Cruachan - The Middle Kingdom
Hammerheart Records
Folk Metal
11 songs (48'35)
Release year: 2000
Cruachan, Hammerheart Records
Reviewed by Chris

A very original and surprising release indeed. I must say that during first listens I wasn't sure if in the end I'd love it or hate it. But it just because it's quite unusual metal. I dunno if Folk Metal is the right term, but it's what it really makes me think of.

It starts with a bagpipe (hope it's the right word, that Irish instrument you know :) ) intro. We'll, although I like the first 10 seconds, the rest of it just kills my brain cells slowly but surely. I guess you must be a fan of it to really enjoy, don't get me wrong I usually like this instrument when used in the back but not only it and for such a long time (4 fucking minutes !).

But after the pain comes the reward, and if you survive the intro you'll gonna like what follows. It starts pretty fast, real heavy metal with lots of folk instruments (flute, harp,...) in the back and also some very good keyboard arrangements. The riffs are heavy, very heavy and the overall is really something "new". The vocal is taken care by a girl, she have a cool voice but sings too rapidely to really enjoy her talent sometimes, too bad. The songs are filled with long symphonic parts, very nicely done, usually calming the atmosphere. Some songs reminds of fairytales, like Rhapsody use to do. The guy singing starting track 8 should really have stayed in bed that day... he killed a perfectly cool song :), the worse part is that after his "singing" (if it was the entented action) the music gets very nice with some good discreet backing vocals, but then again he starts to sing and you wish you could do something to stop him.

What's really interesting is that you have many "style" of metal within the already original and unusual music of Cruachan... you can find some Rock, Heavy-Metal, Death Metal (backing vocals on 7th song) and some grungy moments as well, but everything is nicely put into place and you will be surprise by the path the song will take. Sometimes you'll really think you're in the middle age listening to campfire music and sometimes you'll think you're in a gig, just wanting to headbang. I know the thought can sound crazy but what can I say :).

It's really an interesting album and it just proves that metal can be mix with whatever other music style, just demonstrating again that metal is a universal music style. The production is okay, nothing thrilling about the metal sound, but the atmosphere, the arrangements and the background symphonic parts really deserves a big bravo cause they are excellent ! As for the male vocal, they pretty much sucks big time as far as I'm concerned and I think the band should let the girl sing. A very nice release to try if you're open-minded.

Killing Songs :
Difficult to say... some moments can be perfect though !
Chris quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Cruachan that we have reviewed:
Cruachan - Blood on the Black Robe reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Cruachan - The Morrigan's Call reviewed by Ross and quoted 95 / 100
Cruachan - Pagan reviewed by Jay and quoted 72 / 100
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