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As a huge fan of folk metal, and the raw, black-inspired kind in particular, I can honestly say that no other album has ever reached up to this level of excellence. Not even the otherwise so commonly praised albums and admitted masterpieces within the genre like Cruachan's "Tuatha Na Gael" or Vintersorg's "Till Fjälls" reach up to. Those two albums, I absolutely adore as well, but still "An Deiz Ruz" takes the cake. Everything is perfect.
The mixing is perfect for this type of album. Unlike Tuatha Na Gael, where the guitars were rather weak, the guitars on this album sound extremely aggressive. The distortion really cuts through and gives a genuine bite to it. And they are as good as perfect in the mix, they are never drowned out, nor do they ever drown any other instruments out, and one ought to know that there are a great number of instruments on this album. The acoustic guitars are also done very well, tastefully, they have a very nice sound and somehow (the producer must be some sort of genius), they manage to keep the same sound and impact of the acoustics even when mixed with electric guitars and drums.
The bass, it does some very nice stuff that differs from the guitar in some places, and is very audiable most all of the time.
The drumming is something that I've really taken to heart as a drummer myself, it shows that in black metal, less can really be more. Instead of mauling out sextuplets, the drummer sticks to regular triplets, which really helps to drive the riffing forward. Extremely well done. And the sound of the drums is very nice as well, the kick has a tight sound, the snare doesn't sound like a cookie jar, the toms have a nice, thick sound and the cymbals cut through nicely without dominating.
The vocals are really nothing out of the ordinary, high pitched, most of the time, but it's done so well. The lyrics are only decipherable in certain places and are sung in english, in spite of the celtic titles. Then comes the clean male choires. Sounds like celtic warriors preparing to charge. It adds another dimension to the music, so to speak.
And for the most impressive part of the album: The folk instruments. It's got everything. Fiddles, tin whistles, low whistles, bombardes (probably the single most metal instrument ever due to it's piercing and nasal sound, like a curious offshot between a trumpet and an oboe).
A mix of so many instruments and vocal lines and overdubs, it is extremely impressive how they've managed to produce everything so that every single thing, from the whistles to the drums, are clearly audiable, and, more impressively from a musical point of view, how they've managed to arrange it all. Some of the arrangements are extremely interesting. Like on Son Ar Everezh where a tin whistle and a bombard starts playing a melody, it is then sung by the choir and then they all do it together. This type of thing is quite common on this album, but it's not over done. The arrangements are very well thought out and effective, without going those extra five thousand miles that some bands do until it only becomes silly and over done.
Standout tracks, maybe? The preciously mentioned Enez Glaz, Epona pt. II, Son Ar Everezh and Kar Ar Kern stand out the most for me. Either due to superior arrangements (the first two in particular), or due to them being more energetic and aggressive (the later parts of Epona pt. II and Kar Ar Kern), or the staggering dynamics of Epona pt. II.
All in all, this album is extremely well done, every single step of the way, from the riffs and the tin whistle melodies, right down to the perfect and tasteful arrangements and impeccable production. I must say, I must have listened to this album maybe four or five times per week, at the very least, during the last year or so, and it still doesn't bore me and nothing in it becomes stale. It still strikes me with awe every single time I listen to it, the pure perfection of it all is simply breathtaking. All hails to these guys and I promise you that it very well deserves each and every one of the 100 points I am giving it.
The band Heol Telwen, merging celtic influences into the raw aggression of black metal...quite a task but it has been done before (Belinus for one). In my opinion though no one has done it quite right, either the style favored the black metal too much, drowning out the classic celtic instruments or there was too much focus on the folk instruments, making it not black metal at all. This band fuses them together perfectly I think.
Songs like Ar Korrigan Du, Dahud, Enez Glaz, Kan Ar Kern are definitely what I find to be the more aggressive songs on the album. The guitar is more prominent in the mixture, the drums have that black metal drive (fast) and you can even hear the bass going along at a quick pace!
Other songs like Epona Parts 1 and 2, Son Ar Everzeh, Heol Telwen, An Dei Ruz are right in the middle, fusing both celtic instruments and metal instruments in harmony. The guitars I find to slow down some and even the drums though its no less enjoyable. Occassionally chanting enters songs like these, backing up the vocalist. This only adds more to the atmosphere of the song, the chanting sounds of battle, and the whistle would strengthen the heart of any warrior.
Then the songs Etre Douae Mor, An Douar Eleh Mon Ganet and Ynis Witrinn are strictly acoustic/folk pieces. This gives the intro, the middle and the end for me. It starts with An Douar Eleh Mon Ganet, a good intro but nothing utterly amazing, still sets the celtic mood though. Then more or less in the middle is Etre Douae Mor, which is a very cool folk song with guitars later on. The song starts with what I believe to be a bohdran (Irish drum) but I could be wrong...anyway it sounds like a war drum and starts the song off and as it builds it turns into a fast celtic battle charge! The outro song Ynis Witrinn winds everything down and adds a somber chanting background as it fades. An exceelent way to end the album, making you feel sad already that the album is coming to and end.
All in all this album is excellent and I reccommend buying it if you're open to more than just straight up metal.