The Legacy of Cruachan

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The Legacy of Cruachan
By Rory Dubhdara, Young Gael Socialist Vanguard…

Cruachan are an optimal Irish Celtic Metal band, named after the ancient capital of the Irish kingdom of Connacht, and seat of Ailill and Medb (Queen Maeve) in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. The royal site of Cruachan is now known as Rathcroghan, a low mound surrounded by a complex of archeological sites near Tulsk in County Roscommon. A standing stone there is said to mark the grave of Dathí, one of the last pagan High Kings of Ireland. Furthermore, originally, the word "Cruachan" was a name given to a grottoe in Ireland near the site that was fabled by the ancient Druids to be the entrance to the Celtic otherworld; Tir na nOg. When the foreign imperialism of Christianity invaded the sacred groves of Eire, the monks, in a bid to convert the native Heathens to their unnatural cult, claimed the grottoe was the entrance to "hell". Also intriguing is a mountain in Scotland that is also named Cruachan, or Ben Cruachan meaning “highest peak” and is a great name for such a band as well, whose superb Pagan Celtic Rock looms high above the world of mortals like a divine pinnacle to stand as a beacon for all wayfarers wandering in the murky dusk of the post-modern night….Cruachan was created from the death of Black Metal band "Minas Tirith" in Dublin in 1992, by Keith Fay(also known by the Gaelic, non-anglicized surname, Fathaigh). The idea of Cruachan was born from his passion for Celtic music, history and mythology, which he and along with fellow founding band members, John Fay and John Clohessy all wished to blend into their music and  lyrics, in a way which had never been done  with Celtic music prior. Cruachan combine modern rock /metal with traditional Irish music, some of the traditional instruments they use are: Tin whistle, Irish Flute, Bódhran (an ancient hand-held goatskin drum),  Uilleann pipes (or elbow pipes, like the traditional bag pipes, but instead of blowing, a bellows is used to pump air into the bag), Harp, Bouzouki (originally a Greek guitar, it has been adopted into Irish and Scottish music) …..Although Cruachan began with a Black Metal sound, they since have really evolved into a more Celtic Rock sound, with the traditional influence growing with each new heathen hymn. I would say that Cruachan are the Fenian Bards of the 21st century; representing the spirit of Heathen Irish Rebellion and the glory of the Celtic Past and Present….Anyone who hears their indomitable Gaelic sound will be proud of their Irish ancestry! And for those who do not have any Celtic ancestry to speak of, anyone with a free and fierce spirit will nonetheless be moved by this compelling Fenian spiritual tour de force….

Official Cruachan Web Kingdom:

Cruachan “Tuatha Na Gael” CD (Nazgul’s Eyrie):

The legacy of Cruachan begins with their debut album “Tuatha Na Gael” , a CD emblazoned with the Celtic Cross on the disc face and with the bold statement; “This CD is a tribute to the first masters of Europe” on the lyric insert sleeve, and with a majestic painting of primordial Celtia on it’s cover; created by flutist and tin whistler of the band, John O’Fathaigh, brother of lead vocalist and electric guitarist, bodhran and mandolin player, Keith O’Fathaigh. Also complimenting this impressive outfit is their sister Collette on keyboards, Leon Bias on acoustic guitar, mandolin accompaniment and bouzouki, John Clohessy on bass, and Jay O’ Neill on drums. Sitting in as guest musicians are Niamh Hanlon on Uileann pipes and Paul Kerns with backing vocals in “The First Battle of Moytura” and  “Cuchulainn”…
      The Celtic gale of these musical shamans from Dublin begins with “I Am Tuan”, a stirring Uileann pipe instrumental introduction that is a powerful and transcendent tribute to the spirits of ancient Celtia, followed by the Celtic Folk-metal that Cruachan are renowned for in “The First Battle of Moytura”, a legendary tale of the Tuatha De Danann (“the people of the goddess Dana”) descending from the arctic North on magical ships and alighting upon the Emerald Isle sometime in misty prehistory. The Tuatha De Danann  —— a Hyperborean race who arrived from an unknown land that many scholars and mystics have called Thule —— planted the first seeds of what would become Irish culture. When the people of the goddess Dana first arrived, they were    confronted by the indigenous Fir Bolgs, a primitive people believed to have been there since European Man’s first emergence from the caves in the time of the Cro Magnons. “The First Battle of  Moytura” brilliantly captures that legendary war between the invaders of Hyperborea with the aboriginal natives:

"They came here when the sun was high,
The sea was calm to meet them
From out of the wind above the hills,
Came a fleet of godly men
Borne on strong winds from the Otherworld,
Shrouded by magical mists —-
The Tuatha De Danann came in their great magical mystical ships…"

