The Middle Kingdom

Cruachan - The Middle Kingdom ©2000 Hammerheart America
1. A Celtic Mourning
2. Celtica (Voice Of The Morrigan)
3. The Fianna
4. A Druid's Passing
5. Is Fuair An Chroi
6. Cattle Raid Of Cooley (táin Hó Cuailgne)
7. The Middle Kingdom
8. Óró Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile
9. Unstabled (Steeds Of Macha)
10. The Butterfly

What do we have here? Flutes, tin-Whistles, bagpipes, uilleann pipes, heavy metal? Cruachan is a band that stands out among the crowd of "fantasy" bands. I hesitate to group them with the fantasy bands if only because they are so much better than the rest and the term "fantasy" music might immediately turn some people off.

I have heard one other band, Ballydowse, that could be classified as progressive Celtic rock / metal. The use of bagpipes with their hauntingly mournful sound seems to fit naturally into a heavy sound. Where other bands play at Celtic folk music, Cruachan deliver the goods in spades. The songs are explained in detail in the liner notes with each having the legend behind it explained. The "authenticity" of the songs and the legends behind them carries over into the music itself. This is not "modernized" celtic music in the vein of "Rockin' the Classics." Rather, you have genuine Celtic melodies written with the individual legends in mind.

On the one hand this leads to a very diverse disc that almost serves as a sampler disc of this type of music. On the other hand, it also makes the disc somewhat disjointed. One song will be a ballad and the next will feature extreme vocals more typically found in death metal. The disjointed arrangement can make the disc a difficult listen when you are used to discs that flow as a unit. But even with this "weakness", if indeed it can be called a weakness, this disc is outstanding. My wife enjoys the Celtic folk music of people like Maddy Prior and Connie Dover. I've always wished that there would be a group that would take that type of song and put some oomph behind it. Cruachan is that group. They play with enthusiasm and Karen Gilligan's vocals are extremely enjoyable. The melding of the traditional Celtic music and heavy metal rhythms is pulled off very nicely.

This is music that has real roots and is extremely well researched. If you've ever had any interest in Celtic music or the legends and lore of the Celts, this disc will serve to further stoke that interest. Very highly recommended!

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 12/2001

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