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As much as I wish for Book of Dowth to be Caledonia part two, it never fully lives up to the high watermark set by some of Suidakra's best outings. This isn't rationale to cut and run on its own, as this still fits in nicely right behind the likes of Emprise to Avalon and The Arcanum, and one could theoretically tack this on right after Caledonia for relatively fluid consistency in the band's catalogue. It is closest in style and delivery to Crógacht, but expels many of the atypical pitfalls that Suidakra found themselves stumbling in and out of on said record. I can't necessarily say that Book of Dowth is any leaner and/or streamlined, but it comes off as a much more tolerable due to the reemergence of the hook-laden riffs that embody Suidakra's greatest strength. While not necessarily omnipresent, some of these tracks are absolutely loaded with memorable riffs, and with a production that thankfully balances out some of the caustic, overloud aesthetics that made Crógacht such a chore to sit through, it goes without saying that this is the best Suidakra album in nearly a decade.
It doesn't waste much time either, as "Over Nine Waves" really sets the Gaelic scene, what with Römer's bouncy bagpipe melodies bouncing over a tense, stop-start barrage of a riff. This segues marvelously into "Down 2059," which showcases Suidakra making wise choices regarding both songwriting and keyboards. As trenchant palm mutes give way to the always-enthralling melodic tail, we see what is basically the poster-child for the classic Suidakra riff. The atmosphere is spot on, and the song rumbles forth and manages to maintain the high standard without ever slowing down to regather itself. "Stone of the Seven Suns" takes things one step further, with rock-solid clean tones opening up into the marvelously catchy verses. Man, you just gotta hear this one, as it manages to carve a new path for the band that gives some of their best compositions a run for their money. Right up there with "Wartunes," "Darkane Times," "Trails of Gore" and a live staple (I hope!).
Imbalances start to surface regarding some of the more experimental numbers. "Biróg's Oath" is the obligatory Stabel-fronted piece, and while pleasant vocal melodies dominate the appeal, Tina sounds a little bottle-necked and unsure of herself this time around. Maybe it is the production, but she is lacking much of that gritty, raw appeal that makes her voice such a treat on "Feats of War" and especially "Beneath the Red Eagle." There are a number of one-off guest musicians as well, and they appear to congregate around "Mag Mell," which is a decent nod to the traditional Schoenen numbers and keeps the procession moving right along.
Although Book of Dowth fails to replicate the dry, raw production values of Caledonia, it finds an acceptable middle-ground between both extremes. Riewaldt's bass clangs just as heartily as I remember it from "Dawning Tempest" on the aforementioned instrumental opener, but he sort of gets swept up in the bombastic nature of the whole ordeal once the album starts in earnest and fails to make as much impact as I would hope, being his swansong with the group and all. I definitely dig the guitar tone though, which still manages to penetrate to the front of the mix even with all of the tertiary elements running at full steam. This was one of the biggest problems with Crógacht, so it's good to see the band taking some of the criticisms to heart through rectifying the issue. The distortion is really crunchy and features a lot of mid-range, which was a risky move on Suidakra's part, but it honestly fits the style they are working with here.
In the end, Book of Dowth makes a name for itself through atypical (but by no means ineffective) methods, earning itself a solid nod of approval from yours truly. Many of these tracks have and will continue to make my repeat list, and with no real duds to speak of (save for maybe "Biróg's Oath"), we have Suidakra doing what they do best, and is it ever a glorious sight.
This album isn't their best, but damn it's good. I said this two albums back with Caledonia; this band is so good, and so consistently good, they must have made a blood oath with the Pagan war gods.
Legitimately one of my favorite bands, one of the most consistent and one of the most underrated bands in metal; hands down.
I'll return to that issue later. What's this album all about? Metal factor is 10. Folk factor is 10. Win factor is 10. Fuckloads of awesome riffs, bagpipes, blast beats, mandolin (yes!), chants, and nice folk melodies. Plus, that album cover owns your face.