The age-old tale of the indigenous agricultural peoples of Old Europa resisting the nomadic invaders from the North is retold in this saga of two ancient tribal cultures in combat for living space and this Irish tale is but an echo of the legendary war between the Aesir and the Vanir in Norse mythology (this tale is echoed in the conflicts between the Sabines and the Romans, and the Aecheans and the Trojans). This struggle which pitted the Aesir; an aggressive, wandering, war-like and non-settled people who communed with the spirits of the War Gods of the Heavens  —— against the Vanir —— an indigenous agricultural race that worshipped the Gods of the Earth and fertility:

"The terms of battle were laid,
Half of Eireann Breas asked
The Fir Bolg said that can’t be paid,
The time of good will had now passed.
Both sides made plans,
They prepared their wells of healing…"

Of course, inevitably people of the Earth and people of the Sky merge as one and give birth to a new and vibrant Culture and Age, and thus Ireland was born, from the progeny of the victors and the vanquished.

Next, “Maeves March” is a traditional Irish instrumental, with Irish flute, tin whistle and electric guitar accompaniment, a good tune to dance a merry jig to, with a jug of punch in one hand, and a shillelagh in the other...Afterwards, “Fall of Gondolin” is the band’s tribute to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” (and years before the films were even a glimmer in Western consciousness), of that valiant last defense of Gondolin; the stronghold against the peoples of the South; the raceless and faceless swarm of Morgoth:

"The most beautiful city built on Middle-Earth,
It’s splendour was highly acclaimed
The Noldor Elf grew mighty and strong
In the land where Turgon reigned
But now it lay akin to ruins
As fire devoured its insides
The last hope for the Elves who lived,
Was to run and flee and hide,
But Turgon was a noble king-
“That will I not do!”,
He stayed to die with the city
The only one he knew."

Like the last remnants of honor in ancient Rome when the Barbarians of the North invaded, to defend the citadel, like the Slavic defenders of Moscow against the Tartars, the Incan and Mayan leaders defending their ancient temple-cities against the Conquistador horde; to stand the sacred ground of their forefathers,  or the Irish Republicans of the Easter Rising of 1916 defending Dublin against the British Occupation —— standing to fight to the last man, even as the city crumbles around them…

Next, “Cuchulainn” evokes the spirit of the Hound of Culann —— the mortal son of Lugh the Light-hand and famed warrior of the Red Branch of Ulster, whose intestines became food for the ravens and his blood the draught of an otter:

         " The Hound of Culann,
          The Hound of Ulster,
          He is of the Otherworld,
          His father is god Lugh Lamhfada,
          His mother Dectare is mortal…"

    Afterwards, another Celtic tale is recaptured in “Tain bo Cuailgne” —— the Cattle Raid of Cuchulainn and his warriors, in this sped up battle hymn we are taken to that ancient battlefield of Cooley once again, where:

      " I see a battle —— a blond man,
       With much blood about his belt,
      And a hero-halo ‘round his head,
      whole hosts he will destroy
      His jaws are settled in a snarl,
      He wears a looped, red tunic
      In thousands you will yield your heads,
      His form dragonish in the fray

      A giant on the plain I see
     Doing battle with the host,
     Holding in each of his two hands
     Four gore laden battle axes"

      The song is broken up by a slow interlude with the sounds of birds chirping, Irish flute, Bodhran, and tribal drum beats that take you into an oaken grove to commune with hooded Druids performing the ritual sacrifice of the White Bull to the Gods with silver scythes, and then the tune gallops back into the heat of the combat, as the speed accelerates again and then:

" See him hurling against that host
Two gae-bolga and a spear
He towers on the battlefield
In breastplate and red cloak
Across the bladed chariot wheel,
The warped warrior deals death,
That fair form I first beheld,
Melted to a mis-shape.

I see him moving into the fray,
Take warning, watch him well
Cuchulain, Suailtim’s  son!
Making dense massacre

The blood starts from warriors wounds
Total ruin, at his touch
Torn corpses, women wailing
Because of him —- the forgehound."

     Next, “To Invoke the Horned God” is an awesome tribute and evocation of Cernunnos, Celtic God of the Wild —— may his primal spirit return to us and give us the spiritual strength and feral rage to shatter the chains of Judeo-Christian tyranny:

      "Great God Cernunnos, return to Earth again,
      Come at my call and show thyself to men
      Shepherd of goats, upon the wild hills way,
      Lead thy lost flock from darkness unto day

      The Horned God is our Nature deity,
      Yet modern man would from his presence flee

      Forgotten are the ways of sleep and night,
      Men seek for them, where eyes have lost the light
      Open the door —— the door hath no key,
      The door of dreams, whereby men come to thee…"

This tune has a decidedly more Black Metal sound, reminding me of old Mayhem or Darkthrone with heavy Irish traditional influence. A more chthonic and tribal hymn of Heathen prowess is yet to be summoned with the shamanic art that Cruachan so skillfully craft…

