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Despite many prematurely anointing Caledonia with the epithet of overcompensation after the modern divergence that was Command to Charge, the aforementioned honor should undoubtedly go to Crógacht. This album, for better or worse, takes Suidakra's traditionally Celtic roots and entrenches them to subterraneal levels that the band has never (consciously or otherwise) breached at any other juncture. Schoenen's departure lingers like approaching storm clouds over the otherwise luxuriant rolling hills, and this harsh contrast in tone is ironically evident in Crógacht's uneven procession and delivery.
Despite the growing anticipation evoked by the brilliant Römer-led instrumental "Slán," a listener whose last contact with these Germans was "The IXth Legion" can't help but leer unconvincingly once "Conlaoch" rumbles forth. An otherwise solid Suidakra number, it throws a number of red flags immediately regarding both the keyboards and the production. While I can't help but telegraph some well-deserved kudos Antonik's way for sticking it out and filling the melodic void left by Voigt nearly a decade earlier, I don't necessarily agree with his approach here. He is best stockpiling the keyboards for the obligatory atmospheric and/or instrumental number instead, as they can take away a lot of the band's riff-driven identity if used too egregiously. Emprise to Avalon had "The Spoils of Annwn," Signs for the Fallen had "Threnody," and here we get "Feats of War." The X-factor here is obviously Tina Stabel, who enthralls as always in such stripped-down environs. A very enjoyable breather that serves as a precursor to some of the more impressive numbers on Eternal Defiance.
So while the instrumentals are obviously class as always, what about the remaining six proper songs that bookend them? I wish I could say that Crógacht suddenly saves face and manages to go toe-to-toe with it's predecessor, but this is perhaps where Schoenen's departure is felt the most. Antonik's roars are as primal as ever, and while the riffs are undoubtedly more "Suidakra" than anything since Emprise to Avalon, there just isn't enough going on around them to raise Crógacht to an echelon even approaching some of it's peers. Despite these shortcomings, "Shattering Swords" is loaded with hooks and "Baile's Strand" approaches Ensiferum levels of cinematic majesty. Through the latter I can sort of see what Suidakra was going for regarding the keyboards, but does this have to be over seven minutes long? To cite Caledonia yet again, "Highland Hills" managed to shift from atmospheric dirges to napalm-laced melodeath passages without accruing any modicum of friction. On "Baile's Strand" we see a band playing it way too safe, only drawing serious interest around the 5:30 mark, during which a short break in the action teases at something much greater.
The production is also a hot mess this time around for some reason. While I didn't necessarily expect Suidakra to repeat the exaggerated, Riewaldt-led bass charge present on Caledonia, much of the potency of the riffs and melodies is buried underneath the bombastic inclination of all of the tertiary distractions this time around. While the rhythm sounds vacuum-tight and snappy, the leads are unusually high-pitched and digital sounding. I mean, listen to the gritty, clanging timbre of songs like "Dawning Tempest" and then go to "Isle of Skye." It isn't even close, and I don't mean that as a compliment to the latter. Some tracks like "Conlaoch" really push the limits of excess regarding the mix, and the multi-layered inclination of the whole ordeal fills the listener's head to the point of exploding. It is like standing really close to a ringing smoke alarm, it can honestly be painful to listen to.
While Crógacht is mercifully short, there just isn't a whole lot going on within the once-heralded walls of Suidakra's castle on this one. Check out "Feats of War" for Stabel alone and track down "Shattering Swords." I would say that the rest is for die-hard Suidakra fans only, but I consider myself among such esteemed company, and Crógacht does surprisingly little for me.
Suidakra is a virtual institution unto itself, complete with a doctrine and dogma that has, contrary to the general implications of the terminology, a fair degree of nuance. This established mythos is grounded in a rugged historicism that seeks to tell the original tales of Celtic pride, rather than the wise/tall tales that sprung up during the middle ages. With only a few occasional heresies, this consistent blend of mutually compatible devices has delivered up classic after classic, in spite of a lack of fanfare next to contemporaries such as Ensiferum, Children Of Bodom and Norther. However, something truly astounding occurred in the aftermath of the auspicious return to form that was “Caledonia”, and that something is “Crogacht”.
