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Music Review: Suidakra – Crogacht

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Suidakra formed back in 1994. Sixteen years later I have been introduced to them. It's a meeting that was a long time coming, as I am sure they were working on honing their craft, sharpening their battle-axe of song in the event they would cross my path. Conversely, I was working on taking my writing to the next level as I worked hard, oblivious of their efforts to get my attention. Of course I am kidding. In all seriousness, I was not aware of Suidakra until I was given the chance to spin their ninth and most recent album, Crogacht. And it is a very good album, one that I have no problem recommending.

Call them melodic death metal, call them folk metal, call them Celtic metal, call them pagan metal. I don't think it really matters, although I tend to lean towards folk metal. Hailing from Germany, Suidakra has a strong affection for Celtic folk, a genre I have always been intrigued by but have had a disturbing lack of experience with. Before this point, the only acts I could cite as being in the genre were In Extremo and Finntroll. Interesting bands both, and now I can add a third to the mix.

It is not often that I hear banjo, flute, and bagpipes in metal. I must say that bagpipes in metal is pretty darn cool. The first example I recall of that was with Korn, who I know are not exactly metal, folk or otherwise, but they are heavy and did not shy away from bringing the bagpipes out when it may not have been considered all that cool in the mainstream. The bagpipes appear a few times throughout Crogacht, and each time they appear, they work exceptionally well.

Crogacht, which translates as "Bravery," is a concept album centered on the mythological Celtic hero, Cuchulainn. He is the son of gods and has been compared to Achilles for his battle rage. What this album ultimately says about him I do not know as I do not always understand the vocal. Despite that, singer Arkadius Antonik does have a pretty good growl to his voice that also clears up for some very folksy and melodic, clean singing.

Suidakra have a very strong sense of melody. Yes, there are some heavy, brutal elements to their music but through it all runs a very discernible melodic stream. This stream flows straight through the album's 42 minutes. There is an ebb and flow to this concept album that helps carry you through the river of riffs. There is a build up to the heavy moments before fading back down into softer melodic passages.

The album opens with the instrumental, "Slan." The nearly two-minute piece is comprised of piano, strings and bagpipes, with guitar and drums slowly rising as it builds into the first proper song of the album, "Conlaoch." The heaviness really kicks in with the double bass and heavy guitar. Melody is kept up with the continued presence of the bagpipes.

There are a few tracks that truly step up the epic nature of the concept album and it is these songs that elevate the whole project. Among the highlight songs are "Isle of the Skye," the acoustic-driven "Feats of War" (featuring the vocals of Tina Stabel), and the final duo of "Gilded Oars" and "Baile's Stand."

It is not really a great album, however. Despite its melodic pathway none of it is all that memorable. It is definitely put together with skill and the band certainly have their chops, but something is missing. Don't get me wrong, Suidakra has certainly crafted a solid album; there is just something I cannot quite put my finger on. There are a couple of songs I am likely to pull out for playlists, but I won't likely spend a lot of time listening to the entire album. I was not hooked in, not completely anyway.

Bottomline. By all means, give this a listen; it is not bad by a long stretch. It is a solid excursion into metal with bagpipes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Strong musicianship, solid songwriting, and crisp production all add up to a good time with a band I admittedly know little about.

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