It’s one thing to have some kickass tunes loaded up on your album. It’s another thing entirely to have kickass tunes loaded with more energy than a pack of hyenas. For Scotland’s Cnoc An Tursa, the relative newcomers have delivered an album that is overflowing with hooks, melodies, grooves and an endless surplus of raw energy.
The band was formed in 2006 by Rene McDonald Hill (guitars, keyboards) and Alan Buchan (guitars, vocals) and they released a demo in ’08. However, it wasn’t until recently that they unfurled their debut full-length upon the world. Taking their time has certainly paid off because as it stands right now, The Giants of Auld is easily among the best releases of 2013 thus far. Granted, it’s only mid-May but there is going to have to be a massive influx of brilliant releases from this point forward to push this infectious little beast out of the top ten.
After a moody instrumental intro (“The Piper O’ Dundee”), Cnoc An Tursa roar into action with the explosive “The Lion of Scotland”, a monstrous and crushing way to kick start the album. Cnoc An Tursa thankfully don’t put all their eggs into one basket because the colossal numbers keep coming: the somewhat thrashy “Bannockburn” precedes the mighty Maiden-esque “Hail Land of My Fathers”, the keyboard-laden “Ettrick Forest in November” and the vintage Dimmu Borgir-esque “The Culloden Moor”. However, none of the songs on the album are as anywhere near as powerful as “The Spellbound Knight” with its chilling choral intro, beautiful melodies and majestic, anthemic lead riff. Already one of the leaders for song of the year, “The Spellbound Knight” is everything a fan of folk-inspired metal could ever ask for.
Production-wise The Giants of Auld is as clean and pearly as it needs to be. Every instrument can be heard clearly and while the drums are a tad bit too quiet and relegated to the background just a pinch (they need to be thunderous and in your face!), the final mix is superb. The record’s intense and abrasive all the while being melodic and smooth, a trait too few albums sport these days. And while Buchan’s vocals are a bit too metalcore in certain spots, he’s definitely not a weak frontman in the least.
Though Cnoc An Tursa hasn’t reinvented the wheel with The Giants of Auld – folk-inspired metal is nothing new – they hone their craft better than the overwhelming majority of their peers in the genre. The reason is because they don’t rely solely on being a folk metal band. Rather, they incorporate elements of their roots when the songs ask for them, creating a much more organic feel to the songs. The entire folk metal scene became bloated a few years ago, but when a band as powerful as Cnoc An Tursa comes around, it alleviates a lot of the stomach cramps left by the many also-rans.
Moonsorrow, Crimfall, Amorphis (obviously), Winterfylleth and a few others are the leaders of the genre; that part is virtually non-debatable. However, if these Scotsmen keep up what they’ve accomplished on The Giants of Auld, they will fit right in with the elite of the scene and the forerunners from the neighboring countries will undoubtedly be peering over their collective shoulders. Get this album.[Visit the band's website]