An album aptly titled by the Irish Gaelic word for bravery, this epic collection of folksy hymns and powerful metallic majesty all but upstages the rest of their discography. The pipes are once again calling, but this time they are accompanied by a massive production and a revamped sound that rivals the heroic pomp of Ensiferum. Indeed, this album is structured as this bunch of German Celts’ answer to the reformed sword bearing opus that was “Victory Songs”, sporting a similarly massive prelude theme that recurs with a closing beast of a song in “Baile’s Strand”. The melodies are catchy, the feel of each song ranges from serene balladry with a slight bounce to a full speed fury of blasting melodeath, and the songwriting is fresh and innovated yet very well streamlined.
Granted, this is a band that has always been very strong in the musical department, so something else accounts for the massive leap forward that occurred here, and that something is the vocal department. As much as it pains one to say it, cofounder Marcel Schoenen has always been a weak link in the fold when it comes to vocals, and his exodus has taken away the modern/punk tendencies that tended to clash with the rest of the fold, save their brief stint in pure melodeath territory. While the choruses on here are the culmination of the work of 3 people, it’s clear that Arkadius is much more suited to clean singing than Marcel was in this style, and sounds like a solid foil to competitor Jari Maenpaa’s husky baritone. Add to it an occasional lead vocal chime in by Tina Stabel, who did a solid job for the band on the lackluster “Command To Charge” (and whose work on “Feats Of War” is a highlight of this album), and everything just falls right in place.
The historic clash of ancient tribes and civilizations upon the British Isles rushes forth with every single note, almost like a film score to a theatric depiction of Ivar The Boneless’ demise at the hands of the Irish. “Slan” functions as the usual prelude to the impending conflict, building from a simple pluck string theme with a low shimmering orchestral backdrop before exploding into a grand military march with the pipes shouting out the melody. Then in like a tidal wave of steel flies crushing metallic anthems with infectious choruses and memorable riffs in “Conloach”, “Scathach” and “Shattering Swords”. Occasional respites are found in the more mid-tempo anthem “Isle Of Skye”, featuring a collection of massive clean vocal sections rivaling anything out of Ensiferum, and the aforementioned “Feats Of War”; a simple folk tune infused with a powerful metallic climax and an angelic yet edgy lead vocal performance out of Tina Stabel.
This album was actually my introduction to Suidakra 2 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It marks the 2nd step in a reformed approach to their own unique niche in the folk/melodic death metal paradigm, and its accessibility is rivaled only by how little love they get next to a number of commercially successful rivals. This trend has changed a bit in the past couple of years, but for a band that is arguably as good if not better than the likes of Ensiferum and much more intricate in their interpretation of folksy music than Turisas or Alestorm, it’s still a modest amount. “Crogacht” marks the beginning of an, as of yet, still enduring high point in Suidakra’s career, and any potential recruits to their mission will probably want to start here.
They have the might to tell forbidden tales of Irish mythology forged from fire and blood. They've lasted for several years with consistent release after consistent release and managed to keep their music uniquely fresh. They make you jig and drink Irish beer regardless of your heritage. They are Suidakra: influenced by folk, epic like a soaring eagle, and death metal crusaders. "Crógacht" marks the ninth full-length release from this German quartet, and is quite possibly their finest stand as a faction. There isn't any rational reason to deny how amazing and spellbinding the marksmanship of Suidakra is through the group's rich exploration of death metal, melody, and Celtic folk music, which at this point demonstrates a unique three-part junction that leads to heavy metal Valhalla, indeed.
