Cnoc an Tursa
“The Giants of Auld”
Released: 25th February 2013
Released via Candlelight records
I’ve been waiting for the new Cnoc an Tursa album to be released for a good while now; their 2008 demo has sterling songwriting, and their sound was begging for a bigger release. So when I heard that they had been signed to Candlelight Records in October last year, I started getting excited; the number of folk/black metal bands who have released near-perfect albums on candlelight is staggering – Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone, Falloch, Altar of Plagues, the list goes on. So, what was the result of such an immaculate pairing? The newly released The Giants of Auld, of course.
With a scream of “Sons of Alba, rise in the face of tyranny!” the album begins. And what an album; the sound is an intense blend of folky melodies, intense black metal and haunting, deeply emotional choirs and flute – the closing track, Blаr na h-Eaglaise Brice, is a purely instrumental, minimalistic celtic folk piece, and one of the best of its kind that I have heard – bringing together a hugely immersive atmosphere. Despite Cnoc an Tursa not being a band in quite the same pigeonhole as their contemporaries, the achieve a very similar sound that, to me, is equally conveying of the band’s passion for its country’s history. One could be forgiven for worrying, having listened to the 2008 demo, that their earlier songs (which, for the most part, comprise the first half of the album) could have become over produced, too clean. Thankfully, this is not a problem; the album is not without an edge, not without its humanity.
The songwriting (let me leave no doubts about this) is flawless. The Lion of Scotland and Hail Land of my Fathers are completely full of hooks, and you will find yourself humming each and every individual melody in those songs, which is something very hard to achieve on what is very predominantly a black metal album. Something that this album “gets”, is that you can have huge, catchy melodies without being at all cheesy. I never for one moment found myself saying that a particular section was misplaced. In addition to this, the band never lets melody cheapen the album; a problem that many bands have is they oversaturate their sound with keys, making the songs “catchy”, but far less powerful. Keys are definitely present in this album, but they very much provide a supporting role, building the sound from the foundations up.
So, I have not been disappointed; more encouraged. Cnoc an Tursa continue to be a fantastic band. This album is consistent, immersive, and above all, genuine. Very few metal bands can communicate quite this level of passion through their music, and I will come back to this album time and time again. Fantastic work, and one of the best releases of the year from one of the best bands to come out of Scotland.
Alasdair “Scotch Egg” Dunn