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Renaissance Faire Metal! - 91%

JoeCapricorn, August 29th, 2006

I mean that title in a good way too!

What we have here is a sweet concoction of Celtic folk mixed with a little thrash metal, a little black metal, and a dash of heart! I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d expect when I found this at my friend’s shop at the flea market.

The album starts off with a solemn introduction courtesy of the uilleann pipes, before increasing the tempo to a faster, happier tune that reminds me of the Renaissance Faire. Then the power kicks in with Voice of the Morrigan’s catchy riffs, energetic flutes, and the sweet voice of Karen Gilligan. The Fianna is a slower tune, but still provokes a head bang before it fades out and allows A Druid’s Passing to take over my speakers. This song is another soft tune, but a beautiful song that wouldn’t be out of place sitting among my Celtic collection.

Is Fuair An Chroí is a weakspot of this album, and the first bump on the road. It’s okay for an indie-rock song, but at first it seems a bit out of place in a Celtic metal album. Midway through the song it gets a little better with the flutes and more of a heavier sound mixed with more folk instruments such as the bones. Cattle Raid Of Cooley (Táin Bó Cuailgne) is a track that makes up for the minor pitfall of the previous song. It’s an instrumental, and the guitars, bass and drums that form the body of heavy metal does not sound out of place at all with the folk instruments used.

The Middle Kingdom is a combination of folk music and black metal, with the light and gentle flutes dancing among the heavy guitars and the growls of John Clohessy. This track in particular reminds me of another band called Therion that combines a genre over a century old with heavy metal and does an excellent job doing it. Óró Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile is a faster thrashier song with a melodic sweet center that starts a steady build up of energy as it ends the song with Clohessy chanting the title.

Unstabled was another minor weakspot, with parts of the song with a seemingly reggae/ska style with folk metal mixed in like an out of place bonus track. Butterfly is the instrumental ending the album proper, and for such a great album the ending could’ve been better. It wasn’t bad at all, I just think it could’ve used some uilleann pipes to end it off. The bonus track To Hell Or To Connaught is a bit heavier, but it still retains some of the folk metal elements. I liked it, although it wasn’t anything memorable.

Highs: Celtica (Voice of the Morrigan), The Fianna.

Lows: Is Fuair An Chroí and Unstabled.

Overall, this album is excellent in terms of originality, complexity, and catchiness. It is not an album for those who just want to bang their head to death metal with brutal growls, so one must appreciate the genre of music outside of the metal realm that went into this album. Despite a rather noticeable lack of guitar solos, that is made up for the complexity and style of all the folk instruments that went into this creation.

Next time I go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, I can bring this disc along and play it on the way.