Skiltron - The highland way 4/5

Reviewed: 11-1-10


1. Bagpipes of war
2. Beetween my grave and yours
3. One way journey
4. Awaiting your confession
5. A last regret
6. The bonfire alliance
7. Storm in Largs
8. St. Patrick’s death
9. Through the longest way
10. Join the clan
11. For those who have fallen in battle

Seemingly unconcerned by a lack of label support, Skiltron are showing no signs of slowing down just yet, and continue their relentless bagpipe-wielding assault with their 3rd CD in just under 4 years.

‘The highland way’ is a CD that will provide few surprises for an experienced listener of the band, but rather sees a smooth continuation of the red-hot form they hit with ‘Beheading the liars’ back in 2008. Their Scottish-themed anthems remain vibrant and recognisable among much competition in the current arena and stand out from the bustling crowd with deceptive ease due to their less conventional melding of folk music with galloping speed/power metal.

Diego Valdez has really settled into his role as vocalist on his 2nd outing with the band, his powerful voice the battle cry that leads the rest of his team mates forward, and the soaring choruses are often the thing that kicks the songs up a notch from good to great.

The only notable change to their established way of doing things is one that maybe isn’t immediately apparent, as the rock-hard speed/power metal foundation of their style remains intact, but nonetheless makes for slightly different listening experience. Having kept the line-up down to a comparatively slender 6-piece following the departure of a couple of their instrumentalists, the bagpipes are now more than ever the focal point of the band’s style, and enjoy an even bigger share of the featured traditional instrument slot than before.

Always the most prominent aspect of the Skiltron sound, the pipes nevertheless enjoy an even more significant role in the songs, while still managing to avoid the curse of completely swamping them, something too many modern folk metal bands seem unable to avoid when it comes to making use of non-metal instruments. The trick of course is variety, and the band make sure that Pablo Allen is utilised in an assortment of roles, be it playing the lead instrument, adding extra textures to the chorus or standing aside altogether when the guitarists want to show off their not-inconsiderable chops.

Allen has also taken over whistle duties, and the instrument still contributes significantly to some of the songs, but the violin has more or less fallen by the wayside. Superficially it may appear to make little differences, but fans of the first 2 CDs will notice the subtle differences and the continuation of the band’s gradual march towards finally locking their folk and metal sounds together seamlessly.

Of course the pipes, whistles and whatever else would be nothing without a solid groundwork to build from, and this is the area where Skiltron have always excelled and, as I have always maintained, they would make for a solid band even without all the outlandish trappings. Switching up between crushing speed metal attacks and more expansive epics where acoustic guitars and mandolins add extra flavour, ‘The highland way’ is a CD that is expertly paced with a natural ebb and flow to the songs, shifting up and down the gears at all the right moments to ensure a cohesive listen.

Hitting a hat-trick of exellent releases right from the off is no mean feat, especially when you consider the compressed time period and DIY route Skiltron have been forced into following. They may not explore any new avenues with CD number 3, but they’d be mad to start tinkering with such a successful formula when there is clearly so much left for them to reap from it.




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