What else is this album about? Bringing lots of folk elements without being cheesy, lots of melody without being soft, a lot of what this band has always done. Tasteful, heavy, melodic death metal with varying degrees of folk, with hints of black metal, power metal, and rock. And when I say melodic death metal, I am not talking about some half ass cookie cutter Gothenburg horseshit. I mean death metal which is melodic. There is a lot of "war chant" type stuff in their melodies, and gang vocals, not to mention their lyrics.
Couple weak points: Mag Mell I find to be a weak spot. Don't like the guest vocalist doing the singing. And the song could afford to be more upbeat, it would suit it better. Stone of the Seven Suns could use a more energetic chorus. But yeah ... other than that, this pretty well rips.
Everything about this band points to they don't give a fuck about what you think; which automatically warrants respect. I hear nothing in the music that makes me think they're trying to impress anyone, and I love that. They don't follow trends, they don't jump on bandwagons, they manage to add a touch of something new with every release, but never stray far from their jugular-slashing war metal.
It's one thing that the average metalhead will not know some obscure black metal that I love, like Heimdall's Wacht, but this band right here? This could and should be listened to by everyone who considers themselves a metalhead.
I question why they aren't more popular, but then, I should be glad. I've seen popularity ruin so many bands I thought were infallible. 15+ years of albums ranging from solid, to fantastic. Their style hasn't changed immensely (especially not from the last couple albums) and I'm not complaining. If it's not broke, don't fix it. They aren't repeating themselves, and they're avoiding re-writing the same songs, so I have no problem giving this a very high score.
Watch the music video for Balor, it'll tell you just about everything you need to know about this band. That, and whether or not you have good taste in music.
Somewhere beneath the lustrous Boyne Valley of Ireland lay Dowth, a Neolithic passage tomb of more than 4,000 years of age. The mystique of this landmark is doubly so when considering the amount of history that has likely been lost amid the onslaught of Viking plunderers whom looted its contents. One would all but wish for a book containing a history, even if a collection of tall tales, to fill in the gaps left by the tides of providence. It might be a suggestion that wise tales are made of, but regardless, it’s fertile ground for the concept of the next Suidakra album, and this year such a book was written, albeit with speeding riffs and primal shouts aplenty.
Those who were taken in by the pristine pipes of “Caledonia” and the epic masterworks of folksy melodeath that was “Crogacht” need not fret, for the latest venture of these German Celts has proven a faithful and riveting continuation of the same auspicious revival of the olden ways. In fact, “Book Of Dowth” could easily be described as the most animated and evenly balanced of the latest batch of offerings. The song lengths have been streamlined to sub-6 minute durations throughout, but no complexity is spared within this shorter template, and a very well distilled dose of majestic tunes of druid deeds and gallant heroism emerges.
Right from the onset of “Over Nine Waves”, sporting a highly animated bagpipe melody and enough distorted guitar poundage to turn a simple jig into a dance of storm giants, the name of the game on this album is catchy, and it’s played to its logical conclusion. The theme work and guitar lines are still notably active and complex, but the general flow of harmonies and progression is quite accessible and even predictable. The songs are also notably fast with plenty of fancy drum work, almost as if a cross between Thomen Stauch and Bill Ward was found in the back of Lars Wehner’s mind and trotted out for all to see.
Pointing to one individual song as a standout is actually a forbidding task here as the whole album is pretty evenly paced and jam packed with memorable moments. The obligatory cookers with frenzied riff work come about in “Dowth 2059”, “Battle-Cairns”, “Balor” and “Fury Fomoraigh”, shifting through a veritable grab bag of beats too frenetic to be danced to, though the infusion of Irish folk and formulaic melodeath riffs will all but make the listener wish he could. Tina Stabel is also gives an exemplary performance on “Birog’s Oath”, the first out and out metallic number featuring her for the entire duration, matching the standard set on “Feats Of War” with ease.
