SuidAkra – Crógacht (2009, SPV/Wacken Records)
- Isle Of Skye
- Feats Of War
- Shattering Swords
- Ár Nasc Fola
- Gilded Oars
- Baile’s Strand
Arkadius Antonik – Vocals & Guitars
Marcus Riewaldt – Bass
Lars Wehner – Drums
Producer: Martin Buchwalter
Total Time = 41:18
I have to plead complete ignorance because I have never heard anything by Suidakra until Crógacht. The band has been around for about 15 years but their brand of Medieval/Pagan/Celtic Metal mixed with the ferocity of Black and Death Metal really isn’t my thing. I decided to do some research on the band, put the new album on, and keep an open mind.
Crógacht means “bravery” and it is a concept album based on a mythological Irish story of Cuchulainn and his journey to the Isle Of Skye to learn the arts of warfare. In keeping with the storyline, the music is a combination of Celtic Folk music mixed with the brutality of Blackened Metal. There are a variety of instruments used in addition to the guitars, bass and drums: banjo, bagpipes, keyboards, flutes and other woodwinds. The vocals flow in and out of aggressive tones to a clean style along with big choral arrangements and there is even a guest female vocalist (Tina Stabel) on ‘Feats Of War’. The music has a very “epic” feel to it and I can only compare the sound to maybe Týr, Heidevolk, or Turisas with an element of the Renaissance from Blackmore’s Night.
The opening instrumental ‘Slán’ sounds traditional Celtic with the bagpipes moving into a quieter melody but that just leads straight into the searing guitars of ‘Conlaoch’, complete with the Black Metal vocals and machine gun drumming but with a choral background and bagpipes infiltrating the assault. ‘Isle Of Skye’ slows down a little but it’s still fast and has the same feel as ‘Conlaoch’, same goes for ‘Scáthach’ but the intensity is revved up once the bagpipes cut out. I have to admit that I’m surprised I’m enjoying this so far but this is a lot to take in and it’s not my genre of choice. A major curveball is thrown in with ‘Feats Of War’ when Tina Stabel takes over the vocals and the band does their best Blackmore’s Night imitation. The character Stabel is playing is Scáthach, a Scythian warrior who teaches Cuchulainn the art of combat, the feats of war. I honestly didn’t expect the pure Medieval/Folk acoustic style with clean female vocals and no hint of Metal.
An acoustic melody opens ‘Shattering Swords’ but it is quickly replaced with blistering guitars and Antonik’s harsh vocals but Tina Stabel guests briefly on this song as well but a little more aggressive. ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ is an instrumental that is rooted in Celtic tradition complete with the bagpipes, flutes, acoustic guitars and marching style drums. All I could honestly think of was the movie Braveheart because it had that epic feel to it. The overall Celtic melodies are also present in the melodic but intense ‘Gilded Oars’, the band shifting gears again into an all out sonic attack. About halfway through, the tempo changes and there is a spoken word/choral arrangement but it leads straight back into the churning guitars with bagpipes augmenting the sound. The final song is also Crógacht’s longest at 7+ minutes, ‘Baile’s Strand’ is a mix of all the styles the band has used thus far with a choral background and a blend of keyboards, piano, and the ever present bagpipes. If you had to listen to one song to get a feel for the overall sound of Crógacht than this would be it. It has the instrumentation and performance that defines the record and shows Suidakra’s various musical personas.
Knowing nothing of Suidakra, I expected the worse, I’m not a fan of Black Metal and the aggressive vocal style and the addition of Folk metal had me a little puzzled. After repeated listens to Crógacht, I realized that there is so much more to the Suidakra sound…..their use of traditional Celtic folk music to enhance their Metal is very well done. I really didn’t follow the story as much and I thought the instrumental ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ was slotted too close to the non-Metal Renaissance faire styled ‘Feats Of War’, both songs breaking up the Metallic groove the band was in. It’s small complaint on an overall solid album. I’m not really sure that I would give this a lot of extra time, it’s not really my thing, but fans of both Black and Pagan/Viking Metal will want to give this a listen.
Favorite Songs: ‘Shattering Swords’, ‘Baile’s Strand’, ‘Gilded Oars’, ‘Conlaoch’ and, for a change of pace, ‘Feats Of War’