CRUACHAN
Folk Metal • Ireland

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Cruachan is a Irish Celtic Metal band that was formed in 1992 after the demise of the band Minas Tirith. The name was taken from the capital of the Middle Ages Irish kingdom of Connacht, an important site in irish mythology. Cruachan are considered to be one of the earliest folk metal acts to have existed, along with Skyclad, whose first album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth is credited as one of the biggest influences behind starting the band, as well as traditional Irish music and mythology.

Cruachan is led by guitarist Keith Fay (Keith O'Fathaigh) who at different times in the band has also held the bassist and vocalist roles, as well as also playing various folk instruments on the band's releases. Keith was the original vocalist for the band during their early years when Cruachan was more of a black metal influenced act but unsatisfied with his
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Candlelight 2007
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CRUACHAN Discography

CRUACHAN albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.45 | 9 ratings
Tuatha Na Gael
Folk Metal 1995
.. Album Cover 3.79 | 8 ratings
The Middle Kingdom
Folk Metal 2000
.. Album Cover 4.19 | 9 ratings
Folk-Lore
Folk Metal 2002
.. Album Cover 4.16 | 6 ratings
Pagan
Folk Metal 2004
.. Album Cover 3.92 | 8 ratings
The Morrigan's Call
Folk Metal 2006
.. Album Cover 3.96 | 7 ratings
Blood On The Black Robe
Folk Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Blood for the Blood God
Folk Metal 2014

CRUACHAN EPs & splits

CRUACHAN live albums

CRUACHAN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Celtica
Folk Metal 1994
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Promo '97
Folk Metal 1997
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
I Am Warrior
Folk Metal 2009

CRUACHAN boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
A Celtic Trilogy
Folk Metal 2002
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
A Celtic Legacy
Folk Metal 2007

CRUACHAN singles (2)

.. Album Cover
3.00 | 1 ratings
Ride On
Folk Metal 2001
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Wild Rover
Folk Metal 2006

CRUACHAN movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

CRUACHAN Reviews

CRUACHAN Blood On The Black Robe

Album · 2011 · Folk Metal
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Warthur
Blood On the Black Robe finds Cruachan making an effort to claw things back to basics, dredging up plenty of black metal influences which somewhat mask the folk influences that are half of the band's sound. The folk-metal approach is still present, however - even in the most furious depths of the album John Ryan Will's violin is never far away. At the same time, the band still has the problem that they are marrying mildly predictable metal to mildly predictable folk to produce something which feels as if it is less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps worth dipping into if you loved their debut album but felt they softened too much on subsequent releases.

CRUACHAN Folk-Lore

Album · 2002 · Folk Metal
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Warthur
I'd like to enjoy Cruachan's music, I really would, because on paper the idea of fusing metal with traditional Irish music is an intriguing idea. I don't know what I was expecting going into Folk-Lore - perhaps something like a harder rocking version of Clannad? - but what I got was fairly disappointing. Rather than providing a smooth blending of the two different musical traditions the band draw from, more often they seem to be playing fairly bland metal and occasionally playing fairly bland Irish folk music over it. To my ears, at least, the end result isn't a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Oh well; I suppose those who are particularly keen on traditional Irish music might get a bit more out of this than I did, but personally I just don't see the appeal.

CRUACHAN The Middle Kingdom

Album · 2000 · Folk Metal
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adg211288
The Middle Kingdom is the second full-length album from Irish folk metal act Cruachan. This is the first album release that they put out after reforming, and the band returns with many changes to their sound. The Middle Kingdom was released in 2000.

Cruachan’s previous album Tuatha Na Gael (1995) was in the folk/black metal style. The Middle Kingdom drops the black metal from their sound completely, and completely revamped the way the band produced their music. For one thing as of this album they were female fronted, with singer Karan Gilligan replacing band leader Keith Fay as their main vocalist, although Fay does retain some vocal parts on the album, however his growl is only actually heard in a single song. The production is also a lot more polished and professional than on Tuatha Na Gael, giving a much clearer sound that naturally makes Cruachan’s music sound much more commercial than on their debut. The folk side of the band remains intact though, drawing on their Irish folk roots extremely well. The metal here shares the odd similarity in riffing style to Tuatha Na Gael, but draws more of traditional metal than black metal. Additional there are several parts on the album that come across as being progressive.

The change in style means that Cruachan’s music isn’t anywhere near as aggressive as it was before their initial split, but that wasn’t mean that they music is bad, just different. Karan Gilligan is an excellent choice of singer for folk metal, and suits thee new direction of the music really well. It’s perhaps because of that that Keith Fay’s growls, in the brief time they appear come as a surprise and actually sound out of place. I very much prefer Fay’s clean vocals on the album, which are used in a couple of songs. Additionally there’s some guest vocals from a John Munnelly in Is Fuair An Chroí and if you have the special edition, also in bonus track To Hell Or To Connaught.

