Suidakra - Crogacht 4/5
3. Isle of Skye
5. Feats of war
6. Shattering swords
7. Ar nasc fola
8. Gilded oars
9. Baile's strand
Arkadius Antonik and his Suidakra cohorts have been doing their thing for quite a while now, a constant presence since the mid-90s when their mix of metal and folk melodies was an altogether rarer beast than it is in this day and age.
Despite the intricate medieval melodies woven deep into their music, Suidakra have never really been a full-blown folk metal outfit, but rather a melodic death metal act with strong traditional influences. Historically, their CDs would be entirely metal songs laced with epic melodies and the odd acoustic song or interlude breaking things up. The most recent CD, 'Caledonia', saw them take their Celtic leanings a little further, and the increased folk elements are retained on ‘Crogacht’ with Axel Römer again performing bagpipe and whistle arrangements.
A more recent band that fall under the same sort of category are Eluveitie, but Suidakra are a completely different kettle of fish. Despite the constant blasting drums and heavy riffs, their brand of melodic death metal is on the power metallish end of the scale, a far cry from the more mechanical Gothenburg style of the Swiss band, and they don’t rely on a plethora of outlandish instruments to provide the colour in their songs.
Though largely avoiding any great hype over the years, Suidakra’s output has always been consistent and well received, though anyone with a grasp of the band’s history will know that this 9th CD will be an important one in their career. Though in and out of the band over the years, 2nd guitarist and clean vocalist Marcel Schoenen has, with the exception of 2005’s experimental (to put it nicely) ‘Command to charge’, featured on every Suidakra CD to date. Despite taking Tim Siebrecht of Sleeping Gods out on tour as a replacement, Antonik has made the rather bold decision to record nearly all guitar and vocal parts himself for ‘Crogacht.’
Despite being the main vocalist over the years, Antonik generally left the writing of the band’s lyrics to Schoenen, leaving a rather large gap in the creative process. In another unexpected move, the duty of writing the CD’s lyrics has been turned over to the band’s cover artist Kris Verwimp, who immerses himself in the Suidakra fascination with Celtic mythology by re-telling part of the story of the legendary Irish warrior Cúchulainn.
Like all Suidakra CDs, ‘Crogacht’ is short and sweet, clocking in at only 41 minutes with just 7 full songs accompanied by an intro and interlude. Like a lot of melodic death metal acts though, Suidakra pack an awful lot into their songs, and the short running time strikes a fine balance to maintain the complexity of the songs without overloading the listener and eventually forcing the attention to wander.
While the fact that there is only one guitarist recording all the parts is effectively unnoticeable (Antonik is a superb lead player – just check out that solo that simply explodes out of nowhere on “Conlaoch”) as should be expected, clean vocals are utilised less on ‘Crogacht’ than on other Suidakra CDs. Not a job Antonik is used to, his melodic singing appears only in short passages rather than the extended sections and entire songs that Schoenen would provide, and is usually backed to good effect by the 16-strong choir the band have hired to add some extra graniosity to proceedings.
It should come as no surprise then that “Feats of war”, the song featuring only clean singing (every Suidakra CD usually has at least one) introduces a guest vocalist. Tina Stabel may be playing the part of a character in the story, but her presence is quite a convenient one, taking the onus off of Antonik for what is an anticipated aspect of the CD.
The song is a rather basic arrangement, the same chords quite predictably running from acoustic to electric, but it offers a brief respite from the full-pelt nature of the rest of the music. The only complaint I could raise is that Stabel’s voice is a little too sweet and welcoming considering the character being portrayed is that of the warrior woman Scáthach, but that is a minor gripe.
The rest of the songs certainly compensate for the simplistic nature of this one, with many switching up levels of intensity and swaying between melodious and scowling rage several times in their condensed lengths. Not least among these is “Isle of Skye” (sorry, “Oisle of Skoye”, going by the hilarious Irish accents in the bridge), which starts off sounding like a fairly merry, pipe-led tune before tearing into a real melodeath galloper and then lightening up again considerably towards the end.
For coming at such an important point in their career, ‘Crogacht’ actually sees Suidakra carrying on without missing a beat. Another strong CD in a catalogue of strong CDs, the presence of Marcel Schoenen is definitely missed, but not to the point of damaging the music. The remaining band members and Kris Verwimp have carried on regardless and plugged the gaps admirably. Established fans should be more than satisfied, and newcomers will be cursing themselves for taking so long to pick up on this underappreciated band.
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