Perhaps the one thing setting this apart from “Crogacht”, which also happens to set it back a little, is the lack of that dense keyboard atmosphere that gave it that epic, Ensiferum-like feel. This is more of a thrasher of an album with a fair share of folksy interludes featuring the obligatory acoustic instrumental breaks. Only “Stone Of The Seven Suns” fully tries to recapture that denser, slightly orchestrated feel, and it stands out pretty handedly from the rest of the album. Still, this never fails at presenting a vivid picture of olden times, albeit in more of a jagged, rocky manner instead of the open plains feel of the two preceding albums, which is fairly appropriate given the subterranean nature of the site that is this album’s namesake.
Those who’ve acquired any level of familiarity with this band will come to expect the best, and “Book Of Dowth” doesn’t fall short. Few can boast a career this long and this strongly consistent, and fewer still can stake a claim to the unique subject matter of the albums they’ve put out. Since the days of Iron Maiden metal fans have stood out as not being beyond the concept of getting some sort of an education while enjoying music that is otherwise too loud to think while hearing, and anyone not familiar with Irish history will find a few interesting tidbits of the past to go along with an obvious kick ass listen.
Suidakra really seem to have hit their stride again in recent times following a questionable bit of experimenting with more commercial influences a few years back. While ‘Caledonia’ was a big step in the right direction, 2009’s ‘Crogacht’ was a masterful bit of work, and easily one of their best to date - something you won’t find yourself saying very often about any band’s 9th full-length CD.
‘Book of Dowth’ maybe isn’t quite such a storming success as its predecessor, but certainly continues in the same vein and there is no sign of their momentum wavering any time soon. Seemingly settled into a 3-piece arrangement for the time being at least, the band (ably backed as ever by piper Axel Römer and vocalist Tina Stabel) have delivered another fine offering of celtic-flavoured melodeath which carries on their recent successes while at the same time tweaking the formula slightly in a few areas.
One of the things that made ‘Crogacht’ such a success was that it was the most densely-packed, furious CD Suidakra had released in some years. This style is mostly continued faithfully here, with most of the songs at least partially driven by endless barrages of cascading riffs and thunderous, intricate drumming; but at the same time it is also true that the more serene, thoughtful side of the band is given a bit more exposure this time around.
With Marcel Coenen now out of the picture entirely, nearly all vocal duties have fallen to main man Arkadius Antonik, and while he provided some heavily-backed up clean vocals on the last CD it was Tina Stabel who took lead in the only song not to feature any screaming.
On first listen it would seem the same might be the case here when the midtempo “Biróg's oath” appears only 4th in the tracklist, and Stabel’s sweet voice arrives right from the start to compliment the song’s dark intensity.
Antonik seems to have grown in confidence however, as the song that immediately follows is driven almost entirely by acoustic guitars (played in part by former guitarist Sebastian Hintz in a nice touch) and darting keyboard arrangements, and with nothing to hide behind he puts in a powerful, emotional performance. With this now added to their arsenal, the CD as a whole sees more frequent use of melodic vocals and it provides some additional colour and variety to some of the songs.
Tracks in this more restrained vein are actually often among the CD’s highlights, as “Stone of the seven suns” goes to show, still satisfyingly heavy but featuring an excellent clean-sung chorus and with twanging mandolin playing offering a nice foil to the guitars.
The meat of ‘Book of Dowth’ though is the usual Suidakra fare of densely-packed melodic death metal, and while they maybe don’t have that many surprises left up their sleeves they are still experts at crafting these songs. The only thing that’s a little new is the lyrical concept (provided again by artist Kris Verwimp) which includes all the expected celtic mythology but is spun into a depressingly dark tale beginning in the near future and culminating in the end of the universe itself. Such concerns come secondary to the music of course, and Suidakra are still delivering on that front, no questions asked.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
You don’t see a lot of Celtic influence in the modern metal world. Given the recent rise of folk metal, you’d think that a bit of the Irish/Welsh mythological touch, what with its worship of the natural world, would find a permanent musical home, but outside of a handful of acts, it’s not as prevalent as the more animated Nordic world of fantasy. But I suppose it’s only a matter of time until it DOES become the new black in the folk spectrum, so time will have to tell, and what few bands DO exist in that particular lyrical scheme can be still be enjoyed for the odd men out they come off as.
