Cnoc An Tursa: The Giants of Auld

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Cnoc An Tursa: The Giants of Auld
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Cnoc An Tursa: The Giants of Old
Black Metal, Folk Metal
Candlelight Records
March 26th, 2013
Release length: 37:54
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When it comes to any Folk Metal group from any region of Scotland, more often than not you’re going to get one hell of a kick ass performance. Well, that’s where this band is from. Cnoc An Tursa, a Black Metal and Folk Metal project, formed in the town of Falkirk back in 2006. In 2008, they issued their an Untitled demo to a decent amount of praise, though largely kept hidden in the shadows. Five years later, the band was picked up by Candlelight Records to issue their debut full-length album, The Giants of Auld, which has been receiving plenty of praise from critics and fans. Across the seas, this was released back in February, but North American metalheads can finally get their hands on this one in March. But, is The Giants of Auld an album worth running out and buying, or does it fail to live up to the underground hype and expectations surrounding it?

This album carries many of the common Candlelight traits when it comes to the audio. The audio sounds dark and often cold, though sometimes having a melodic melancholy at work. The guitars have a cleaner sharpness to them that is a bit dull, but still packs a good deal of bite and heaviness. The bass guitar is low in tone and stands out well, all the while adding a strong backbone to the riffs that helps to make headbanging more mandatory than a simple option. The drumming is pristine all around, having crisp cymbals, a deep click to the kicks that can sometime be a bit buried in the mix, and nice tight snaps with a slight echo to the rest of the kit. The keyboards are also as crisp as the cymbals, though not too dominant over the mix as far as volume goes, largely being melodic vocal harmonizations and other eerie or glorious effects to give the music a haunting tone that can best be described as a mist crawling through a moonlit forest pre or post conflict. Finally there’s the vocals that are a mixture of shouting and rhasps that don’t get too high in pitch, as well as not get otherworldly or demonic, while still full of energy. This is matched nicely by the rest of the instruments, though often not always as enthusiastic.

“The Piper O’Dundee” starts things off with a soft, somber instrumental piece composed of acoustic guitars and an eventual flute before the full band kicks in towards the end. The edgy performance is met with additional keyboards that keep the nature-fueled ambience alive before a proclamation is screamed, attaching this to “The Lion of Scotland.” The hooks from the guitar, as well as the matching keyboards in some passages, are not quite as vibrant later on as these, or anywhere near addicting. The tone of the song is still rather misty, but does carry a bit of an epic and glorious vibe that you can’t help but latch onto and immediately start banging your head against. “Ettrick Forest in November” is another rich Folk offering that’s hard to not get wrapped up in. For the most part, it carries a mid-tempo with a tight performance from the guitars and drums, but overall its the keyboards that really seem to be the focal point in the composition. But, both of these end up stark contrasts to later tracks like “In Shadowland,” which focus more on atmosphere from the guitars, minimizing the keybpoards greatly, and creating a far more engrossing performance that shows the true talent of the band without being dependant on one specific member.

Of course, some of the blacker tracks are a little different, though far from conflicting. “Bannockburn” has some slight hints of melody in some of the bridges, as well as the chorus that dumps a heavier Folk touch onto the canvas. The main verses stick to the constant, sharper, somewhat heinous in attitude traditional Black Metal riffs in the main verses, sometimes being accompanied by keyboards that seem more like muffled trumpets in the background preparing you for some kind of impending conflict. This is easily the blackest the album gets, though it does appear here and there in a more dominant manner to some area. “Hail Land of My Fathers” does find some riffs akin to the early second wave, and even a bit of a sharper pitch to them. The rhythm and additional keyboards in the bridges and chorus definitely ring true more to a Folk Metal, even Viking Metal appeal, again bringing more of a grand tone before shifting into a faster approach somewhat similar to “Bannockburn,” but a bit more haunting. This tactic actually really helps the dismal sounding “Culloden Moor” out in some spots, feeding a more aggressive tone to some of the verses, as well as the conclusion. The faster leads still work with the overall slower pace, weaving a truly emotional climax that tugs on the heart strings during the chorus to the point where you will feel no shame in breaking down into tears. However, the song seems to fade out really quick, leaving you without the total closure the song was clearly offering.

The Giants of Auld adds another new band to the growing list of impressive Scottish-born Folk Metal bands. Cnoc An Tursa have put together a fantastic, emotional release that treads the line between that signature style and Black Metal approach well without completely alienating one or the other. The only issue to be had with this release is how heavily dependant some tracks end up being on the keyboards, restraining the obvious potential to weave a natural atmosphere with the guitars, something that this album definitely needs more off. Hopefully future albums will at least vary the ratio of the two a little more, but, until then, The Giants of Auld is a near perfect composition that will literally brand the name Cnoc An Tursa as one of today’s most promising Metal acts. If you haven’t heard this album yet, make sure you add it to the top of your mus town list. If not, then you are definitely missing out on something special.

01. The Piper O’Dundee – 1:04
02. The Lion of Scotland – 4:25
03. Bannockburn – 4:44
04. Hail Land of My Fathers – 3:46
05. Ettrick Forest in November – 4:05
06. The Spellbound Knight – 6:47
07. In Shadowland – 4:20
08. Winter – A Dirge – 4:39
09. Culloden Moor – 4:04
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Cnoc An Tursa (band)
Cnoc An Tursa

Digital review copy of this release provided by Candlelight Records via Earsplit PR.