    “Brian Boru” follows, a traditional style instrumental that begins as a slow mandolin and tin whistle ditty that picks up speed half way through, rousing you from your seat to batter the floorboards with magical brogues of iron...This tune is a great memorium to the first High King of Ireland, who united the warring tribes of Eire to resist the invasion of the Danes and drive them from their native soil…

   This superb album is completed much like it began, with “To Moytura We Return”, another venerable canticle of Gaelic remembrance, about the noble Tuatha De Danaan and their battles with the indigenous Fomorians:

          "Samhain approached and tensions were high,
         Dagda went to the Fomor to spy
        Breas the dishonoured led a Fomor invasion,
        The Il-Dana won the first battle occasion"

With sacral guidance, the Tuatha de Danaan were to prevail, in Allfather Dagda’s name...Praise and glory to the Folk who remain true to their only true spirit —— the voice of the ancestral blood and the Divine Wisdom of the Gods:

     "Back to Moytura the De Danaan returned,
    They set up camp and the Pagan fires burned.
    The first day of battle was a mighty event,
    Druids were chanting as the scouts forth were sent…

    Nuada killed Indech,
    The king of the Fomor,
    The worm god was unleashed,
    With a taste for war

    Nuada raised his sword of light,
    Against the mighty Cromcruach,
    Balor caught him in his sight,
   Nuada died a hero’s death…"

     To die a hero’s death, that is the pinnacle of Pagan achievement —— whether through war valor and bloodshed or through self-sacrificing for our children’s future, or contributing to the Folk with majestic verse, music or art like that of the Pagan bards Cruachan; nothing can be a stronger last legacy left on the earth, before ascending to the Heavens on Death’s day —— for this gift, we give thanks to artists like Cruachan for giving us a glimpse of this noble legacy left for future generations to dance to...Glory be to Cruachan and the noble spirit of Ireland!

   Cruachan “The Middle Kingdom” CD (Hammerheart):       

This second album by the Folk-Metal Druids from Dublin shows a new line-up with a new sound, to continue the immortal Gaelic legacy of Cruachan… With a new ethereal voice represented by female vocalist Karen Gilligan (who unquestionably dominates this album with her evocative and siren-like vocals) and new drummer Joe Farrell (while Collette Fathaigh and Leon Bias move on to other endeavors apart from the band), this new incarnation of Cruachan shows them as reborn, regenerated and resurgent, with this second Celtic maelstrom beginning with “A Celtic Mourning”, a consummate esoteric Highland bagpipe instrumental combined with Celtic tribal wardrums that gives proper reverence to those who have gone before, especially those Celts of past and present who shed their blood on the battlefields of time so that the verdant green flower of Celtia would not whither, but blossom in the spring of a New Celtic Dawn...This brilliant masterpiece of an album is complimented by liner notes on both the esoteric and exoteric meaning of each song...On the liner notes to the aforementioned track, it is noted that the Celts celebrated death rather than feared it and that their belief in the Immortality of the Soul —— that mysterious and unfathomed source of Eternity that lives on, long after the body decays —— even influenced the ancient Greeks, such as Aristotle and Sotion who said that their own beliefs of an Eternal Soul was learned from the Gauls…

Following, “Celtica (Voice of the Morrigan)” —— is a multifaceted tune that gives tribute both to the War Goddess and Goddess of the Celtic Underworld —— the Morrigan —— and her dark powers —— and also reminds us of the grim reality of modern high-tech warfare and the war-mongers and demagogues that lead mankind down the gory path of destruction (lined with sweet-smelling roses and patriotic jingo) for their own egomaniacal desires:

"His brother’s men at arms
Who he’s known since he was a lad
Lie silent by his side no longer alive

A thousand years have passed
And mankind has stayed the same,
They fight against each other for political gain,
A police state rule —— the government tool,
People live in fear under madman’s rule."

This song keeps a hammering yet harmonious cadence complimented by thundering bass and guitar, haunting keyboards and the eerily stunning voice of Karen Gilligan. This song speaks a universal language to all oppressed people around the world, who know the horror of war and who have experienced the dark side of conflicts spawned by Imperialism and Tyranny first hand; from the people of Northern Ireland, to Tibet, to the Basque of Spain, the Ukranian insurgents resisting the Soviets, the Zapatistas, the Palestinians of the occupied territories, to the resisters of the American invasion of Iraq; this tune is a powerful memorial not just to the soldiers and freedom fighters involved in these struggles, but most of all to the women and children caught in the crossfire…

Next, “The Fianna” is a slow, whispering traditional hymn sung by Karen, and a tribute to the warrior society led by the warrior-seer Fionn Mac Cumhall (Finn Mc Cool) whose legendary exploits even influenced the Knights of the Roundtable of Arthurian Tradition*:

                      "…..from wilderland to western shore,
                      Through dragon lair and hidden door,
                      From Northern waste to southern hill,
                      On darkling woods they walked at will

                     With Fionn and Oisin, dwarfe and man,
                     Bird and bough and beast in den,
                    With warrior-druid folk,
                    In secret tongues they spoke"


                        " A deadly sword, a healing hand,
                          Trumpet voice, a burning brand,
                          Their backs that bent ‘neath their load,
                          Those warriors on the road."