Suidakra's ritual of new material is typically a volcanic cloud of fire that consumes all the mediocre groups chugging around melodic death metal with unnecessary fluff or basic death metal bands bastardizing themselves with recycled blueprints; instead, Suidakra beats them at their own games. Perhaps the sole association of melodic death metal is the feathery, powerless result of flexing both qualities into a metaphorical sandwich, but Suidakra adds an ocean of life-sized heaviness to licks plastered in melodic influence with sharp, cutting riffs, beautiful melodies, and moving harmonies of mountainous size. While not an atypical quality among Suidakra, I'm just wondering how these riffs and melodies surpass the band's previous releases with such ease. Arkadius once again gives a stellar vocal performance with a collection of earth-shaking growls and screams that scorch trees like paper, which are wonderful additions to Suidakra's overall bloodline, but who would have thought his clean voice is as impressive? The guy fits into everything this group creates whether he's shouting, singing, shredding, whatever; there aren't any limits to Arkadius' talents.
The record itself is also a massive expedition of artistic achievement on many levels instead of using basic extreme metal tactics as a mercy-word. "Crógacht" is an anomaly among Suidakra's discography because although the band has always dabbled in Celtic folk music, they've never been so deeply submerged in the identity, going so far into it that bagpipes, banjos, keyboards, acoustics, and a plethora of folk-laden ideas are common at every given turn, which are a fitting placement for the melodic assault commonly hacking throughout "Crógacht." Something such as "Feats of War" is easily one of the album's finest slabs even though it is only a folk jam led by female vocals; it's an example of Suidakra's infinite brilliance as a poetic squad and not just a barrage of great instrumentation.
It's kind of a given that the sound quality appears as if every German worldwide recorded a guitar part with all these overlapping harmonies, but don't let that turn you off. Everything strikes in massive and exploding color with a montage of divinity and violence, colliding in mid-air, shattering, and then reconnecting in awesome craftsmanship. Lars Wehner's drumming acts ravenous during Suidakra's vehement, epic travel of floating islands yet dramatically morphs into a subtle beat as Arkadius' soldiers allow the folk seeds to bloom with a soft, echoing snare that rolls on and on with an excellent sound overall. The keyboards, too, are a central focus of "Crógacht" that, unlike a number of other bands in this state, contribute a vast amount of atmosphere and content throughout Suidakra's majestic voyage. It really makes me ask the burning question: Can Suidakra cure Captain Tripps? Well, something did, right?
This record is beyond a great piece of work, but brilliant art by a band incapable of wrongdoings. The Suidakra banner has been through highs and lows, of that I have no doubt, yet still they march on and produce phenomenal work that goes unsurpassed compared to the status-quo of similar kin. I've spent a very long time listening to "Crógacht" back and forth, up and down, and side to side, and still haven't found a reason to put it away. Nothing here is meant to be missed by anyone, my word.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Suidakra has been since the beginning of its career one of the most underrated bands in the scene. To release such a solid efforts as " The Arcanum" or "Emprise to Avalon" seems not to be enough to make these musicians being successful and irremediably they have been lost in a sea of anonymity. They can be considered one of the first bands who focused his lyrics on pagan/historic themes and apart from most of the german bands they have always shown a great interest in celtic tales. This genuine band plays an interesting melodic death metal strongly influenced by gaelic folk and with an excellent taste for epic melodies. Although their interest in celtic traditional music is well-known they had never used too much folk instruments in his music, but this aspect changed when they relesead "Caledonia", a work which recovered the best version of this fantastic band.
And now, two years latter and when the pagan/folk genre lives its golden age, Suidakra has released an album destinated to positionate the band in the first line smashing all the mediocre groups, something that Arkadius and the others have always deserved. Crógacht(meaning "bravery" in Irish Gaelic) supposes a giant step forward in their career. It is an amazing mixture of fast-paced death melodic parts, excellent guitar melodies and now, more than ever, the inclusion of real celtic folk instruments as highland bagpipes or tin whistles. This addition is absolutely awesome and enriches the album greatly, helping to create the adecuate atmosphere in the album, which is essential because Crógacht is a conceptual album based on one of the most dramatic tales in the irish mithology, "The death of Aoife´s only son".
