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Cruachan - "Blood on the Black Robe" (CD)

Cruachan - "Blood on the Black Robe" CD cover image

"Blood on the Black Robe" track listing:

1. To War
2. I Am Warrior
3. The Column
4. Thy Kingdom Gone
5. An Bean Sidhe
6. Blood On The Black Robe
7. Primeval Odium
8. The Voyage Of Bran
9. Brian Borus March
10. Pagan Hate
11. The Nine Year War

Reviewed by on May 29, 2011

"Tracks such as 'The Voyage of Bran' and 'Brian Boru's March' are folk oriented numbers that should entice feet to tap and renew bad drinking habits."

Ireland’s Cruachan returns with another album of Celtic bard tales titled “Blood on the Black Robe.” Perhaps this album marks a new era for the band. “Blood on the Black Robe” is not so much a new beginning as a return to the blacker days of their 1995 debut “Tuatha Na Gael.” Bands displaying harsh vocals and metalized versions of medieval songs signified the beginning of the worldwide phenomenon known as pagan or folk metal. Cruachan was one of the first bands to fly this flag, and has had plenty of time to perfect this style.

Much to the chagrin of journalists and fans that have followed their descent away from black metal and further use of folk elements, Cruachan has stripped away many of these facets, emphasizing less flute play and female vocals. This doesn’t mean they’ve turned their animal hides away from ethnic music. Tracks such as “The Voyage of Bran” and “Brian Boru’s March” are folk oriented numbers that should entice feet to tap and renew bad drinking habits.

Other than the words of fellow journalists, this scribe’s ignorance of past material results in a different view of “Blood on the Black Robe.” Instead of saturating each song with classical or ethnic instrumentation, these parts mesh well with Cruachan’s metallic arraignments. Here, Cruachan has found a balance that their peers sorely lack.

John Ryan Will’s violin stands apart from the other non-metal instruments. Combined with the boom of a kettledrum, his violin immediately gives the album a Celtic flavor on the first proper track “I am the Warrior.” It also sets the tone for the heavy guitar chords that follow.

“Thy Kingdom Gone” thrives on speedy, churning guitars and hammering drums, but the violin change ups keep the band firmly rooted to their heritage. “Pagan Hate” is a title that lives up to its name. Here, the band performs top-notch black metal. Still, an ensemble of bowed strings makes an appearance.

I hesitate to give “Blood on the Black Robe” such a high score without hearing older material. However, when hearsay is my only point of negativity, I see no reason for denying this album a high score. The group strongly executes both metal and folk arraignments. In this sense, they’ve found the perfect medium. Plus, there is no filler. Other bands of this ilk should look to Cruachan to see how it’s done.

Highs: Rich folk orchestrations and menacing black metal segments.

Lows: Lacks some of the folk magic from prior efforts.

Bottom line: "Blood on the Black Robe" contains no filler and finds the perfect balance between black metal and pagan/folk music.

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)