This track picks up speed and volume and ends with a day-dreaming, rumbling guitar solo with tin whistle, Irish flute and mandolin that carries you on ravens wings to the ancestral land of Tir Na Nog with beauty, grace, and power…

Next, “A Druids Passing” is another slow, traditional style hymn that will take you back to the time when Mannanan Mac Lir presided over the ocean, Crom Cruach and the Morrigan vied as Lord and Lady of the Dead, and Dagda, the Celtic Allfather reigned unrivalled as God of the Heavens:

"See the stone circle on the hilltop,
Shining in the light of the moon,
See the druid kneel in prayer,
Praying because his life will end soon
For fifty years he has walked this earth,
For fifty years has known no shame,
Now he knows it’s time to return,
Back to the earth whence he came"

The liner notes to this song brought to mind many intriguing aspects of the Druidic Tradition, chiefly that the Druids had the power to stop wars between rival tribes, and in fact often their power was higher than that of even the High King. Also fascinating is the fact that it was forbidden and even sacrilegious to the Druids to build temples to their Gods or worship them within walls or under roof —— indeed, then, as now, the oaken groves were, and are today —— the best sacred sanctuaries to commune with the Divine….

Afterwards, “Is Fuair an Chroi” is a tune of lost love —— a non-metallic contemporary rock ballad about the stormy relationship of Queen Maeve and King Ailill who dwelt in the castle Cruachan (whence the band gets their name) that still stands in Connaught...Queen Maeve is most well known for her manipulative nature, as it is recorded that the war over the Cattle Raid of Cooley was provoked by her unbridled desire to seize the mystical brown bull of Cooley —— retold in the Tain bo Cuailgne legend. The bards recorded Maeve as the type of woman who had that duplicitous way of wrapping men around her little finger and using them as her tool for self-aggrandizement and power —— this tale is age-old, but most prominently reminds me of the Saga of Njal in Iceland —— wherein Njal’s destruction is also caused by the vindictive manipulation of a vexed wife. As the age-old saying recalls:

                                  “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…”

Following, a luminous traditional instrumental of “Tain bo Cuailgne” (not to be confused with the loud metal song of the same name on the debut album) begins  as a slow reel and then it’s tempo accelerates and incorporates electrical guitar and thundering bass to add a slight rumbling metal influence and takes us on an arduous sojourn to capture that magical brown bull in Queen Maeve’s name…

Next, the album’s title track of fairy-lore and the musical spirits of the ancient burial mounds of the Sidhe are summoned in this mystical tune, where Karen Gilligan’s melodious yet tempestuous voice compliments the feral howling of Keith Fay, and takes us to the Middle Kingdom, where:

                           "….We are of the forest, we are of the earth,
                               Our hands full of knowledge, our ways full of mirth
                               We know all the answers to questions unasked,
                               We live in the light with no fear of the dark,
                               It must be said we have dark evil breeds,
                               Who plague mankind with their mischievous deeds,
                              The Phooka, the Merrow, the wailing Bean-shee,
                             Are hideous creatures as dark as can be…"

Interrupted by the wolf-like vocals of Keith Fay; where he howls with primeval rage, speaking on behalf of those who are:

                 "We who are old, we are revered,
                 born of the earth, immortal and feared…"

      If this part of this grand composition doesn’t cause you to peer outside your bedroom windows for the beady staring eyes of the Sidhe, then the radiant crooning of Karen Gilligan definitively will, when;

             "In the dead of night see us dance on the hills,
            On fiddles and flutes we play jigs and reels,
            The sky is ablaze with a myriad of light,
           Our faerie music is heard through the night,
          We who are old yet fair of face,
          Thousands of years this world did grace,
          But modern man and his cynical ways,
          Are bringing us to the end of our days…"

This subterranean tune will cause you to prance upon a toadstool and cavort upon mossy banks near the river Liffey under an uncanny foggy autumn night sky…

        Afterwards, an amped Gaelic-versed composition “Ord se Bheatha Abhaile”, originally penned by the rebel Padraig Pearse, is a rousing Fenian anthem, and a call to arms for Irish independence; inspired by the 16th century Irish she-pirate, Grainne Ni Mhaille (anglicized as Grace O’ Malley):

             "Hail O bereaved woman
            It was our sorrow you being in fetters
           Your fine heritage in the possession of thieves
           And you held by the foreigners…

           Grainne Ni Mhaille is coming over the sea,
           Armed young men with her as guards
          Gaels themselves not French nor Spaniards
          And they will put a hunt on the foreigners

         Hanks to the king of wonders that I see
        Even if my life ends in but a week
        Grainne Ni Mhaille and a thousand volunteers
        Proclaiming the scattering of foreigners"

      This was the hymn, sung aloud by the valiant volunteers of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) as they marched through the streets of Dublin on Monday 24th of April 1916 —— the legendary Easter Rising for a sovereign independent state for the Irish People, after over 800 years of English occupation. Listening to this lighting sermon of armed rebellion and Celtic Victory shall cause you to shout:

                                                                     Tiocfaidh Ar La!

