Date: August 20th, 2016
Venue: Voodoo Lounge, Dublin
Line-up: Cruachan + Waylander + Celtachor
I can’t think of a more fitting place where the tagline “The Gods of Celtic Metal together on one stage” is more appropriate. Ireland is probably one of the best breeding grounds for folk metal than any other country. We have an abundance of mythology and folklore to take as inspiration, as well as a whole host of traditional instrumentation to be used, and tonight three of them join together for a fun night of music.
While the weather was wet and miserable, spirits were not dampened in the venue tonight. Dublin native’s Celtachor opened up the night with their darker approach to folk metal. Vocalist Stephen Roche was part storyteller and part warlord, briefly giving us some background to the stories behind their music before unleashing hell once they begin. The band’s sound was epic and larger than life with no smalls thanks to the rhythm section for that; Anaïs Chareyre’s drums rattled the room alongside the rumbles of Robert Macdomhnail’s bass. Liam Henry’s violin was a little inconsistent in the mix but was emphasized were it was needed most. So far a good start to the show.
Waylander are veterans of the celtic metal genre having practically pioneered it. Their set started off a little on the timid side, coming across a little weaker than Celtachor but once we reached the mid-point with “Kindred Spirits” and “King of the Fairies” the momentum really started to pick up and kept getting stronger and stronger right up to the closer “Born to the Fight”. The main melodies came from multi-instrumentalist Dave Briggs and his tin whistle which was featured predominantly giving an upbeat sound that enticed much of the crowd in front of the stage to begin moving their feet.
Next up was the band of the hour, the mighty Cruachan. They flew straight out the gate with the huge “The Sea Queen of Connaught” from their latest album Blood for the Blood God. The sound was as big and bold as was required by these pagan epics. Things took to a more furious pace with “Pagan Hate” which embraced the black metal side of their sound with smothering double bass and relentless buzzing guitars. The balance of melody and heaviness was on fine display on “Born for War” when John Ryan’s violin was going toe to toe with the guitars.
Frontman Keith Fay was quick to mention that they don’t play hometown shows often enough but given the healthy crowd on the night perhaps that’s something they should reconsider in the future. Due to their absence from Dublin the band added a song to the set that hadn’t been played here for a couple of years. That song was “Ossian’s Return” and it was also the point of the night that Keith finally got a pint for his scratchy throat after promising the lucky punter who brought it to him a kiss from violinist John Ryan.
I don’t know whether it was the catchiness of the harmonies and violin, the intense heaviness of the black metal sections or just the fact that it was so late in the night that half the crowd had drank a little too much, but there was just such a cheerful atmosphere. The crowd were chanting with fists in the air and starting what I like to call “happy mosh pits”, a less violent showing where most people are gleefully dancing around.
Folk metal bands can always be counted on for their high energy and the ease of which they can entice even the most stubborn concert goer into getting involved somehow. Tonight was no different with three heavyweights of the scene delivering incredibly strong sets.