SuidAkra – Crógacht (2009)

suidakra-crogacht

SuidAkra – Crógacht (2009, SPV/Wacken Records)

  1. Slán
  2. Conlaoch
  3. Isle Of Skye
  4. Scáthach
  5. Feats Of War
  6. Shattering Swords
  7. Ár Nasc Fola
  8. Gilded Oars
  9. Baile’s Strand

Band Lineup:
Arkadius Antonik – Vocals & Guitars
Marcus Riewaldt – Bass
Lars Wehner – Drums

Producer: Martin Buchwalter

Total Time = 41:18

Country: Germany

SuidAkrA official website
SuidAkrA MySpace page
SPV USA
SPV Germany
Wacken Records

I have to plead complete ignorance because I have never heard anything by Suidakra until Crógacht. The band has been around for about 15 years but their brand of Medieval/Pagan/Celtic Metal mixed with the ferocity of Black and Death Metal really isn’t my thing. I decided to do some research on the band, put the new album on, and keep an open mind.

Crógacht means “bravery” and it is a concept album based on a mythological Irish story of Cuchulainn and his journey to the Isle Of Skye to learn the arts of warfare. In keeping with the storyline, the music is a combination of Celtic Folk music mixed with the brutality of Blackened Metal. There are a variety of instruments used in addition to the guitars, bass and drums: banjo, bagpipes, keyboards, flutes and other woodwinds. The vocals flow in and out of aggressive tones to a clean style along with big choral arrangements and there is even a guest female vocalist (Tina Stabel) on ‘Feats Of War’. The music has a very “epic” feel to it and I can only compare the sound to maybe Týr, Heidevolk, or Turisas with an element of the Renaissance from Blackmore’s Night.

The opening instrumental ‘Slán’ sounds traditional Celtic with the bagpipes moving into a quieter melody but that just leads straight into the searing guitars of ‘Conlaoch’, complete with the Black Metal vocals and machine gun drumming but with a choral background and bagpipes infiltrating the assault. ‘Isle Of Skye’ slows down a little but it’s still fast and has the same feel as ‘Conlaoch’, same goes for ‘Scáthach’ but the intensity is revved up once the bagpipes cut out. I have to admit that I’m surprised I’m enjoying this so far but this is a lot to take in and it’s not my genre of choice. A major curveball is thrown in with ‘Feats Of War’ when Tina Stabel takes over the vocals and the band does their best Blackmore’s Night imitation. The character Stabel is playing is Scáthach, a Scythian warrior who teaches Cuchulainn the art of combat, the feats of war. I honestly didn’t expect the pure Medieval/Folk acoustic style with clean female vocals and no hint of Metal.

An acoustic melody opens ‘Shattering Swords’ but it is quickly replaced with blistering guitars and Antonik’s harsh vocals but Tina Stabel guests briefly on this song as well but a little more aggressive. ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ is an instrumental that is rooted in Celtic tradition complete with the bagpipes, flutes, acoustic guitars and marching style drums. All I could honestly think of was the movie Braveheart because it had that epic feel to it. The overall Celtic melodies are also present in the melodic but intense ‘Gilded Oars’, the band shifting gears again into an all out sonic attack. About halfway through, the tempo changes and there is a spoken word/choral arrangement but it leads straight back into the churning guitars with bagpipes augmenting the sound. The final song is also Crógacht’s longest at 7+ minutes, ‘Baile’s Strand’ is a mix of all the styles the band has used thus far with a choral background and a blend of keyboards, piano, and the ever present bagpipes. If you had to listen to one song to get a feel for the overall sound of Crógacht than this would be it. It has the instrumentation and performance that defines the record and shows Suidakra’s various musical personas.

Bottom Line:
Knowing nothing of Suidakra, I expected the worse, I’m not a fan of Black Metal and the aggressive vocal style and the addition of Folk metal had me a little puzzled. After repeated listens to Crógacht, I realized that there is so much more to the Suidakra sound…..their use of traditional Celtic folk music to enhance their Metal is very well done. I really didn’t follow the story as much and I thought the instrumental ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ was slotted too close to the non-Metal Renaissance faire styled ‘Feats Of War’, both songs breaking up the Metallic groove the band was in. It’s small complaint on an overall solid album. I’m not really sure that I would give this a lot of extra time, it’s not really my thing, but fans of both Black and Pagan/Viking Metal will want to give this a listen.

