"Blood On The Black Robe"

By Lord Randall

Keith Fay is pissed. As much as I'd like to think it's because I didn't appreciate CRUACHAN's "The Morrigan's Call" to its fullest, his anger seems to be fuelled by something deeper. Something he and the rest of the quintet that is now CRUACHAN feel no shame in showing on "Blood On The Black Robe".

While "The Morrigan's Call" flirted with a more rough sound than we'd heard from the band in the past - and did have its share of hopeful moments - it also had a handful of utter clunkers, not the least of which being a robotic run-through of Irish pub mainstay 'The Wild Rover'. That said, from the fading notes of 'To War' to the brash and blade-swinging 'I Am Warrior', CRUACHAN 2011 shows no signs of doing things by rote. There's passion in spades here, and when Fay rages his way through the chorus, it'll be all you can do, Irish or no, to not lift your imaginary pike skyward in hopes of battle won. Historical epics have their say here as well, the tale of the Connolly Column and Frank Ryan being retold in rousing fashion during 'The Column'. The much-missed Karen Gilligan returns on bits of BOTBR, interweaving her ethereal tones amid the ruggedness Fay employs on the mournful 'An Bean Sidhe'.

 As title tracks go, CRUACHAN fans would be hard pressed to find any better in their history than 'Blood On The Black Robe', in which Fay and company rip a page or 3 out of Martin Walkyier's playbook, rapid-fire vocal delivery and uber-heathen sensibilities slamming against CRUACHAN at their most riled up ever (Yes. Ever.) to create a song that can only be called classic pagan metal. Through the sorrowful yet vengeful 'Primeval Odium' we are led, and the folk sensibilities of instrumental 'Brian Boru's March' to find ourselves once more facing Fay at his soul-stirring (there, I said it) best. 'Pagan Hate' is exactly what the title says, taking the eloquence of the title track and shoving it to the side to make way for
a war anthem worthy of Chuchulain himself. The final rallying cry of intended epic 
closer 'The Nine Year War' makes its case for Irish independence from not only one
country, but any invading party.

In short, after the faltering of "The Morrigan's Call", this is the album CRUACHAN had to make. Keith Fay is pissed...and if it takes him being so to create such vital yet entertaining metal, I hope he never has a good day again.