Sunday, 19 April 2015

#375 Cruachan - Blood For the Blood God

Unless I have some sort of monumental epiphany in the future, I can safely say that the vast majority of folk-metal is strictly none of my business. For the most part, it's too nice, to saccharine, and too damn cheesy. With every rule, however, comes exceptions. Of late, Ireland's Cruachan haven't been nice, they haven't been saccharine, and in an interesting turn of events, they've ceased to be especially cheesy, having returned to their black-metal roots on "Blood on the Black Robe" from 2011. Consequently, I was thoroughly excited at the prospect of a new record, and, discovering that just such a record existed, have now predictably spend about four months slowly but surely getting around to listening to it. Finally, it's time.

First impressions are serious business. Blood For the Blood God make initial impressions with the drum sound, and not in a good way. I had no idea that typewriters were a traditional Irish folk instrument, but apparently are, going by how damn clicky the drum sound is on a lot of the record. It's really a push in the wrong direction, and it takes concious effort not to let it leave me poised against the rest of the content of the record. It's a shame, because the drumming itself works well, it fits the songs well and has plenty of energy... but dear god is it produced all kinds of wrong for the context it's in. It's something I wouldn't have picked up on half a decade ago, but now I can't turn a blind eye easily. Granted, the drums have to filter through thickly layered instruments; there's a lot going on in any Cruachan album... but there's really no need for the bass-drum sound that we get left with. Regardless, I don't want to dedicate an entire paragraph to one shortcoming. I did my best to separate it in my mind as a fault, from the rest of the record - and for what it's worth, just about everything else about Blood For the Blood God is actually very, very good. It's raw, angry and sincere, sure there are a few jaunty tracks and sections, but that's par for the course with Cruachan, and for the most part, the record is a scathing continuation of Blood on the Black Road. It continues to carve the dark and bloody road that the band had before them in their early years, you know... before all the fun. 

I'm willing to go further, in fact. Blood For the Blood God may well be the bands most aggressive record to date; the vocals rage and rampage their way through the songs, like roaring calls coming down from the mountains, and the engulfing guitar tone adds to the impact - likewise, the record flows well - not too much filler, and certainly not too excessive a running time; it's about as much Cruachan as you want in one serving, and it borders, shortcomings aside, on being one of the best servings of Cruachan - it all depends on how you feel about drum-sound. The folk-elements are, thankfully, quite wholesome and sincere - no sugar in this dark mug of coffee. For a lot of the record, in fact, the "folk" element of the bands identity is compositional, as opposed to relying on specifically "folk" instruments, which feels the most earnest way to conduct things. When they are deployed, however, they're a power for good, as they were on the previous record - demonstrating as ever, that the vast and angry landscape of bands like Cruachan and Primordial will always trump the mischievous beer-in-hand bollocks of the other half of the genre. It's powerful stuff, and avoids so many of the usual traps that folk-influenced bands can fall into.

All in all, Blood For the Blood God is a satisfying listen - tall enough in stature to overcome it's shortcomings - or rather, one specific short-coming... and hell, for most people it won't even be a problem; I'm just the resident drum-sound pedant. Regardless, the record is a powerful and enjoyable trip through the visceral and bloody side of what Cruachan do, and for my money, it's what the band do best of all.

This is an 8/10.

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