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THE MORRIGAN'S CALL

Cruachan

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Windhawk
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4 stars Cruachan is an Irish metal band with a long history, formed way back in 1992. The Morrigan's Call is their fifth studio album and sixth full length release - having released one compilation album - and was released in 2006 in Europe and 2007 in the US.

Musically the band themselves call their brand of metal for Celtic Metal. The best way to describe the music for me is that it is a mix of traditional Irish folk music and classic heavy metal; with some flavouring from modern black metal.

There are really three types of songs on this release. There is a few shorter songs here that are pure folk music, then there are songs that goes back and forth between folk segments and metal segments, and at last there are songs that mix both styles at once; often with pure metal and folk segments as well.

The metal segments have some variations to them as well. Some segments are clearly influenced from Black Sabbath, some are closer to classicc 80's heavy metal in style, and some are close to modern black metal. The vocals are the main element from modern black metal; as the music as such doesn't have the same intensity, pace and brutality of this genre; although it is clearly inspired by it.

The variations in style here also leads to some variation in vocal delivery. Karen Gilligan sings in both the folk segments, the classic heavy metal segments and in the mixed segments. Keith Fay sing in the same types of segments as Karen, but he also delivers the black metal style croaking in the black metal segments on this album.

Mixing folk music and metal in this way is not an easy task. There are quite a few bands that has done the regular folk metal aspect of this previously, but adding elements from black metal to this mix as well isn't that normal.

Cruachan does pull it off though; they manage to mix these styles of music quite well. The songs here are a varied lot, but mostly good. Personally I like them best when playing pure folk, and least when they leap into the black metal segments. Still, most of the music here is highly intriguing; and anyone fond of Irish folk and classic heavy metal should check out how this band mix these styles.

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Posted Tuesday, December 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
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Symphonic Team
4 stars The extreme rover

While most so-called Folk Metal bands immerse themselves fully in one or the other particular style of Metal and then add a sprinkling of Folk music on top (a fiddle, say, or some bag pipes), Cruachan are not content with anything less than a fusion of traditional Celtic music, Irish Folk music, classic, electrified Folk Rock, and several different styles of Metal, ranging from Extreme Metal to more conventional forms of Heavy Metal. They occasionally throw some Classical or medieval arrangements into the mix as well. Labels like 'Folk Metal' or 'Celtic Metal' disguises just how diverse and eclectic this band is. They are rightly considered Prog related.

The Morrigan's Call is one of Cruachan's best albums, and perhaps the album that is most representative of the band's eclectic style. It could perhaps be described as being half-way between the more harmonious Folk-Lore and the more aggressive Pagan. As such, it shows several of the band's many faces at once. Compared to Pagan, The Morrigan's Call is of a decidedly higher sonic quality; it is much better produced and more layers and details become apparent in the sound. As on the previous two albums, there is a plethora of traditional string, wind, and percussion instruments that result in a very interesting sound together with the ordinary Rock/Metal instruments of electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, and some keyboards. There are some lovely Harpsichords for example, giving the music a somewhat medieval flavour at times.

The vocals are again well-balanced between male and female lead vocals, and between clean and "growling" vocals. The latter show themselves from the get-go, during the opening salvo of Shelob, which opens with a harsh scream over an aggressive beat. This is bound to make some Prog fans turn off before the first 20 seconds or so, as did I on the first listen. But I'm glad I gave it further listens, as it turned out to be an excellent album. I am normally not a fan of such extreme vocal styles, but it does not dominate the album and when it is present it is nicely balanced by the lovely and pure voice of Karen Gilligan.

The Wild Rover (here re-titled The Very Wild Rover) was a predictable choice perhaps, but it is done in a somewhat unpredictable way. It plays the same kind of role on this album that Some Say The Devil Is Dead did on Pagan, and The Rocky Road To Dublin did on Folk-Lore - an upbeat, bar-sing-a-long, clearly fundamentally different from the rest of the songs. Again, it contributes to the album's diversity and helps to keep it varied. Also, like on Pagan, they chose to re-make a track from their underdeveloped debut album. This time it is Cuchulainn, again markedly improved over the original. The Great Hunger has a heavy riff that sound like it comes from a classic Black Sabbath album but with fiddles added to great effect.

Like Pagan, The Morrigan's Call was also an album that required several listens before I began to fully appreciate it. On further listens, however, intelligent arrangements started to reveal themselves and The Morrigan's Call turned out to be another excellent album. Prog fans should probably begin with the brilliant Folk-Lore, but after that one, The Morrigan's Call (and Pagan as well) are highly recommended!

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#871985)
Posted Wednesday, December 05, 2012 | Review Permalink

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