And this here Suidakra act seems to be one of those Celt groups, having been plugging along for many a year. So let’s see what their latest has in store for me…
Despite having a slight nature-evoking sensation, the general feel of “Book of Dowth” contains a somewhat dowdy, angry foundation that occasionally breaks into bouts of sing-a-long chipperness, staying true to its intense melodic death metal roots while letting in some stringed instrument-borne fresh air. It’s vivid and intense, that’s for sure, but I’m not quite sure it has the staying power potential as many of their other, more happy-go-lucky colleagues; that may be their intention, though, and if so, then job well done. There seem to be plenty of musical tandems and movements to go around, with a number of different movements and changes in direction in each rather short-lived track, and the monstrousness of it all makes much of the album feel and sound cluttered and too busy for its own good. Some of this can be attributed to the production approach, which is blurrier and thicker than it really should be, burying much of the vocals and natural instrumentation under deluges of guitars and drums that almost suffocate in their intensity. The songwriting and performance, though, is still strong and absorbing, where powerful electric/acoustic guitar riffs/leads, plucky bagpipes/string noodlings, and a the dual act of potent clean singing (both male and female) and wicked screaming that jump from fierce tempos to a more swaying meandering that works well in conjunction with one another. Still, the darkness the music presents, and the dramatics therein, just might require a few successive listens to enjoy and understand; if one is looking for bouncy rhythms and tasty licks, you may be a bit disappointed, as they’re in more scarce amounts amidst the general bludgeoning pace “Book of Dowth” possesses. However, this is still a good album to bust out if you don’t WANT to bounce and jig and long for the destructive side of nature versus its beauteous end, as songs like “Dowth 2059” and “The Dark Mound” can attest, augmenting the softer likes of “Birog’s Oath” and “Mag Mell” as best they can.
In the end, it took a bit of time to take in what “Book of Dowth” had to offer me, but in the end, I still really dug it. The end result may be something I’ll probably come back to less times than other folk-based albums, but when I do, I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it nonetheless. Recommended.
Alright, I'll be honest: I had little faith in this one. Suidakra was swimming against the current after the monolithic "Crógacht," and pulling off back-to-back masterpieces hardly ever happens. While "Book of Dowth" is no magnum opus, Suidakra's vivid instrumentality and marching perseverance certainly shows in the long-running, folk-fused death metal of Arkadius and friends, making it the tenth full-length album of the group's career. They've been reeling in consistent material on a constant basis at this point in time for many years now, making their mystified genetics appeal to the expected chimes of adventurous mythology and daring compositions of ancient power; “Book of Dowth“ is no exception. Thankfully, some things never change.
Suidakra's trademarks are pretty much a given at this point in their career: rich, scathing riffs and melodies frequently harmonize underneath the wave of Celtic pastures implicated by Suidakra's folk-inspired edge between the crashing speed and fierceness summoned by the band's extreme metal frontier, which often associates itself with blast beats, lots of double-pedal action, churning riffs, and a number of other characteristics hailing death metal's folklore. Oh, and the occasional folk number too. Arkadius' growls are low and epic as usual, and there's a share of clean vocals (both male and female) scattered throughout the album as well. Maybe not the most surprising album ever made, but hey, Suidakra can leech this sound as much as they'd like; they've earned that right and continue to benefit from it.
"Biróg's Oath" and "Mag Mell," two folk numbers, are oddly at the pinnacle of the album's climax. Suidakra's calm, folk-inspired tracks almost always go beyond expectations, yet the clean vocals and Celtic rhythms here are simply otherworldly. "Dowth 2059" immediately ignites the melodic barrage that tastes and smells like a classic anthem, not to mention the guitar work is incredibly unique and clearly something only Suidakra could forge. Surprises are pretty much a myth, but every track stands tall regardless: "Stone of the Seven Suns" has one of the finest Celtic vibes you'll hear; "The Dark Mound" unmercifully pours Suidakra's recipe of riffing on the listener; and "Fury Fomoraigh" stands on an omega level of instrumentality.
