Cruachan - _Pagan_
(Karmageddon Media, 2004)
by: Quentin Kalis (7.5 out of 10)
I've always had a soft spot for Cruachan, even if few of my associates can understand my appreciation for this Irish band. But as can be seen by the relatively modest rating above, this is not their strongest album -- the weakest in their career to date.

First the negatives: there are two re-recordings of old songs; one that first appeared on the debut album, _Tuatha na Gael_ ("The Fall of Gondolin") and another that initially surfaced on their 1997 promo ("Erinsong"). "The Fall of Gondolin" is the third song to be resurrected off _TnG_; as such this re-recording is utterly predictable and boring. Admittedly, the 1997 promo is hard to obtain; however the songs contained on the promo have long since been included as bonus tracks on the re-release of _TnG_ and thus easily obtainable.

No less than four instrumentals can be found on this thirteen track CD. Instrumentals are not necessarily filler material; but only one doesn't sound like a desperate attempt to extend the playing length. There is also the obligatory Cruachan version of a traditional Irish song. Unlike the evocative "Brian Boru", this one sounds like little more than some guitars backing the performance of a pub song.

Another song from the 1997 promo, "The Return" returns (excuse the pun) in the form of a pilfered riff clumsily and inexplicably incorporated into "Viking Slayer". "The Return" is Cruachan in classic form and it would have been far more acceptable as a re-recording than the inclusion of the comparatively mundane "Erinsong". Despite this, "Viking Slayer" is still enjoyable, even if less than inspired.

On the positive side, songs such as "Pagan" and "1000 Years" show Cruachan doing what they do best: performing an endearing mix of Bathory inspired riffs (though gradually heading towards more heavy metal territory) combined with Irish/Celtic folk instruments. Songs such as the above are comparable to the best that they have to offer.

When compared to _Folklore_ (their previous album), this definitely feels inferior. There are fewer catchy melodies and fewer catchy songs. Those songs that I enjoy, such as "Pagan" and "Ard Ri Na Heirann", have received extensive play -- but unlike _Folklore_, I hardly ever play the full CD. Those who enjoyed _The Middle Kingdom_ or _Folklore_ will find a few moments to savour -- but those who hated the aforementioned albums need not bother with _Pagan_, as it will in all likelihood be hated for the exact same reasons as _Folklore_.

(article published 11/19/2004)


ALBUMS
1/9/2007 Y Stefanis 7.5 Cruachan - The Morrigan's Call
4/12/2002 V Eldefors 9.5 Cruachan - Folk-Lore
8/12/2000 P Schwarz 4 Cruachan - The Middle Kingdom
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