              Next, “Unstabled (Steeds of Macha)” is a fantastic galloping tune dedicated to the Irish Goddess of the Horse —— Macha —— and her children —— the wild horses who are the last vestige of the ancient equine spirit of Ireland and were revered as Holy Steeds of War. This brisk tune is in a class of it’s own; beginning with a sublime Baroque introduction, and then blending the Celtic Folkmetal style that Cruachan are renowned for with a slight punk rock influence and even some Ska interludes...The Dublin Irish are well-known for mixing many contrasting styles of music successfully, and this song is a fine example of this habit and tradition.

This earthy Emerald yet celestial album is consummated with a great Irish-traditional reel-instrumental“The Butterfly” —— a unique creation of  a band that stand out above all those in the world of Nova Celtia who are taking their active part in the worldwide Gaelic resurgence —— definitely not a band that you shall forget, as their music will leave a lasting impression on your psyche and engrain a new appreciation of the Celtic Spirit on your soul. And not only because most of their traditional songs and reels, are their own creation, not another rendition of older songs —— in fact all lyrics and music on this album are the creation of Cruachan with the sole exception of “Orde’ do Bheatha Abhaile” which was written by Patrick Pearse, of course….Adorned with a spectacular painting of fairy folklore by flutist John O’Faithaigh, and the disc face emblazoned with three Celtic knot-hounds entwined in the ancient sacred circle and the Holy Celtic Cross with lightning bolts of Taranis-might, this second performance by the Shamanic magicians of Celtic Folkmetal is one that will inspire you and inflame you, like the mysteries of Erin herself…

Cruachan “Folk-Lore” CD (Hammerheart):  

The furious Celtic onslaught of the Morrigan continues unabated, with the arousing and provocative Banshee-like wailing of Karen Gilligan, who invokes the spirit of the Summerlands with blood and soul —— and continuing the tradition of Druidic Folkmetal with oldtime bandmates Keith Fay, John Fay (or Fathaigh,which is the Gaelic surname, prior the anglicization) John Clohessy and Joe Farrel, who also introduce guest musicians Diane O’Keefe on cello, Liz Keller on fiddle/violin and Shane Mac Gowan of Pogues/Popes fame in the fold, which really makes this album the best to date, and I must say that introducing Shane Mac Gowan to Cruachan really makes “Folk-Lore” the band’s pinnacle of creation, which would still be a shooting star of the Celtic greats —— even without Shane’s tremendous influence and his heart-felt vocal contributions in “Spancil Hill” and “Ride On”…
      Beginning with the ominous tribal drums of Celtic War that introduce “Bloody Sunday”, a poignant and  wrathful musical storm dedicated to the thirteen unarmed Irish demonstrators who were brutally gunned down by the British Occupation on Jan. 30th, 1972 on the Bogside in Derry:

               "13 people lost their lives that Sunday,
              Women, children and innocent men
              Many wounded lay crying in agony,
              The Knights of Malta attended them
              And so began the government cover up,
              And so began the lies and deceit,
              Soldiers statements would be changed and torn up,
              No reports would come from men on the street…"

A powerful national anthem, one that rises from the depths of the Irish Collective Unconscious, calling for vengeance, the song ending with these prophetic words:

              "This tyranny will not go un-noticed,
              Our day will come again…"

        Without skipping a beat and your spirit of Tribal Resistance captured by the Fenian brilliance of Cruachan, “Victory Reel” is a short rowdy ditty that includes banjo, bodhran, bouzouki, and tin whistle and really brings to mind the country influence found in the old Pogues while Shane Mac Gowan was leading them and also his current Popes outfit…

Next, “Death Of a Gael” centers around invasions of Ireland by the Vikings in 795, a conflict that would continue until the High King Brian Boru, was to finally rout the invaders in 1014. This is a great song where Karen Gilligan really soars high above the peaks of Tir Na N’og with her magically stirring voice...In this tune, she truly shines, as a Celtic Goddess of the New Dawn...This tune is both romantic and martial, showing the synergy of Celtic Life: Sex and War…

“The Rocky Road To Dublin” is to follow, a superb rendition of this traditional ditty, a tale of Irish emigration —- to the shores of England for a better livelihood during the cursed Potato Famine…

