After five years of almost complete silence, Cruachan are finally back to pummel you with Irish folk metal. We checked out their new album.
Having followed Celtic folk metallers Cruachan from their 2002 album Folk-Lore through to their Blood-trilogy running from 2011 until 2018, I sort of gathered the band had fallen off the face of the earth after that. A single song (The Hawthorn) was released in 2020 and then things went silent again until October 2022, with three new singles being released in succession. These have now been gathered on the band’s new opus, The Living and the Dead, a fantastic blend of Celtic folk and blackened metal.
What Cruachan has always done well is marry fun with melancholy and aggressiveness, and that’s no different on The Living and the Dead, an album about life and death and everything in between. The first two songs make that abundantly clear; starting out with a spruced up Irish jig on The Living before diving into metal territory on The Queen. As always, band leader Keith Fay’s more traditional stringed instruments like banjo and mandolin are up front in the mix, giving Cruachan’s metal its very distinct sound. Also, newly attracted member Audrey Trainor’s violins are never far away to give things an even more folky vibe.
What the band does very smartly on The Living and the Dead is alternate between the heavier side of things and the more mellow, with fast and furious tracks like The Queen and The Ghost being perfectly balanced by more traditional folk-fare like The Crow. Oftentimes both styles are incorporated into the individual songs themselves, so you can be sure things won’t stay either heavy or quiet for long. It must be said, however, that the songs that lean the most towards traditional folk are often the highlights on The Living and the Dead. The Crow might be my favourite song right now, alongside the creepily ethereal The Changeling, but there’s hardly a bad song on here. Only The Children, with its oddly lullaby-esque chorus didn’t really work for me at first, and still doesn’t when it gets played out of sync from the rest of the tracks. So, pro-tip: don’t put it on shuffle, but that goes for most albums anyway.
So, there you have it, Dublin-based folk-metallers Cruachan are finally back with a new album, and it has most definitely been worth the long wait. It’s hard to proclaim it as their best thus far because it’s still very new and fresh, but it did click better at first listen then the last three albums. Time will tell where it will rank in their discography. Now, if only we don’t have to wait another five long years for the band’s next sign of life…
Label: Despotz Records
Buy it here: https://despotz.bigcartel.com/products
- The Living (03:04)
- The Queen (06:51)
- The Hawthorn (05:04)
- The Harvest (05:22)
- The Festival (02:50)
- The Ghost (04:22)
- The Crow (05:38)
- The Reaper (04:30)
- The Children (03:36)
- The Changeling (03:31)
- The Witch (05:08)
- The Dead (2:38)
- Keith Fay – vocals, guitars, banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, keyboard, bodhrán
- David Quinn – guitars
- Joe Farrell – bass
- Audrey Trainor – violin, viola, cello
- Tom Woodlock – drums, percussion
Review by RP