The album itself is short(no more than 42 minutes) but extraordinarily fresh, dinamic and majestic, each song has its own soul and distinctive melody. From the initial and fast "Canlaoch", the echoing "Isle of Sky" or the awesome folk beginning of Scátchach, with the fantastic bagpipes, all the album breaths grandeur. This work recovers the fast old style of the band and maintains the excellent taste for melodies, great news for the die hard fans. On the other hand we have peaceful moments with the instrumentals and the beautiful female sung "Feats of War", a delicate and beautiful accoustic composition. Such a brave album could not finish with a better song than "Bailes Strand", oh my god, this song is epic as its best!. From the very beginning with the choir and the sound of swords you know that this song will blow away anyone who listen it, the guitar riffs and the atmospheric keyboard are touching and absolutely tremendous until the end of the song. This composition must be the sonic definition of what a warrior should felt before a battle, really amazing!.
In conclusion it is quite remarkable to see a band like Suidakra that after so many years making music can finally reach its peak and release an album destinated to be a classic . Congratulations guys you have created a timeless masterpiece!
I've not been a follower of Suidakra in the past, the occasional song may have grabbed my attention but their albums as a whole haven't impressed me. So I'll say Crógacht, nine albums into their career, is really set to change my mind. An excellent mesh of glorious melodic death metal with just enough folk elements to provide a context for their concept, which is here centered on Celtic history and folklore. They've touched upon this several times in the past, but here it's a central focus, and one of the best albums of its sort I've heard.
The album opens with the beautiful instrumental "Slán", the use of pipes over acoustic strings provides a beautiful landscape from which the epic can charge forth. And charge it does, with the thundering "Conlaoch" and its soaring melodies. "Isle of Skye" is a bit more mid-paced but the melodies weave through it, catapulting the track instantly into memory. "Scáthach" is another scorcher with some of the best winding melodic death metal this side of Dark Tranquillity. "Feats of War" is a folk song with some female vocals, and while I love the music, the vocals are 'meh'. I would have enjoyed if they have gone with the original language which the album is centered about. It sounds goofy in English. This is short-lived though, "Shattering Swords" is a great track to suck you back into their sweeping, epic style. "Ár Nasc Fola" is a nice acoustic instrumental with some percussion. "Gilded Oars" is the best song on the album, I love its build-up and slower melodeath breakdowns. The album closes with another of its best, the epic "Baile's Strand".
A crisp production dominates the band's sound, the drums thunder and the melodies bleed right into your ears. The vocals are typical of Swedish-influence melodic death, but they sound great nonetheless. The keyboards are epic and tastefully added here, not as much as say Equilibrium but enough that they become a central instrument. In the end, I am very impressed, and if you are a folk metal fan of bands like Equilibrium, Ensiferum, or even Wintersun I would highly recommend it. It has spurred enough interest in me that I may give some previous albums a second chance.
Arkadius Antonik and his Suidakra cohorts have been doing their thing for quite a while now, a constant presence since the mid-90s when their mix of metal and folk melodies was an altogether rarer beast than it is in this day and age.
Despite the intricate medieval melodies woven deep into their music, Suidakra have never really been a full-blown folk metal outfit, but rather a melodic death metal act with strong traditional influences. Historically, their CDs would be entirely metal songs laced with epic melodies and the odd acoustic song or interlude breaking things up. The most recent CD, 'Caledonia', saw them take their Celtic leanings a little further, and the increased folk elements are retained on ‘Crógacht’ with Axel Römer again performing bagpipe and whistle arrangements.
A more recent band that fall under the same sort of category are Eluveitie, but Suidakra are a completely different kettle of fish. Despite the constant blasting drums and heavy riffs, their brand of melodic death metal is on the power metallish end of the scale, a far cry from the more mechanical Gothenburg style of the Swiss band, and they don’t rely on a plethora of outlandish instruments to provide the colour in their songs.