While not as riveting as "Crógacht" or some of the band's earlier masterpieces, "Book of Dowth" still reaches the end of the rainbow, dancing around Celtic jigs and slaughtering the weak like any Suidakra release should. "Dowth 2059" and "Stone of Seven Suns" are among some of Suidakra's finest craft, which, as I said, aren't musically evolutionary or groundbreaking, but certainly written with that blasé edge of cohesive, majestic care and absolute power which lives in Suidakra's chambers. Maybe not the best place to start if you’re new to Suidakra’s mythology, but “Book of Dowth” still makes a respectable mark in the band’s concrete and dependable legacy.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Suidakra has a bit of a mixed reputation in metal circles. It seems that a lot of folk metal fanatics don't think that they're genuine enough, while some melodic death fans don't find them extreme enough for their tastes. Crogacht was a strong album, and when I caught wind of Book of Dowth and the rumor that the band would be continuing and further developing their hyper-melodic direction, I figured that it was high time that I properly acquaint myself with this band by buying their new offering.
Put simply, Book of Dowth is a superb example of what handily-done folk/death should sound like. The tunes fly wildly back and forth between breakneck blast beats and more laid back, folky acoustic (or mostly acoustic) tracks. Many an artist attempt to pull this balance off, but quite often it finds them flat on their face, with one half or the other falling considerably short of delivering. Suidakra, on the other hand, will simultaneously jam furious guitar leads in your brain while appealing successfully to your more pensive side with enchanting Celtic melodies like "Birog's Oath" and "Mag Mell".
The occasional colorful folky instrumentation here is very good. Opening instrumental track "Over Nine Waves" provides a haunting highland bagpipe intro which gradually develops into the frenzied opener "Dowth 2059", possibly my favorite new song in the genre yet this year. After a couple more good tracks, we are treated to the short but absolutely marvelous "Mag Mell", a soft track that boasts some lush acoustic guitar work and wistful vocal lines that make it my favorite track on the album (I know I just said something like this, but this song tickles an entirely different nerve of musical enjoyment). This sort of balance is what makes Book of Dowth such a lastingly rewarding listen.
Not that this record is without its flaws, however. One item that irritates me are the blast beats on some of the later songs. While I've never had extremely strong feelings one way or the other on this percussive technique, it doesn't serve the band well at all on songs like "Balor" and "Fury Fomoraigh". Here, it detracts from the excellent guitar lines, the somewhat promising lyrics, and the musical cohesion as a whole. Just because you have black/death roots doesn't mean you need to feel obliged to include some token blast beats guys, put the song first.
That aside, I have little else to complain about. Vocals that would have sent me running in the opposite direction a couple of years ago serve to enhance the vehemency with which Suidakra deliver their rather potent (and as we've witnessed, quite varied as well) brand of Celtic battle hymns. The musical elements are tight, the band is focused and has not only approached mastery of their standard sound, but delves ever more proficiently into colorful, more varied tracks that stand wholly in favor of their sound and story. High marks here, and a prime effort from a band that deserves their status as a contender for genre leader!
Originally written for www.blackwindmetal.blogspot.com/
Sometimes I feel like I'm a bit sick of folk metal, what with the tedium being peddled by Eluveitie, Korpiklaani (though I'd still bloody love to see them live), Blackguard and Equilibrium these days making the whole genre seem totally cartoonish. That's a bit of a moronic stance for me to take though - like thinking heavy metal has become watered down because of the presence of metalcore, deathcore and tech-fuck. A metalhead is someone who spends their free time weeding out the gold from the crap (although who decided to keep these things together in the first place?) and doesn't even get paid for it. Let's do it again.
Suidakra have had a checkered, prolific career the past decade plus, putting out the rocking, grooving Command to Charge before veering directly back toward folky melodic death-black thing with Caledonia and sticking firmly there with 2009's powerful showing Crógacht. The brilliantly illustrated latest, Book of Dowth, gets going with - of course- pipes and - of course - epic drum-rolls plus chugging guitars. No-one anywhere is surprised at this point, but it's nicely done and gets the head nodding. Just in time for the all-out melodic assault of 'Dowth 2059' and 'Battle-Cairns', both combining the blackened death metal warlust of maybe God Dethroned with exciting shredding in the vein of Ensiferum...plus folk instruments. The production is BIG, the riffs almost badass enough for the folk bits to be dropped and therefore largely avoiding the sub-par folk tune meets sub-par metal riff recipe many opt for.
