The Morrigan's Call
9/28/2007 - Review by: Etiam
Cruachan - The Morrigan's Call - 2007 - AFM Records
|Track Listing:1. Shelob|
2. The Brown Bull of Cooley
3. Coffin Ships
4. The Great Hunger
5. The Old Woman in the Woods
7. The Morrigan's Call
8. Téir Abhaile Riú
9. Wolfe Tone
10. The Very Wild Rover
12. Diarmuid and Grainne
With a recording history of nearly 15 years and four previous full-lengths, Cruachan today enjoy an elite status in the folk metal circle and continue to be one of the genre’s most distinctive and iconic groups. Although every band in the genre is obviously going to incorporate some folk elements, few do so as consistently and prominently as Cruachan, who wear their Irish roots boldly on their sleeves. Featuring both male and female vocals, extensive folk instrumentation, numerous historical elegies, and an array of traditional song interpretations, Cruachan are undoubtedly one of their genre’s most consummate entries.
However, to be blunt, none of these traits can prevent the band’s fifth full-length, ‘The Morrigan’s Call’, from being a dry and ultimately disappointing album. The band’s rustic approach to their songwriting and delivery have in the past given them a flavor of authenticity, but on ‘The Morrigan’s Call’ that flavor turns sour. The team of Keith and John do a fine job integrating metal and folk, as always, but beyond that their songwriting lacks consistency and focus. The album’s mood can shift drastically from one song to the next, from quaint to aggressive to nostalgic and back again, which makes getting into its progress rather difficult.
Folk metal played with the raucous punch of pagan metal is refreshing, but there is a line between raucous and messy that Cruachan have crossed. Cruachan have never been the slickest of groups, but ‘The Morrigan’s Call’ sounds particularly careless, both instrumentally and vocally. The moderate amount of harsh vocals are fitting enough, but the clean vocals of Karen Gilligan in particular are often discordant, sounding rushed and unrehearsed.
If all this were done with an ulterior motive—such as the spirit of punk, where such traits are desirable—‘The Morrigan’s Call’ would be a more enjoyable album. However, despite its namesake, the undertone of this album is thoroughly upbeat. For example, although ‘Shelob’ does begin with a sinister scream, Karen’s innocuous verse soon comes in, along with a bouncy melody that grinds along like a hurdy-gurdy; when the harsh vocals return, they sound almost as comical as the passage that came before them. The band’s take on the traditional jig, ‘The Very Wild Rover’, is another example. Although comparing covers is arguably unfair, it is nigh impossible to listen to Cruachan’s version without recalling Týr’s, which is significantly more compelling.
It is not that Cruachan are faulted for their joviality, since folk metal is probably metal’s most consistently playful genre and deservedly so; it is simply that ‘The Morrigan’s Call’ has missed the mark. It ‘zigged’ where it should have ‘zagged’, so to speak. It is unlikely that the band’s reputation and free-ranging approach to their music will suffer for this one misstep, but any more in this vein may have some fans wishing that they could shorten Cruachan’s leash.