Next, we are caught in the blustering and icy winds of Druidic storm in “Ossian’s Return”, with the legend of Ossian and Niamh ; and the quest of Immortality in the land of the West that was known to the Gaels as Tir Na N’og:

                "The sky was grey and laden,
                Wolves howling on the wind
                Above the land of Tir Na’ N’og
               The ancient calm still reigned

              ‘I long to stand on my home shore’,
               Said Ossian in a glare,
              ‘But Ossian love, this is your home’,
               Said Niamh of the golden hair

             She seen the look upon his face
            She knew the pain he felt,
            He longed to be home among his race
            With his ring-sword strapped to his belt…

            Return my love, to the land of man
            but he warned time rests heavily there,
            Come back to me if ever you can,
            Back to the land of the fair."

But Ossian was to recognize, too late, that the ways of the Old were rapidly dissolving and he must make his choice before his youth departed (and the youth of Eire) and the apocalyptic gloom of the modern age would catch up to him:

                  "I have returned!, he said aloud,
                  But no one was there to hear
                  His noble home once bold and proud,
                  Had crumbled through the many years
                  A power had come into the land
                  To threaten the old ways,
                  The people ignore the ancient Gods,
                  They bid farewell to a golden age"

And to Immortality as well, should the people of Nova Celtia not return to the ways of the ancestors and heed the Heathen voice of the Blood…

     “Spancil Hill” next causes us to contemplate on the Irish Diaspora, wherein Shane Mac Gowan and Karen Gilligan perform a splendid duo of one of my favorite Irish traditional ballads, a song written by an unknown author in the 1800’s during the great wave of Irish emigration towards fabled Amerikay...This song always gives me chills, and Shane and Karen’s vocals really channel that soulful feeling…

Afterwards, “The Children of Lir” retells the myths of Lir and his son Manannan, Gods of of the Seas the legends surrounding the four swans of Connacht and their legacy:

              "In the sea of Moyle the waves did crash,
              and beat the land with might,
              The rain fell fierce and the wind blew hard,
              the swans all feared for their lives,
              Fionnula was strong and wisest of all,
              And guarded her brothers from strife,
              Under her wings they hid from night,
              And waited for the morning light…

              Finally the day did come,
              to leave this terrible sea
             300 more years to live as swans,
             then they at last would be free
             To Inish Gluaire the swans did fly,
             As fast as they could go
            New lands and kingdoms everywhere…"

Echoing the saga of the Celts and their worldwide exile at the time when many of their children would lose connection to their roots:

                                             "There they waited, till at last the day did dawn,
                                             The spell was ending,
                                             they felt themselves transform
                                             They were now ancient
                                             their youth was gone forever,
                                             And as they died,
                                             they held hands and went together…"

To reunite with our Celtic Blood and Spirit, to re-invoke that Gaelic magic through the powerful and omnipotent Druidic sorcery of our forefathers —— this is the way towards the renewal of our Youth, towards Celtic Rebirth and therefore Immortality —— this is the way towards the light, journeying through the dark tunnel where our mystical knowledge is shrouded in this Kali-Yuga; towards that Green Light of Tir Na’ N’og on the otherside of the rainbow —— that is the path towards Celtic Regeneration!

Afterwards; “Ride On” is another melancholic song of a symbolic beloved horse that an owner tragically watches die; this horse represents the sad tragedy of Ireland and it’s ancient ways fading as it’s people are driven to death by famine or in exile, to lose their ancestral home in order to survive...Yet again, in a somber while profound manner that only these two singers can capture —— Shane MacGowan and Karen Gilligan combine their vocal skills with wolf-crooner Keith Fay and create a sublime trio that is the best Cruachan rock ballad to this date, and one that will be recorded in the gilded Halls of the Celtic Immortals, 300 years from today...For me, “Ride On” is as inspiring as it is sad, infusing my spirit with the lightning of Taranis…

Next, another sad song of tragedy and memorium, which seems to be Cruachan’s true raison d’etre, is to be found in “Susie Moran”, a remarkable Irish woman and grandmother to the founding brothers of Cruachan. To reprint what is said in the insert booklet:

“This song was written to honour a very special woman. Susie was born in 1919 and lived through Ireland’s rebirth in 1922. The struggles for independence, the Civil War, Susie was there to see it all happen firsthand. Her death in May 2000 was a very sad loss, especially to Keith and John who were her grandsons.”

