The rocky road to Dublin
The pioneers of Celtic Metal unleashed their masterpiece in 2002 with Folk-Lore. Even though the Irish Folk Metal band was formed in the early 90’s and has a pre-history that spans back to the late 80’s, Folk-Lore was only their third album. And this album constituted a major improvement over the previous two.
Cruachan are a totally unique band that mixes traditional Celtic/Irish Folk music with Metal music. The styles of Metal are themselves varied and while their debut album combined Celtic Folk music with Black Metal, here it is more traditional Heavy Metal. The lead vocals are shared by Karen Gilligan and Keith Fey and are mostly clean on this album. On previous and latter albums Fey used a more aggressive vocal style that is almost entirely absent on the present album. Black Sabbath seems to be an influence as well as Symphonic Metal and electric Folk Rock. Band leader Keith Fey has stated that what Cruachan does today is what the Irish band Horslips did in the 70’s. But while Horslips mixed Irish Folk music with Jethro Tull-like Prog Rock, Cruachan mixes Irish Folk with various Metal styles. In some of their least Metal and most Folk Rock moments Cruachan remind me of the multinational, US-based Folk Rock band Tempest (which I like a lot) and they also sometimes remind slightly of the excellent female-fronted Pagan Progressive Rock band Legend (which I love).
Cruachan’s fusion of Celtic Folk and Metal is very successful and they use a number of genuine traditional Celtic wind, string and percussion instruments in addition to the traditional Rock instruments; tin whistles, flutes, bódhran, uilleann pipes, harp, bouzouki and more. They integrate the different styles much better here than on previous albums and the material is their strongest with every song being great and memorable. As a big fan of electric Folk Rock, Heavy Metal and symphonic progressive Rock, I was blown away by this brilliant band and how they fused these styles together in new and fresh ways. I’m not easily impressed and some of Cruachan’s other efforts have failed to impress me, but Folk-Lore did certainly impress me! Many Metal fans will probably prefer the more aggressive follow-up album Pagan, so don’t give up on this great band if you find Folk-Lore to be not Metal enough.
Cruachan is a much underrated band that deserves much more attention from both Metal fans and fans of Folk Rock and Prog.
Very highly recommended - a masterpiece of Folk Metal!