The Middle Kingdom is a much easier album to get into than Tuatha Na Gael ever could be, however even after giving it just as much time as that album I just don’t find The Middle Kingdom ultimately as rewarding. This is solid folk metal that is done really well both compositionally and performance wise, but it lacks the same spark as Tuatha Na Gael and the following Folk-Lore album (2002), and being sandwiched between two folk metal masterpieces doesn’t do The Middle Kingdom any favours really, since it makes it even easier to notice the flaws in the album. The Middle Kingdom certainly isn’t a bad album, and there are many gems amongst its tracks such as Celtica (Voice of the Morrigan), The Fianna, Is Fuair An Chroí, and Unstabled (Steeds of Macha), but it is perhaps best described as an album by a band that were trying to go in a new direction, but needed another album to perfect it. Still for the great tracks that are here and for being a highly enjoyable release in its own right, Cruachan still deserves a pretty decent rating for The Middle Kingdom.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 8.3/10)

CRUACHAN Tuatha Na Gael

Album · 1995 · Folk Metal
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adg211288
Tuatha Na Gael is the debut album from Irish folk metal act Cruachan. Until very recently (2011) it was something of the oddball album in the band’s discography, being of more of Folk/Black Metal style, complete with a raw, yet atmospheric, production. After this album Cruachan actually split up and didn’t release another album until 2000, and they came back lacking the black metal tendencies of Tuatha Na Gael, although they gradually brought them back in more recent years from the album Pagan (2004) onwards. As such Cruachan gained most of their popularity from their other albums, and so in all fairness based on that Tuatha Na Gael may not sit so well with many of the band’s fans.

That’s kind of ironic really in the current metal scene where claims of ‘selling out’ are all too common, since if Cruachan did any selling out (I don’t really subscribe to such things for the record), it was after this album, yet this is the one that seems to be criminally underrated within the Cruachan discography. Oh well, I guess I’ll never understand metalheads. A shame really, because Tuatha Na Gael is arguably a very important release for the folk metal genre, specifically for so called celtic metal, of which Cruachan are an important entity (if not the most important artist of the entire style).

The fact is though that Tuatha Na Gael is actually a very strong record, but it suffers from a few things that make it difficult to get into, although once I did get into this album I actually found those things to be to the album’s credit. The core of the band’s metal side is raw black metal, which is created mostly through the lo-fi production values and tortured rasps from band frontman Keith Fay rather the instrumentation. Most of the music is layer with traditional Irish folk music as well, although there are parts where Cruachan cuts in back to allow the metal to come to the foreground. You can hear them doing this extremely well in an early track, The First Battle of Moytura, which is actually the first proper song after the instrumental folk introduction piece I Am Tuan. Instrumental work crops up a lot in the album, both as instrumental pieces and as drawn out sections in the vocal pieces, which are generally long tracks of around seven to eight minutes in length.

Another interesting folksy instrumental is Maeves March, though unlike I Am Tuan is includes some distorted guitars in the background. I suppose on a technical standard the production is pretty bad on the release, and Maeves March is a good showcase of that since the folk stuff is really loud whilst the guitars seem to be played as if in the distance. Somehow however the album manages to work, and not just in a passable fashion either, but I actually wouldn’t want this album in any other way. The raw sound gives Tuatha Na Gael a genuine feeling of authenticity in a sort of natural, raw, Pagan and primal way. The music is heavy, atmospheric, melancholic, and underneath that raw production is actually crafted pretty masterfully. The folk instrumentation is a particular treat, as it is on all of Cruachan’s releases. Many of the more popular folk metal acts would do well to take a few leaves out of Cruachan’s book.

If the whole lo-fi thing does nothing for you than I have to admit that you’re most likely to not find anything on Tuatha Na Gael to be worth your time. But that’s your loss, since what we have here is actually a gem of folk/black metal that is sadly overshadowed way too much by Cruachan’s more successful mid-career albums such as Folk-Lore and The Morrigan's Call. Ironically despite the tone this review has taken I’m just a big a fan of these albums and I actually consider Folk-Lore in particular to be the superior of Tuatha Na Gael (I actually think it’s one of, if not the best folk metal album of all time), however it’s about time the band’s fans started waking up to this overlooked and underappreciated release.

With the still recent release of their sixth album Blood on the Black Robe that returns the band to their black metal roots (albeit in a much more polished and modern way), the timing to rediscover Tuatha Na Gael couldn’t be better. It may take a little bit of getting into, especially if you, like me, found the band through their more commercial releases, but given proper care and attention to explore this release properly, you find something that is no less than a masterpiece. The highest of accolades is definitely well deserved for this album, and I hope that metalheads will soon wake up to it. Since this was released back in 1995, it would not be before time. Also if you buy it now you’ll get the ’97 promo as a bonus, which provides some interesting additional listening material from the bridge between the band’s first two albums and shifting style.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 9.5/10)

CRUACHAN Blood On The Black Robe

Album · 2011 · Folk Metal
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adg211288
Blood on the Black Robe is the sixth full-length album by Irish folk metal band Cruachan. In a way it is something of a comeback album and a back to the roots album at the same time. It is a comeback album because it has been five long years since the band released their previous album The Morrigan’s Call and much as happened in that time. For one the band parted ways with their record label and secondly lead singer Karan Gilligan decided to leave the band, and the band decided not to replace her with a new female vocalist. That’s a statement of intent if ever there was one. Now in 2011 the band has secured a new record deal with Candlelight Records and given the world Blood on the Black Robe, an album which is much closer in sound in their debut album Tuatha Na Gael from 1995 than anything they gave us within the last decade; that sound being a hybrid Celtic folk metal and black metal.

