Skiltron - The clans have united 4/5

Reviewed: 1-26-07


1. Tartan's march
2. By sword and shield
3. Sixteen years after
4. The crusade
5. Rising soul
6. Pagan pride
7. Stirling bridge
8. Gathering the clans
9. Coming from the west
10. Across the centuries

Skiltron may hail from Buenos Aires in Argentina, but given their sound and lyrical content one could be forgiven for assuming they come from somewhere in Europe. Playing Celtic-style folk metal with a strong focus on Scottish history may seem like an odd choice for a band several thousand miles on the other side of the globe, but what really matters is the quality of the songs, and Skiltron sure as hell deliver.

Skiltron's style of folk metal is quite different to many of their contemporaries while most bands in this admittedly broad genre are playing what is essentially a variation on either symphonic power metal or melodic black metal, the music on 'The clans have united' has a much more rudimentary feel, with the base of all the songs (underneath the additional folk arrangements) clearly in 80s metal. The influence of the forefathers of the genre, Skyclad, is quite evident in this sense, as the excesses some modern folk bands are guilty of are notably absent.

The traditional instruments are used constantly, but also tastefully and with considerable restraint. Rather than using keyboards to re-create the sounds or piling them altogether at once, each is usually given its own turn to shine. Perhaps as a statement of intent, the first 3 songs proper on the CD each feature the prominent use of a different folk instrument bagpipes on the first, a tin whistle on the 2nd and a fiddle on the 3rd. It may seem slightly gimmicky, but the use of individual instruments not only shows the thought that has gone into the songs, but also gives the guitars the chance to express themselves properly, which can often be a serious failing of more overblown folk metal acts (Turisas being a prime offender).

Of course the folk elements extend beyond the use of whistles and bagpipes as cosmetic appliances, with the uplifting melodies and jerky, danceable rhythms and rousing choruses one would expect from the genre all present and correct. The CD covers all the right bases, varying from straightforward, punchy efforts to the gentle Celtic ballad "Pagan pride" and the epic, mature instrumental CD closer "Across the centuries". This final track features a variety of instruments and a few tempo changes and perfectly sums up the diverse and thoughtful approach that Skiltron display throughout the CD.

The guitar has a lovely thick tone to it reminiscent of early German speed metal outfits, but also of the more recent movement of power metal bands that have gone back to having a little crunch in their riffs as answer to the expansive symphonic trend of the early 21st century. The similarity to Sabaton's style of riffing is quite apparent, not least in the opening track "By sword and shield", which is very reminiscent of the Swedish band's song "Hellrider".

The speed metal stylings are also quite apparent in the lead playing "Coming from the west" features a great solo duel, and there are some choice harmony sections scattered throughout the CD. "Sixteen years after" features a brilliant twist on this when the guitar suddenly harmonizes with the tin whistle! Very unexpected, but also executed well enough not to sound utterly ridiculous.

Little quirks like this are what separate Skiltron somewhat from many other bands in their genre, and it gives them at least a hint of that unique identity every metal band dreams of finding. While not a perfect CD (a little more speed and aggression here and there would help them out no end), 'The clans fave united' is a very enjoyable release that is suited both to folk metal enthusiasts and power metal fans looking for something a little different than the norm.




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