Friday, March 8, 2002

Review: Cruachan - Folk-Lore (2002)

Cruachan [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]

Cruachan need no introduction in their native Ireland, but metalheads in the U.S. may not have heard their name before. Once a black metal hopeful, they drastically altered their musical style on their sophomore effort, The Middle Kingdom. On that album they began to meld more classic metal styles with traditional Irish melodies, folk songs, and instruments creating what can be described as Celtic Metal (the band prefers the term pagan metal, however). There have been other bands to do so in the past, but none have done it as successfully as the lads (and lass) of Cruachan.

Folk-Lore, the band's third offering, follows in the footsteps of The Middle Kingdom as far as style but shows a slight maturation of melody. The traditional instruments are used frequently, but every song on the album is heavy and emotional. Even the ballad "Ride On", with guest appearance by Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), comes off as one of the heavier tunes on the disc. Lyrically the songs focus exclusively on Irish history and myth, each tune explained in great detail in the disc's accompanying booklet. "The Rocky Road To Dublin" and "Spancill Hill" (the latter sung entirely by MacGowan) are traditional Irish folk tunes adapted quite well to Cruachan's brand of metal.

I would have to say my favorite track on Folk-Lore is the first one, "Bloody Sunday". Inspired by the massacre of innocent Irish civilians by the British Army at Derry on January 30th, 1972, Cruachan's composition is heavy and emotionally powerful. A close runner-up is "Ride On", showcasing both Shane MacGowan's unmistakable voice and the soothing vocals of Karen Gilligan - as well as harsh interjections by Keith Fay.

With all that I have said about their musical change in direction, the Black Metal elements are not entirely absent. The last track on the album, "To Invoke The Horned God", is a remastered version of the song from their debut Tuatha Na Gael. Keith's harsh vocals also appear on several other tunes, either alone or complimenting Karen's beautiful harmonies.

Though there is nothing I dislike about Folk-Lore, I don't think "The Rocky Road To Dublin" was done as well as it could have been. It almost seems as if the arrangement was rushed, resulting in the vocals seeming slightly out of pace with the tempo. Aside from that, I rate this album as one you should definitely purchase. I eagerly look forward to future offerings from these unique musicians, and hope a tour to the U.S. is not too much to wish for!

Track Listing
1 Bloody Sunday
2 The Victory Reel (Instrumental)
3 Death Of A Gael
4 The Rocky Road To Dublin
5 Ossian's Return
6 Spancill Hill
7 The Children Of Lir
8 Ride On
9 Susie Moran
10 Exiles
11 To Invoke The Horned God

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Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Review: Ozzy Osbourne - Down To Earth (2001)

Ozzy Osbourne [ Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter ]
Down To Earth

Ozzy Osbourne, the undisputed Godfather of Heavy Metal, comes at us with his first solo studio album in six years. Joining Ozzy on his eighth album are guitarist Zakk Wylde, bassist Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies) and drummer Mike Bordin (Faith No More) - a lineup that can arguably be considered a super-group. Anyhow, Ozzy has a trademark sound that he has perfected over the years, and Down To Earth sticks to the tried and true formula. This album returns to a heavy sound not heard since No Rest For The Wicked, but the highly polished production takes the edge off slightly. No new directions for the Oz-man on the disc, but it is pure Ozzy that his fans will love.

The second track on the album, "Facing Hell", is probably the best of the disc. Very heavy with just a touch of keys for atmosphere, this tune kicks some serious ass. "Get Me Through" (a very Sabbath-like, heavy, chunky tune), "Alive", and "That I Never Had" keep pace and definitely do not disappoint.

Now, this wouldn't be an Ozzy album without the obligatory ballad or two, and the three on Down To Earth are the best I've heard since "Mama, I'm Coming Home". "Dreamer" is typical introspective Ozzy not only in lyrical content, but on first listen I immediately thought of "Goodbye To Romance". "You Know...(Part 1)" clocks in at just over a minute, but the Beatlesque influences are unmistakable.

Overall I was pleased with Down To Earth. Ozzy has had an illustrious career in the world of heavy metal, but it's still great to see him unleash an album of this caliber (I have to admit that I was worried after Ozzmosis). If I were to have a complaint, it would be about the production. Don't get me wrong, the work is perfect. Problem is, it's too perfect. To much polishing can take the hard edges off, and a metal album needs to retain some of those edges in order to be great.

Track Listing
1Gets Me Through
2Facing Hell
4No Easy Way Out
5That I Never Had
6You Know... (Part 1)
8Running Out Of Time
9Black Illusion
11Can You Hear Them?

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