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’

Current Playlist

Here’s what I’ve been listening to in the last week or so (reviews are coming for most of these)……

Sepultura – A-lex (2009): I’m not the biggest Sepultura fan but I have most of the early albums with Max Cavalera. When Max left and Derrick Greene came in, I started to forget about the band. I’ve had the album for a month now and I’ve been giving it a lot of play.

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): Hard to believe that it’s been four years since ENEMY OF GOD (2005) but Kreator is back. I got this around the same time as the new Sepultura so I’ve been giving the good old Thrash on HORDES OF CHAOS a lot of play.

Suidakra – Crógacht (2009): I have never heard anything from Suidakra before and a combination of Black Metal and Death Metal isn’t really my style of choice but I received an advance copy and I will have a review soon.

Axiom – A Means To An End (2008): This debut album from Sacramento’s Axiom came out at the end of November 2008 but the logjam of CDs on my desk pushed this to the new year. So far it’s solid Progressive Metal and I will have a review of this soon. More info at Axiomband.net

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): My favorite album of the year so far! I know we’re only one month into 2009 but Saxon are one of my Top 5 favorite bands of all-time and they have really had a strong run of albums since 1997. This will easily land in my year end best of list for 2009.

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): I’ve been a Grave Digger fan since way back around WITCH HUNTER in ’85 so this new record was a must to pick up last week. It’s also the Album Of the Month for February 2009 so a review will come this week.

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (1982): I haven’t heard this album in a long time and I thought I had it in my collection but I didn’t. Picked this up last week and this has been the main album playing in my house because my 10 yr old daughter is obsessed with all things Twisted Sister. Not sure how that happened. I have to give my daughter credit, she knows her TS and she pointed out to me that this CD (Spitfire reissue from 1999) is the re-mixed version of the album that was released in 1985 and not the original. I have no idea how she knew that but she needs to hear the original!

Metallica – Death Magnetic (2008): Even though this album made my Top 30 Albums of 2008 at #30, I really never gave this album as much time as I should have. Metallica is arguably the biggest Heavy Metal band on the planet and I put DEATH MAGNETIC aside quickly. Now that I’ve had a chance to have some fresh listens, I’m starting to enjoy it more.

Ratt – Out Of The Cellar (1984): I am participating in a debut album tournament at the Hair Metal Mansion and OUT OF THE CELLAR has been voted into the final so I’ve been spinning this for comparison to…..

Cinderella – Night Songs (1986): …..who is Ratt’s opponent. I think both albums are truly solid debuts but after some serious listening I have to go with my gut and pick Ratt.