Favorite Songs: ‘Shattering Swords’, ‘Baile’s Strand’, ‘Gilded Oars’, ‘Conlaoch’ and, for a change of pace, ‘Feats Of War’

Heidevolk – Walhalla Wacht (2008)

Heidevolk – Walhalla Wacht (2008, Napalm Records)

  1. Saksenland
  2. Koning Radboud
  3. Wodan Heerst
  4. Hulde Aan de Kastelein
  5. Walhalla Wacht
  6. Opstand Der Bataven
  7. Het Wilde Heer
  8. Naar De Hallen Der Gevallenen
  9. Zwaarden Geheven
  10. Dageraad

Band Lineup:
Joost Vellenknotscher – Drums
Joris Boghtdrincker – Vocals
Mark Splintervuyscht – Vocals
Reamon Bomenbreker – Guitar
Rowan Roodbaert – Bass
Sebas Bloeddorst – Guitar
Stefanie Speervrouw – Violin

Total Time = 41:34

Heidevolk official website
Heidevolk MySpace page
Napalm Records

Until this album arrived at my doorstep, I had never heard of Heidevolk. WALHALLA WACHT marks the band’s second album and is the follow-up to 2005′s DE STRIJDLUST IS GEBOREN. This band from The Netherlands plays a very melodic brand of Pagan/Folk Metal that relies on clean vocals, traditional folk instruments, a heavy guitar and drum sound, and the use of their native Dutch for all the lyrics. Unfortunately, I don’t speak the Dutch language so understanding the lyrics is a problem but it’s the upbeat battle cry of the music and the way the words are sung that catches the ear.

The music is melodic, upbeat and very grand sounding. The blend of the electric and acoustic guitars with the double bass drumming gives the listener what I like to call the “gallop” effect. Think of Iron Maiden, Manowar, Tyr…..there’s an adventerous epic feel to the music like you’re riding into battle or starting some sort of adventure. This gallop rhythm drives the songs and, when put together with the choir singing style, it moves you. Throughout many of the songs more traditional instruments like flutes and violins can be heard giving the songs a more cultural feel (‘Hulde Aan de Kastelein’, ‘Naar De Hallen Der Gevallenen’). The album is heavy as most of the songs are full of heavy riffs and some pretty cool solos to go along with the heavy backline.

As I mentioned, the vocals are sung in Dutch and are mainly a gang/choir style that almost sounds like a chant. Everything is sung cleanly except for the occasional heavy growls (‘Walhalla Wacht’, ‘Opstand Der Bataven’, ‘Het Wilde Heer’) that lend another dimension to the battle-cry. Most of the time both Boghtdrincker and Splintervuyscht sing together and that adds a certain operatic power and depth to the words. I envision the vocals as soldiers singing in unison as they ride into battle, a very powerful image.

Bottom Line:
I’m only starting to explore the realm of Epic/Folk/Pagan/Viking Metal so I’m fairly new to the genre. What strikes me about Heidevolk, and the genre, is the ease at which the band incorporates the traditional instruments and their native language with the heaviness of the music. I have listened to some Folk Metal that is really more like Power Metal-light but every song on WALHALLA WACHT has a heaviness and a depth to the music, there are layers of sound to explore, different instruments to hear. The only negative is that I can’t understand the words but that is a small problem because I learned many years ago that the music is what drives Metal, not so much the words, and the music on WALHALLA WACHT is very good. Heidevolk will be a band I watch in the future and I will be tracking down their first album for a listen.