Though largely avoiding any great hype over the years, Suidakra’s output has always been consistent and well received, though anyone with a grasp of the band’s history will know that this 9th CD will be an important one in their career. Though in and out of the band over the years, 2nd guitarist and clean vocalist Marcel Schoenen has, with the exception of 2005’s experimental (to put it nicely) ‘Command to charge’, featured on every Suidakra CD to date. Despite taking Tim Siebrecht of Sleeping Gods out on tour as a replacement, Antonik has made the rather bold decision to record nearly all guitar and vocal parts himself for ‘Crógacht.’
Despite being the main vocalist over the years, Antonik generally left the writing of the band’s lyrics to Schoenen, leaving a rather large gap in the creative process. In another unexpected move, the duty of writing the CD’s lyrics has been turned over to the band’s cover artist Kris Verwimp, who immerses himself in the Suidakra fascination with Celtic mythology by re-telling part of the story of the legendary Irish warrior Cúchulainn.
Like all Suidakra CDs, ‘Crógacht’ is short and sweet, clocking in at only 41 minutes with just 7 full songs accompanied by an intro and interlude. Like a lot of melodic death metal acts though, Suidakra pack an awful lot into their songs, and the short running time strikes a fine balance to maintain the complexity of the songs without overloading the listener and eventually forcing the attention to wander.
While the fact that there is only one guitarist recording all the parts is effectively unnoticeable (Antonik is a superb lead player – just check out that solo that simply explodes out of nowhere on “Conlaoch”) as should be expected, clean vocals are utilised less on ‘Crógacht’ than on other Suidakra CDs. Not a job Antonik is used to, his melodic singing appears only in short passages rather than the extended sections and entire songs that Schoenen would provide, and is usually multi-tracked into a miniature choir of sorts.
It should come as no surprise then that “Feats of war”, the song featuring only clean singing (every Suidakra CD usually has at least one) introduces a guest vocalist. Tina Stabel may be playing the part of a character in the story, but her presence is quite a convenient one, taking the onus off of Antonik for what is an anticipated aspect of the CD.
The song is a rather basic arrangement, the same chords quite predictably running from acoustic to electric, but it offers a brief respite from the full-pelt nature of the rest of the music. The only complaint I could raise is that Stabel’s voice is a little too sweet and welcoming considering the character being portrayed is that of the warrior woman Scáthach, but that is a minor gripe.
The rest of the songs certainly compensate for the simplistic nature of this one, with many switching up levels of intensity and swaying between melodious and scowling rage several times in their condensed lengths. Not least among these is “Isle of Skye” (sorry, “Oisle of Skoye”, going by the hilarious Irish accents in the bridge), which starts off sounding like a fairly merry, pipe-led tune before tearing into a real melodeath galloper and then lightening up again considerably towards the end.
For coming at such an important point in their career, ‘Crogacht’ actually sees Suidakra carrying on without missing a beat. Another strong CD in a catalogue of strong CDs, the presence of Marcel Schoenen is definitely missed, but not to the point of damaging the music. The remaining band members and Kris Verwimp have carried on regardless and plugged the gaps admirably. Established fans should be more than satisfied, and newcomers will be cursing themselves for taking so long to pick up on this underappreciated band
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Suidakra has been a revelation in the folk metal genre and they haven’t disappointed. Crógacht is the ninth studio album written by this trio and it kicks ass from the word go. The highlander bagpipes permeate the air from the word go. “Slan” is a superb intro to the album, and prepares the listener for a barrage of Suidakra’s heavy and pulsating guitar work paired with Scottish bagpipes which goes hand in hand with the heavy overdriven guitars. The tracks here are brutally heavy and lack nothing, as Arkadius drills out some ferocious riffing along with the occasional solos. Another brilliant factor which makes Suidakra such a prolific band is the drumming which is tight as fuck, efficient and not overdone. Superb fills to effervescent dual kick drum work to excellent snare work; this album is really brilliant as the drumming is up to the mark.
