Sometimes bands exist in eras.
There’ll be the ‘classic lineup’ that made the best stuff.
And after that, everything is gradations of cool or otherwise.
I wouldn’t say that Cruachan are a band that falls into such seasons, but what’s now clear is that 2012 was a bit of a line in the sand for them.
It was the year that the addition of three new band members really changed their sound.
In came Kieran Ball, Eric Fletcher and Mauro Frison; and with them a new songwriting style, a bigger sound, and something much more important.
The stance of being a much more sonically European pagan/folk band than a Celtic one.
Perhaps their increasingly wide reaching tour experiences are part of the change. You dont go from Chile to Russia without picking up some new vibes.
Wherever it came from, ‘Nine Years Of Blood’ is the latest staging post on Cruachan’s long journey of betterment.
Production wise, it’s top drawer Euro Pagan, with massive guitars and big drums that – while a little over plasticised for my own taste – play a huge part in the new sonic mix. Primarily the double kicks, where Mauro excels.
As usual with Cruachan, the lyrics are all narrative. It’s all about the stories, usually in tee-tum tee-tum tee-tum tee-tum format. (”
What’s impressive about this one though is how Keith Fay’s vocal has even more of a pained howl than ever. My own initial reaction was that I’d heard these annals ten times or more on Cruachan albums past: but the urgency of his vocals make them seem fresh.
There are nods to old influences that longtime fans will appreciate and revel in.
I distinctly hear old Sigh, for example, in ‘Blood And Victory’.
But modernity gets a look in as well – the sonic palettes of Arkona, Eluveitie (without the groove) and Skyforger are now a bit more prominent than the rather less developed Celticisms of old.
Basically, it sounds bigger. More internationalist. The kind of thing you wouldn’t blink at on a Wacken bill or a major touring package.
‘Cath na Brioscai’ is probably the heaviest, fastest and most old school on here, while ‘The Harp, The Lion, The Dragon and The Sword’ certainly one of the most jaunty, with a Horslips bent toward the end.
I guess what I like is that underneath the traditionalisms in all this it’s still solid, old school folk metal of a type that hasn’t really needed to embrace softening a softening of any kind.
Albeit that the history lessons in here can get a bit trying after the first nine, it’s pretty listenable.
I wouldn’t say it has quite the attack of ‘Blood On The Black Robe’, but it has more by way of gravitas and consideration.
Two adjectives I never genuinely thought I’d use in relation to Cruachan.
The facts are the facts however, and this is as solid as their more widely heralded peers.
3.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 15/05/18