Folk/Black Metal is another cup of piss I don’t partake of too often. I usually find its uptempo songs and clean sung male vocals irritating more than anything else. Fortunately, for the sixth full-length record from this long running Irish band, their blend is decent. Truthfully this is the first album I’ve heard from Cruachan and readily admit that Ychoril would have a better background to review it [if only he hadn’t disappeared into the mists! -Editor]. Regardless of the fact that I’d rather be reviewing a new Abaddon Incarnate LP, I can still do this… pass the Jamesons! Blood on the Black Robe starts off with a deadly intro of what I presume would be early Celtic soldiers marching to battle. The first song is uptempo, almost to the point where I want to push the stop button, yet I forge ahead because the vocals aren’t clean. The next song, “Soldier,” is the perfect Irish war anthem and then “Thy Kingdom Gone” has violin passages that will make you do an Irish whiskey-fueled victory dance… of war! It’s a fiddle sound straight off of Silent Stream of Godless Elegy’s Behind the Shadows, which occasionally fills my cup. The rest of the tracks fall in line, but it’s really the strength of the aforementioned songs that kept me listening to the rest of this album. Not fucking bad after all!
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I don’t know that I’d be a better judge of what makes quality Folk Metal but I’d say that if this is your first Cruachan album, you picked a good one to start with. This is actually a “return to form” album of sorts. When this band emerged with Tuatha Na Gael (probably spelled that wrong but I don’t have the CD handy as I write this), they were one of the leading bands in the sub-genre. They meandered a bit and lost their focus for several albums. They went for the more upbeat Hammerfall-esque drumming and happy, bouncy Celtic tunes that make great drinking songs but poor Metal (not that there aren’t parts on this album that go there…). Other bands came along and moved the ball forward while Cruachan wandered in the mists (much as I’ve been doing the last decade or so…). Blood on the Black Robe is more focused, more Metal and probably more atmospheric than much of their previous back catalog. The use of folk instruments to add atmosphere and color to the solid Metal foundation puts this one over for me. I don’t see this band becoming the Irish-Celtic version of My Dying Bride but the material that is more atmospheric Doom with Celtic flourishes plays the best and those parts are the strongest on this album.
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