The song writing – when you put together Suidakra and the words song writing, you’re pretty much in for a treat as the songs are very well written and there’s never a moment where you feel that a song is incomplete. “Conlaoch” has an extremely catchy bagpipe part and the absence of a keyboard hasn’t really stopped this band from incorporating the classical bagpipes to compliment the guitars. The clean sections are quite captivating, with a bit of piano work involved to soothe those bleeding ears. “Shattering Swords,” starts of with some acoustic guitar work but then moves into harsh, ballistic guitar and drum territory with some insane drum work and the lethal vocal of Arkadius belting out the words “Haste thee to the battle, Hear Aoife’s war-cries echoing And the swords that she’s shattering.”
I must admit that Arkadius does a decent job on the clean vocals, which I believe he wasn’t in charge of since Suidakra had a backing guitarist who provided the clean vocals. “Ár Nasc Fola,” is an acoustic driven track, which gives the listener a break from the onslaught of heavy guitar, bass and drum work. Another prominent element is the guitar solos which are incorporated in some songs. To my knowledge, solos were not really played in Suidakra’s songs but now that they have been integrated, they seem quite decent and catchy. Overall, this is a heavy, heavy album and is well produced, well written and Suidakra has proved that folk metal with Gaelic influences does have a place in this world where chugga-chugga wiffs have taken over along with incoherent blastbeats. Kudos to the Suidakra team.
Standout tracks: Shattering Swords, Conlaoch, Scáthach, Gilded Oars and Isle of Skye.
First and foremost, I need to say that this CD would have gotten a 100 rating if it had not been for the scant, but still present "locker room 'folk' chants" in a couple of the tracks.
I am a huge fan of layers upon layers upon layers of guitars and instruments harmonizing rhythms and leads. I've always hoped and wished for more bands to experiment with "excessive" harmonies and layering (Betray My Secrets, and Saturnus' "Martyre" release were two of the first).
Matter of fact, I'm not sure it's possible to overdo when it comes to layering harmonies. I layer an awful lot in my own music, myself (Vinculum Terminatii). Suidakra has really pushed the fold on this CD, however, exceeded all attempts before them, and it's absolutely brilliant. Right from the first couple of seconds of track 2, "Conlaoch", you know you're in for something special. The production dwarfs metal-release-giants such as Dominia (Russia)'s "Divine Revolution", and Dimmu Borgir (Norway)'s 2001 "Puritanical..." release - which says a lot, because both are HUGE sounding. The band manages to harmonize what could be a dozen guitar tracks with bagpipe tracks, and not have it sound hokey.
What needs to be pointed out is that I got this disc on a whim. I never liked Suidakra, quite frankly. I have big issues with just about anything power metal (AKA flower metal, AKA poser metal) and most folky stuff, because both tend to be, well, very hokey. This disc, for the most part, is epic without being hokey, or gay. There are a ton of great riffs on the CD, and despite some drunken bathhouse chants and a silly short track with some broad singing something useless, it's almost a cover to cover release. Gaelic folk influenced bands like Hollenthon and Eluveitie are probably rethinking their approach after hearing this. Even truly Irish bands like Primordial (who I personally can't bear to listen to, for the record) surely will.
Now, for a disc to get a rating in the 90s, it pretty much has to have no low spots. The riffing and harmonies make up for almost all of the low points of the disc, however. There seems to always be a part coming up at some point in the CD that keeps you there - keeps you interested. "Scathach", "Shattering Swords", and "Bailes Strand" are other high points on the disc. TA mere two months into 2009 and I sit and wonder how a band could top this, because it's that giant of a release. Kudos, Suidakra, you really made your mark. This disc is definitely an extreme metal classic right out of the gate. Bravo.