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Sunday Old School: Cruachan

Those of you who follow international football (or soccer, if you insist,) you will probably know that less than two hours ago, the Republic of Ireland were eliminated in the Euro tournament by the host nation, France. While we won't be seeing any more Irish contributions to the Euros, the nation's reputation when it comes to music is outstanding. Irish folk music, along with that of the Middle East, is possibly the best known in the world and the country has produced a number of top rock and metal bands too, with Thin Lizzy probably the most famous example. With kudos in both of these musical styles, it was only a matter of time before Ireland had a world class folk metal band and they arrived in 1992, under the name of Cruachan.

Cruachan came to be following guitarist Keith Fay's endeavours with the J.R.R. Tolkien inspired black metal band, Minas Tirith. He had formed a new group, taking it's name from the capital of the middle ages Irish kingdom of Connachta, after becoming more interested in folk music and hearing how two of his favourite genres could be blended on the debut Skyclad album, "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth." It would be two years before the band recorded material, which surfaced in the guise of the "Celtica" demo in 1994, before a full length album, "Tuatha na Gael" followed the next year through Nazgul's Eyrie Productions.

Though the album was well received by fans of the genre, it suffered badly from poor production, much to the dismay of the band. Despite this setback, the buzz around the record earned them the attention of bigger record companies, with German label Century Media offering Cruachan a deal. Though flattered by the interest, the terms of the contract were practically insulting and so the band passed before deciding to disband in 1997.

Of course, that's not the end of the story. In 1999, Keith Fay brought Cruachan back to life, this time with less black metal influences and signed a record deal with Hammerheart, through whom they released their sophomore full length album, "The Middle Kingdom" in the year 2000. The album proved to be worth the wait for new material, with many fans citing it as their favourite Cruachan record to date and was notable for the presence of vocalist Karen Gilligan, who appeared as a guest but was soon invited to join permanently.

Their presence in mainstream Irish music was given a boost when they recruited Shane McGowan, vocalist of The Pogues, to produce their third album, "Folk-Lore." McGowan also contributed vocals to the covers of, "Spancill Hill" and "Ride On," the second of which was released as a single, which was able to crack the Irish singles chart. Two years after, "Folk-Lore," the band released their fourth album, "Pagan," which also featured a notable contribution, this time from noted fantasy artist John Howe. It's seen by many as the weakest Cruachan album to date, thanks in part to another case of poor production and soon afterwards, the group parted company with their label, Karmageddeon and signed with AFM Records.

Through their new label, the band released their fifth album, "The Morrigan's Call" in 2006. It was certainly better received than it's predecessor, though not quite unanimously praised by fans as some of their earlier work. Not long after the album's release, the group underwent a number of lineup changes, most notably the departure of Karen Gilligan, with Keith Fay becoming the band's sole vocalist from then on.

After demoing new material and contacting record labels, Cruachan signed with the British company Candlelight and released their first album in five years, "Blood on the Black Robe" in 2011. The record was announced as the first of the "trilogy of blood" records and was received very well by fans but promotion for the release was delayed after Keith Fay was brutally assaulted when leaving a Dublin nightclub, suffering from a knife wound and a broken rib among other injuries.

Nevertheless, Cruachan soldiered on and embarked on a world tour in support of "Blood on the Black Robe," which took them everywhere from Chile to Ukraine, though it would prove to be their only album under Candlelight, as the two parties parted ways, leading the group to sign with the smaller, but dedicated folk metal label, Trollzorn Records. Once again in a new home, Cruachan released the second part of the "trilogy of blood," entitled, "Blood for the Blood God," in 2014, which once again has been received very well by fans of the band.

It appears as though this is the final album to feature founding member John Fay however, as the band announced only two days ago that he had decided to retire from the group and therefore they will continue as a quintet. It's sure to be an interesting time for Cruachan after losing such a pivotal piece of their machine, but as a small army of loyal musicans who helped pioneer Celtic metal and become one of folk metal's most beloved bands, there's no doubt they will remain as stong as ever.

Cruachan - "To Invoke the Horned God"

Cruachan - "The Fianna"

Cruachan - "Ride On"

Cruachan - "Pagan"

Cruachan - "The Very Wild Rover"

Cruachan - "An Bean Sidhe"

Cruachan - "Blood for the Blood God"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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1 Comment on "Sunday Old School: Cruachan"

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cbella's avatar

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1. cbella writes:

I have never really listened to much folk metal but they have a few decent songs.
I didn't know that Shame McGowan was involved with them!
Good to see SOS back :)

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