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3.62 | 12 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Folk Metal


1. To War (0:55)
2. I Am Warrior (5:19)
3. The Column (7:12)
4. Thy Kingdom Gone (4:26)
5. An Bean Sidhe (5:50)
6. Blood On The Black Robe (6:39)
7. Primeval Odium (7:18)
8. The Voyage Of Bran (4:20)
9. Brian Boru’s March (3:29)
10. Pagan Hate (5:12)
11. The Nine Year War (7:21)

Total Time 58:06


- Keith Fay / Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bodhran, Bouzouki, Mandolin, Percussion
- John Clohessy / Bass Guitar
- John O'Fathaigh / Low Whistle, Tin Whistle, Percussion
- John Ryan Will / Violin, Bouzouki, Mandocello
- Colin Purcell / Drums, Percussion


- Karen Gilligan / Female Vocals
- Alex Shkuropatsky / Galician Bagpipes

About this release

Released by Candlelight Records, April 18th, 2011.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

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.
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 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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