The band is once again fronted solely by male vocalist and band mastermind Keith Fay, and he sticks to his black metal growl whereas on previous releases we’ve heard him exhibit a wide range of vocal styles including clean and something like a powerful guttural roar. The choice of vocal style coupled with a renewed aggression to the music means that Blood on the Black Robe is naturally Cruachan’s most metal orientated album since their early years. Karan Gilligan actually returns for the album as well, but only in a guest capacity and only in a few songs.

Anyone who listened to the previous two Cruachan albums (2004’s Pagan and the aforementioned The Morrigan’s Call) should however have realised that in comparison to the first couple of albums since Gilligan joined the band (2000’s The Middle Kingdom and 2002’s Folk-Lore) that Keith Fay had started writing material that was screaming for more extremity than what the band had offered between 2000 to 2002, and the more recent albums were featuring Fay’s black metal shrieks in many more songs as well. Now if you can recall the sound of Cruachan then and then remove the female vocalist from most of the picture then you’ll nearly be at what sort of an album Blood on the Black Rode is. But only nearly, because there’s a bit more that’s changed as well. Cruachan were quite albe to deliver some pretty heavy material with Gilligan and Fay as a vocal double-team, songs such as Pagan’s title track were proof of that, as are the songs that Gilligan guests on Blood on the Black Robe. They’ve also produced what is pretty much just a metal album, there is no going off into a traditional folk piece in the vein of The Rocky Road to Dublin (from Folk-Lore) or Some Say the Devil is Dead (from Pagan). Tracks like this had become something of a trademark of Cruachan’s and even with the return to the folk/black metal direction the absence of such a piece is both unexpected and disappointing.

That’s enough on the changes the band has been through since The Morrigan’s Call, it’s time to turn the attention to what sort of results Blood on the Black Robe yields. There is a short intro track called To War (which perhaps unsurprisingly I found to be useless exercise) and then we get the first proper song, I Am Warrior. This is easily one of the album’s finest moments. In typical Cruachan fashion traditional instruments are combined with an aggressive approach to the guitar riffs that seem designed for the band to assert that they’ve back with a bang. Fay’s vocals are the strongest that they’ve ever been as well and the song as a whole packs a serious punch. Lyrically though nothing is really lost with the return to the full on style of the album, this is still the Cruachan that delivered great albums like Pagan and even a folk metal masterpiece such as Folk-Lore. The delivery may have taken a more direct approach but the atmosphere and meaning of the band remains the same and after the break seems to be stronger than ever, making for an album that, overall, sounds like a much more stronger effort than The Morrigan’s Call and even Pagan (but only just).

On first listen the album may not sit so well with an established fan of their previous works, except naturally Tuatha Na Gael, while fans of that album will likely like Blood on the Black Robe a whole lot quicker, because essentially Blood on the Black Robe is like the debut in almost all ways, but it’s much better produced and definitely executed much better. After a few listens however after the new style (or maybe that should be old style) has had a chance to sink in, it becomes more and more apparent that Blood on the Black Robe is a top notch folk metal release and a very worthy addition to anyone’s Cruachan collection.

After a few tracks have gone by the band give as the song An Bean Sidhe, which is where we first get to hear Karan. She sings the song’s intro before Fay takes over again, but it feels suddenly like the older albums again and is bound to bring smiles to more than a few faces. Like I am Warrior, An Bean Sidhe is one of the best tracks on the album. Karan also has guest slots in the title track and The Voyage of Bran, which features her biggest performance on the album and is another highlight of mine.

Overall I’m very highly impressed with Blood on the Black Robe. It is an album that really hits the spot in terms of quality and proof that Cruachan is one of the folk metal all time greats and as a band are every bit as vital today as they were back in the early ninety’s when they helped shape the folk metal genre. It’s something of a shame to think as I sit back after typing this review that Blood on the Black Robe may get overlooked in comparison to other 2011 major folk metal releases (I only need to look at a site such as Last.fm to see that the band gets hardly any plays in comparison to younger folk metal bands, which although good in their own right, just don’t really hit the spot when it comes to really authentic sounding folk metal), because without Cruachan folk metal may well be in a very different shape today. Folk metal fans are advised to check this out at their earliest convenience.

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