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Suidakra - "Book of Dowth" (CD)

Suidakra - "Book of Dowth" CD cover image

"Book of Dowth" track listing:

1. Over Nine Waves
2. Dowth 2059
3. Battle-Cairns
4. Biróg’s Oath
5. Mag Mell
6. The Dark Mound
7. Balor
8. Stone Of The Seven Suns
9. Fury Fomoraigh
10. Otherworlds Collide

Reviewed by on July 3, 2011

"'Book of Dowth' breathes new life into old tales that makes for a commendable concept album, even if it could have used more bagpipe and keyboard."

The art of the telling of ancient stories is somewhat of a lost art in music by and large, but Suidakra has been building a repertoire exploring musty old Irish legends. The last album, "Crogacht," explored the legends of Cú Chulainn and Conlaoch, both of which are tragic myths from the Ulster Cycle of Irish folklore. This time, with "Book of Dowth," Suidakra explores the legend of the book of darkness ("Dowth" translates loosely to "darkness.")

The storytelling spans the entire length of the album, so the lyrics are an essential part of the picture. One would have thought that the vocals would be clearer and better mixed because of this, but they often fall behind the other instruments or aren't pronounced well. Fortunately, if you follow along with the lyrics, it's an exciting listen. You have to follow along, because it's not a simple "there was a wizard and he summoned dark shit" kind of story. Suidakra does a great job of listing the mythology for each song on the band’s website.

The story opens at "Over Nine Waves," bringing the listener to the Otherworld islands beyond the highest wave of the ocean, where the legend will begin to unfold as an archaeology student uncovers and opens the mystic book of Dowth. Bagpipes bring us in and a flurry of metal overtakes us in "Dowth 2059," with lead vocalist/guitarist Arkadius rasping out the story in a blackened death type growl. "Battle-Cairns" tells of Nemedian settlers coming to the island of Erin and being defeated by the native race of hideous creatures. One druid was left behind, whose story is told in "Birog's Oath."

The female clean vocals are a welcome addition, as they were on "Crogacht," and counterpoint the band nicely. The music is dripping with Celtic influence, as it was on the last two albums. With less instrumental hooks than on "Crogacht," the band focuses more on riffing. Drummer Lars Wehner has really stepped up, evident on the lightning-fast mid section and ending of "The Dark Mound," as well as the fills in nearly every song. In fact, most of what makes Suidakra a different beast is due to his drumming and the band's blend of folk and melodic riffing.

"Mag Mell," an acoustic break in an otherwise metal onslaught, tells of a paradise where sickness and death do not hold sway. For a bunch of Germans, the men of Suidakra can pull off Irish folk-style tunes surprisingly well, and even blend them into metal like on "Balor." There's a few gang vocal sing-along parts that make you want to raise your fists. Songs like "Balor" and "The Dark Mound" are easy highlights that build up high and return to balance out in the end.

Still, one wishes there were more hooks on this record, given the extraordinary amount of song-defining melodies on "Crogacht." "Stone of Seven Suns" comes with a great melody opening the song, as well as a fun sing-along gang vocal part. "Fury Fomoraigh" brings the legend back to the year 2059, where these hideous demon-creatures we heard about earlier now are unleashed again after being trapped by the book of Dowth. "Otherworlds Collide" is the fictional ending, with these creatures bringing about a universal implosion. Heavy stuff.

The music is a step up in terms of heavy-ness from "Crogacht" and the band has settled into its official style on this tenth album. "Book of Dowth" breathes new life into old tales that makes for a commendable concept album, even if it could have used more bagpipe and keyboard. This one is for the history books, literally.

Highs: "Balor" and "The Dark Mound"

Lows: Not as many memorable melodic hooks as on previous records.

Bottom line: This is the stuff legends are made of - literally. Irish storytelling meets thunderous epic metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)