Listening to the album beyond this point becomes a bizarre experience however. Having triumphed over enemies both fictional and fantastical, Suidakra veer fully into the realm of folk. 'Biróg’s Oath' features a mournful, folky-sounding lady singer crooning some thoughtful lyrics over mournful, folky-sounding guitar leads with a mourn....fuck, it's mournful and folky sounding alright. There's nothing wrong with it - the singer has a great voice - it just didn't really merit inclusion as far as I'm concerned. It's not a good enough take on classic folk balladry to stop me thinking that a Midnattsol album would surely be the obvious choice if I wanted to hear this sort of thing, rather than Suidakra. 'Mag Mell' is another folk song, entirely acoustic, and I must admit that with the excellent clean male singing, the cute symphonic licks and chirpy melody, I like it a lot. What it's doing here, I still don't know, but in itself it's a nice pipe and ale by the fireside tune.
The last half of the album stays in the realm of killer, blast-laced, propulsive metal, gleaming with melodies and harmonized riffs. Arkadius spits up entirely capable rasps and growls, Lars Wehner's drumming is awesomely tight, his presence is needed in a death metal band, and Marcus Riewaldt plays bass. 'The Dark Mound' (heh heh) is a particular standout, fully in the realm of epic, 'Balor' a crushing folk-augmented extreme metal cooker with more great drums. Things slow down toward the end, the final two songs reaching for epic heights but dragging somewhat before the outro plays you out.
Book of Dowth is like a platter of all the things they think their no-doubt wide-ranging fanbase might like: straight-up folk and catchy choruses for the ones who can't make the more aggressive parts out from one another, rollicking metal carnage for the dudes who listen to the album as practice for a beer-drenched Suidakra concert (which does sound incredibly fucking fun, I'd go) and tons of melody for the demographic who got fed up with the onset of rigor mortis in melodic death metal, and switched over to something with the same mixture of aggression and catchy. If you're one of those, or if you got some cash and like the idea of some pretty cool metal with a bunch of different folky things going on, I say why not.
Suidakra should need no introduction around these parts, and are a band who managed to keep slipping past me until now. I'd heard select songs in passing which I've always enjoyed; I just never got around to checking out a full-length. Fortunately, their latest opus Book of Dowth would land in my lap, and by the gods is it awesome. Suidakra blend a nice mix of influence into their sound, strangely reminding me of the last Orden Ogan album.
From the get go Book of Dowth slaps you in the face, boldly pedaling their brazen brand of melodic death metal with meticulously woven folk melodies. A short yet pleasant intro sets the scene for "Dowth 2059" to steamroll over your skull. This first proper track boasts more awesome riffs than some bands could have in an album, Suidakra simply storm the place and it's hard not to smile and headbang like an idiot; great melodies, and a superb guitar lead. Fortunately the opener really is the tip of the iceberg, as there isn't one track without its own merit.
From the mid-paced majesty of "Biróg's Oath" with its female lead vocals, to the excellent almost Blind Guardian-style acoustic romp "Mag Mell" there is a lot to see over the duration. However it is from "The Dark Mound" onwards where this album is at its strongest, with each and every song being a masterwork in folk-influenced melodic death metal – I can't even count the amount of excellent riffs and stunning moments. "Balor" is the absolute highlight of the album for me though, the melodies are absolutely killer, and the chorus part of the track is fantastic.
Overall Suidakra have lynched us with one of the best albums I've heard so far this year, I've already racked up a good 20 listens of this and I'll no doubt be spinning it on into the future. This is guaranteed a place in my end of year list, no doubt about it. I'm sure fans of the band will eat this right up, however I'd recommend Book of Dowth to almost any level-headed metal fan. It doesn't get much better than this. Highly recommended.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com