The vocals sung brilliantly by Karen Gilligan, the music and lyrics by grandson Keith Fay, a better remembrance to your dearly departed just isn’t possible…

Next, “Exiles” is based on the legend of the love of Deirdre and Naorse, which caused their flight from their homeland and much inner strife amongst the men of the noble Red Branch, a great traditional/metal convergence, Cruachan are amongst the few who have the otherworldly gift to channel the musical powers of the Gods, and summon the spirits of the past and give rebirth to the old myths of Ireland…

Lastly, what a better stanza to complete this magnum opus of Cruachan but an eerie, resplendent and invocative new version of  “To Invoke The Horned God”, and this deeply telluric and divine hymn sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it —— it really is a superior demonstration of how far Cruachan have evolved since their 1992 debut album “Tuatha Na’ Gael”. Brewed in the three cauldrons of inspiration, the uncanny yet aerial majesty of Cruachan, will live eternal, leading the Folk of Nova Celtia towards new heights of Heathen prophesy and cryptic art…

                            "Great God Cernunnos, return to earth again
                            Come at my call and show thyself to men
                            Shepherd of goats upon the wild hills way,
                            Lead thy lost flock from darkness unto day…
                     Stolen are the ways of sleep and night,
                    Men seek for them
                   Who’s eyes have lost the light
                   Open the door, the door hath no key,
                   The door of dreams whereby men come to thee"

Cruachan “Pagan” CD (Karmageddon):     

The new Cruachan only further justifies the Gaelic Heathen storm of yore, with a very noticeable change in sound, with many tunes being so celestially Celt that it will give you the urge to wander through foggy dew-laden moors near the hill of Tara to welcome the return of the spring goddess of the Earth, and dance nude in celtic blue war paint to this raging sound…

The first song is “Michael Collins”  a fitting tribute to the Irish guerilla leader whose daring raids and selfless sacrifice led to the foundation of the Irish republic...Dying by an Irish bullet but leaving a lasting legacy to Irish Republicanism , the rebel spirit was summoned powerfully by this great Irish revolutionary and what a better band to fully capture that tribal war sound than the mighty Cruachan, who begin this potent tune with tribal war drums that launch into a furious sonic assault that invokes the spirit of insurrection with brilliance…

Next, “Pagan” , the album’s title track begins with the well known latin chantings of a Catholic ritual, and is a well-needed bombast against the Christian Church and their cult of mass insanity...With both Keith Fay growling and Karen Gilligan's faery crooning, its an excellent attack against religious orthodoxy and Christian Imperialism:

              "A scourge on the world from the earliest days,
             Christ, his church and his sinister ways
             Starter of wars, Instigator of crimes,
            Despoiler of cultures, Destoyer of minds"

          Following Keith's wolf howling, Karen Gilligan sings her Faery magic in a brilliant chorus:

        "Our father who art in heaven,
       corruption be thy name,
      You blind your people with lies,
      false prophet your only gain..."

Following this powerful condemnation of Christianity, "The Gael" next takes us to a more traditional sound, with Karen Gilligan's uplifting and nostalgic voice taking us back to ancient times, when the Celts trekked across Europe in their nomadic tribes,  leaving their burial mounds and dolmens everywhere they went, and a lasting legacy of art, religion and folklore....This tune is a sequel to "Death of a Gael" on the "Folklore" album, and includes traditional irish fiddle, as well as the strong lead guitar mastery of Keith Fay, giving us a memorable synergy of both ancient and modern Celtic melody....

Next, "Ard  Ri Na Heireann" delivers more of that oldschool Celtic metal with some traditional irish tin flute and tin whistle accompaniment.....This composition is dedicated to the memory of Irish High King Brian Boru, the first Irish chieftain to unite all the Irish clan chiefs against the Viking invasion, who, with his strength and determination, were eventually driven from Irish shores....

Afterwards, we are treated to a fantastic traditional Celtic cadence, an ancient Gaelic warrior's marching tune that makes you want to grab your spear, Witham dagger and shield and lead the "The March To Cluain Tairbh" .....As the Roman historian was to comment: "The whole [Celtic] race war mad, and both high-spirited and quick for battle.."

"Viking Slayer" is next, continuing on the same theme, this tune is a mighty Celtic metal stormer, rushing at the reinforced gates of Viking Metal Land like the onslaught of Vercingetorix reincarnated:

"I watch the sky turning black,
and know the time is fast approaching,
My clan they all look to me,
I turn away, I face the ocean
In the dark I see a fleet of long-ships on the horizon,
Again the Vikings come, to this land they are a poison...."

Karen Gilligan and Keith Fay exchange vo-kills, as the combat against the Dane invaders intensifies:

"On they come, these Vikings, pale and grey,
With withered bodies and swords to slay
Changing forth, from filthy ships, towards our line,
But we are butchers and they are our swine"

A rare moment in the history of Pagan Metal history, an album, with not just one song, but several, that do not glorify the Vikings and their banditry.....

Afterwards, "1014 A.D." is a great Celtic metal meets Irish traditional instrumental with electric fiddle, and a raging Cuchulainn sound, enflamed and untamed, like the spirit of Ireland....

Next, Cruachan once again outdo themselves, with another fine electrified version of the traditional Fenian ditty, "Some Say The Devil Is Dead"....

