Metal cooker with more great drums. Things slow down toward the end, the final two songs reaching for epic heights but dragging somewhat before the outro plays you out.
”Book Of Dowth” is like a platter of all the things they think their no-doubt wide-ranging fanbase might like: straight-up folk and catchy choruses for the ones who can't make the more aggressive parts out from one another, rollicking Metal carnage for the dudes who listen to the album as practice for a beer-drenched SUIDAKRA concert (which does sound incredibly fucking fun, I'd go) and tons of melody for the demographic who got fed up with the onset of rigor mortis in Melodic Death Metal, and switched over to something with the same mixture of aggression and catchy. If you're one of those, or if you got some cash and like the idea of some pretty cool Metal with a bunch of different folky things going on, I say why not.
(Online December 31, 2011)