Cruadalach - Lead - Not Follow
Label: Black Bards
Reviewer: Kim Jensen - 2012-09-12
Highlights: For My Bleeding Friends, The Promise
Folk metal has branched out in a lot of directions, as it merged with various different types of folk music traditions. One of these subtypes of folk metal is medieval metal, or pagan metal, which blends elements from medieval-inspired folk music and heavy metal. Cruadalach's style on Lead - Not Follow is best described as falling under this category of folk metal.
On the folk side, they make use of instrumentation such as pipes, fiddles, shawms and other instruments with strong medieval connotations. And these are accompanied by violins and cellos. I've heard the cello in the music of pure medieval folk acts, such as Tabula Rasa, so I assume that the cello is an integral part of modern medieval folk music. Many of the melodies on the album are also of a folksy medieval nature, which is of course further emphasized by the fact that they are played on the folk instruments. Now, I've always like the sound of the shawms, pipes and whistles in medieval folk music, and I also appreciate the way that the sound of the cello has become integrated in that sort of music, and Cruadalach successfully transfer this sound into their metal music, which has an overall nice sound (there are also some pure folk tracks on the album, such as the percussion-heavy 'Blejanje na mjesec' which also contains some interesting wild folksy vocal techniques).
The metal aspect of the album is primarily a sort of midpaced and slightly dark power metal with a couple of elements from more traditional metal (and in most cases, the overlaying of folk instrumentation on top of the metal riffage works pretty good). One thing that I quite like is that sometimes the cello plays along on the riffage rather than performing melodies, which helps generate the dark sound. There are, of course, elements from other branches of the metal tree such as 'For My Bleeding Friends', which is more of a hard rock song, and 'The Promise' which is more of a gothic doom metal song (this is also the track, I think, in which the folk and metal elements come together the most naturally and seamlessly). On the vocal side, a lot of the vocal performance consists of growls and death grunts, so there is an extreme metal element present, too. A clean, chanting type of singing is also used, which is slightly reminiscent of Langsuyar's vocals on "Wolfheart" - although I think this type of singing fits the overall sound of the album, I suspect that some listeners might find that it is unintentionally funny.
The production is definitely not polished and I think it sort of favors the folk instrumentation, which is clear and well-defined, while the metal instrumentation is more fuzzy. I think this is a bit of a shame and would have appreciated it more if the metal instrumentation were more crisp and defined in terms of the production.
Overall Lead - Not Follow is a pretty good medieval metal release which showcases the strengths and interesting points of that genre in general.
2. Rage starts here
4. Living with Pride
5. Blejanje na mjesec
6. Signal Fires
9. For my Bleeding Friends
10. Hear our Voices!
11. The Promise
Rating: 7 /10
*Posted original on www.seaoftranquility.org