Following, not only my favorite song on this brilliant album, but my ultimate favorite Cruachan song "A Thousand Years" , an intense Irish anthem that really shines like a Green Blaze eminating from the ancient hill of Tara, and in this dazzling Celtic battle-song lead siren Karen Gilligan speaks through the voices of the reincarnated Irish war dead, from Brian Boru to Theobold Wolf Tone, Robert Emmet, Padraig Pearse, Bobby Sands and Dominic Mc Glinchey, singing of the ongoing Struggle of the Irish:

"You can starve my children,
  You can kill my fighting men,
   Take away my right to freedom,
   and when my back is turned you kill again
   You can burn my houses,  
   Take away all that I have known
   but the seeds are sown...."

A superb break of Irish flute and tin whistle gives us a celestial chorus by the lead faery-voiced vocalist, and then storms back into the rage of Gaelic musical tempest :

"...My green fields have been stained red,
    from the blood of the Irish dead,
   But with this fire that burns inside,
  I will always rebel, I will survive...."

"Summoning of the Sidhe" next treats us to an old time Celtic traditional instrumental with Uileann pipes and Hibernian spirit...Like a short sessiun with Irish lager flowing from the bottomless cauldron of inspiration, this really is the "proper" means of summoning the spirits of the mounds.....

Afterwards, "Erinsong" is an exalting madrigal that begins with a brief Gaelic metallic introduction before the soaring Amergin-inspired serenade of Karen Gilligan's Olympian singing:
  "Come with me, I'll show you eternity,
   This magical ring, it holds the key to everything,
   Our faerie land, the forests and mountains you see,
   Created by magic; cast from the Gods and the Sidhe..."

This stunning ballad is a brilliant synthesis of both Irish traditional sound and the tell tale Celtic Metal magistery of Cruachan, leading us to dream of the Golden Age of Celtic Pagan antiquity, and the desire to recreate this Tuatha de Danaan magic in the post-modern age......

Next, "Lament for the Wild Geese", is a fine tribal war drum instrumental dedicated to the men and women who lived and died during the time of the Celtic Diaspora and a good interlude before the last album of the track, "The Fall of Gondolin", a Tolkien-influenced Celtic-Black Metal composition that I wrote about in my review of debut album, "Tuatha Na Gael", a great tune when first released in their early 90's, but this newer version of the song, with dual vocalists Karen Gilligan and Keith Fay, is even better, really causing us to stare at our tapping toes to see if hobbit fur grows on our feet, and look into the dark distance of the twilight to hold a vigil for the eye of Sauron, lest it creep into our bedroom while listening to this ominous tune :)

To listen to Cruachan is to wander amongst the foggy moors of Tipperary to listen to the wailing croon of the Banshee or trek to the misty summits of the Twelve Pins of Galway, run naked through the violet bedecked meadows of Cork or swim with the selkies in the ocean near the coast of Kerry...The Bardic brilliance of Cruachan is something unearthly, taking you to Tir na Nog, the Land of Immortality, a place where the folklore and mythos of ancient Eire never dies but only gets younger with each listen.....To listen to Cruachan is to hear the Tuatha de Danaan word of power that is the true Celtic magic of the hero-bards known as Cruachan.....

"The stanza of the hero bard resounds with the magic of the word of power; similiarly, the sword edge of the hero-warrior flashes with the energy of the creative Source : before it fall the shells of the Outworn.
    For the mythological hero is the champion not of things become but of things becoming; the dragon to be slain by him is precisely the monster of the status quo: Holdfast, the keeper of the past. From obscurity the hero emerges, but the enemy is great and conspicuous in the seat of power; he is the enemy, dragon, tyrant, because he turns to his own advantage the authority of his position. He is Holdfast not because he keeps the past but because he keeps.
     The tyrant is proud, and therein resides his doom. He is proud because he thinks of his strength as his own; thus he is in the clown role, as a mistaker of shadow for substance; it is his destiny to be tricked. The mythological hero, reappearing from the darkness that is the source of the shapes of the day, brings a knowledge of the secret of the tyrant's doom. With a gesture as simple as the pressing of a button, he annihilates the impressive configuration. The hero-deed is a continuous shattering of the crystallizations of the moment. The cycle rolls: the mythology focuses on the growing-point. Transformation, fluidity, not stubborn ponderosity, is the charachteristic of the living God. The great figure of the moment exists only to be broken, cut into chunks, and scattered abroad. Briefly: the ogre-tyrant is the champion of the prodigious fact, the hero (is) the champion of creative life."
                                --- Joseph Campbell, "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" page 337
                                         ("Transformations of the Hero --- The Hero as Warrior")


The best Celtic bards to send us thunder bolts from the twilight infused otherworld of Tir Na Nog since the time of Amergin.....

© 2005 - 2021 rorythebold
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