Týr – Land (2008)

Týr – Land (2008, Napalm Records)

  1. Gandkvaedi Trondar
  2. Sinklars Visa
  3. Gatu Rima
  4. Brennivin
  5. Ocean
  6. Fipan Fagra
  7. Valkyrjan
  8. Lokka Tattur
  9. Land
  10. Hail To The Hammer

Tyr - Land Promo pic 2008

Band Lineup:
Heri Joensen – Vocals, Guitars
Terji Skibenæs – Guitars
Gunnar H. Thomsen – Bass
Kári Streymoy – Drums

Produced by: Týr

Total Time = 1:08:28

Týr official website
Týr MySpace page
Napalm Records

LAND is my first listening experience with Týr. I had heard of the band in 2002 with the release of their debut full-length HOW FAR TO ASGARD but I really began to take notice when the band started to get major media attention following 2006′s RAGNAROK. I started to read up on the band and I saw that they were touring the U.S. on this year’s Paganfest. Not many bands from Europe, especially from the small Faroe Islands, tour the U.S. and generate a major buzz among fans, but Týr has.

Týr’s sound is a combination of traditional Folk and Power Metal mixed with Progressive elements. Some call the music Traditional Folk Metal, some Pagan Metal, but most use the term Viking Metal to best describe the Nordic and Icelandic themes that run through the music and the lyrics. Many, if not most, of the songs are sung in a combination of Faroese, English and Norwegian. For some this may be a turn-off but I find the different languages make the overall sound that much better. Language is a reflection of culture and an influence to the overall musical structures of the songs, using traditional rhythms and language adds a regional flavor and an exotic tone, especially to a listener in the U.S. that only knows English. Musically, Týr is technically sound. The guitars are really great and the rhythm section is tight but the vocals, especially the choir style, are particularly striking.

‘Gandkvaedi Trondar’ opens the album on a grand scale and is mostly instrumental with some vocals mixed in. I’m not really sure how this translates to the rest of the album because I think that opening with an instrumental can be a mistake. If the band is looking to establish a mood/feel to the album, then ‘Gandkvaedi Trondar’ sets it well. A grand Viking choir vocal opens ‘Sinklars Visa’ and it sounds great, it really hooks me in. It’s more of a mid-paced song with the non-English lyrics and the guitars are very heavy. ‘Gatu Rima’ is very similar to ‘Sinklars Visa’ but the song picks up pace a bit and the Viking chorus has a good hook to it, almost like a melodic traditional chant. English lyrics are mixed in to ‘Brennivin’ and the song is another mid-pace affair with a few quick guitar bursts. The are a few interesting drum fills as well as a very good solo section.

The 10 minute ‘Ocean’ is a solid track with excellent instrumental passages and English lyrics. Musically, it’s along the same lines as the rest of the album but I think I identified to it more because I could understand the words. ‘Ocean’ is a perfect example of the Progressive influence on Týr’s traditional folk style. The same goes for the 16+ minute ‘Land’, another Progressive song with English lyrics and exploring musical insturmentals. The Viking and Nordic themes to the band’s music are perfect tools to create musical epics and Týr has succeeded with both of these songs. The three songs between the epics (‘Fipan Fagra’, ‘Valkyrjan’, and ‘Lokka Tattur’) are very similar to the first few songs of the album. Of these three, I enjoyed ‘Valkyrjan’ most because it starts off quietly and slowly builds as the song progresses. ‘Hail to The Hammer’ was first released on the band’s debut HOW FAR TO ASGARD (2002) but it is included on LAND re-recorded by the current lineup. I’m not sure why this is relevant to the proper album but I’ll assume it’s to give fans an idea of what Heri Joesen sounds like on the early material from the first album.

Bottom Line:
For my first Týr experience, I really enjoyed the record. The band is technically sound and the song structures are very interesting but the Viking choir vocals are so powerful that they hooked me in right away. I know it might be a sticking point with some fans but I also liked the use of different languages on the album. When the band uses their native language, it adds that traditional folk element to the music, giving it variety and a uniqueness. I’m not sure how LAND compares to the first three Týr albums but I’m going to track them down because Týr has gained another fan. Now I’m kicking myself for missing the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival last month because the Paganfest played the NEMHF and Týr played live.

Favorite songs: ‘Ocean’, ‘Land’, ‘Sinklars Visa’, ‘Valkyrjan’