Cruachan – “Nine Years Of Blood” (Trollzorn)
‘…the English are upon us, let us drive them from our lands!!..’ Epicly bringing their grandiose 3 album trilogy to a close after 9 years, Ireland’s founding fathers of Celtic metal deliver it spectacularly on the rousing and rebellious “Nine Years Of Blood”! Formed in the early 90s and musically drawing from the Celtic rock of Horslips, Tolkien inspired black metal and the folk metal of Skyclad, Cruachan as you might’ve guessed, are deeply inspired by Ireland’s own history, its often bloody struggles and ancient mythology. Beginning with 2011’s “Blood On The Black Robe” followed by “Blood For The Blood God” in 2014, the trilogy is based on actual history, namely The Nine Years’ War that took place in Ireland from 1593 to 1603. With many of the 12 songs on “Nine Years Of Blood” titled after factual figures like Hugh O’Neill (the Earl of Tyrone) and real events like The Battle of the Yellow Ford in 1598 and the final Flight of the Earls in 1607, this trilogy has had plenty to drawn from, and it certainly doesn’t hold back in terms of its passion and aggression, but equally it’s still rebellious tone as led by frontman founder multi instrumentalist Keith Fay. Employing the full measure of black, folk and naturally Celtic metal through varying styles including ambient pieces and instrumentals using modern and traditional instruments like the mandolin, bodhrán, tin whistles, violin, cellos and bowed bass, history is brought to life vividly through the rich compositions thanks to the mastery of the musicianship. However, it’s the unbelievable passion and spirit of Fay and his boys that really makes the difference to the powerful performances throughout this amazing album, making you not just feel the emotions of that time, but going as far as thinking you are actually there in that Elizabethan period – now, not too many albums do that! From ‘Blood And Victory’ dripping in black blood through its heavy, slashing decadent riffs and wailing pagan fiddle, ‘Queen Of War’ with its raging drums and epic guitars, you are immersed in those harsh times as Fay tells the tales through his impassioned vocals. Slowing down a tad with Thin Lizzy like guitar melodies and that irresistible fiddle is ‘Cath na Brioscaí’, which soon becomes a full battle like canons firing through thick metallic riffs very much making for a film score piece such is its epic grandeur. Continuing on ‘The Harp, The Lion, The Dragon and The Sword’ the mood is period thanks to the theatrical and folk sounds, although the double bass drumming and Fay’s own blackish screams in between the rich melodies soon bring the reality of the horrors of the conflict, estimated at around 100,000 dead to the senses. With the sombre ‘The Siege Of Kinsale’ signalling defeat as told by the dark drums, wailing fiddle and Fay’s melancholia, the English victory was clear with the rebellious earls fleeing abroad, their estates swallowed by the Crown, and setting the future of the English and Scottish colonisation of Ulster. An utterly incredible experience from start to finish, if history be told then let it be done the Cruachan way.