Ireland’s CRUACHAN have enjoyed a storied career since they took those tentative first steps back in 1992. As frontman and sole original member Keith Fay elaborates; ‘When I started writing music as a 13-year-old, I had no idea that I was laying the foundations for what would become a brand-new genre, Folk Metal, or that I was planting the seeds of what would be one of the longest running Irish metal bands in history. There have been many ups and downs over the last thirty years, band members have come and gone, record deals have come and gone. We’ve played some of the biggest metal festivals on the planet, travelled to more countries than most Irish bands would ever dream possible. And it has all led to this – our ninth album, ‘The Living and the Dead’.
The band celebrated their 30th anniversary last year with an invitation to submit a song to be considered for Ireland’s 2023 Eurovision song contest entry. Whilst the band weren’t ultimately successful, it did help remind people that Cruachan were very much back!
‘From the opening blast of ‘The Living’ to the final lament of ‘The Dead’, the Living and the Dead is everything you want from Cruachan and more. 12 tracks of Blistering riffs, magnificent melodies, and bewitchment.’ – Stu ‘La Rage’ Dixon / Venom
A man whose vision and passion for his band has never wavered in the ensuing three decades, Cruachan’s place in, not only in metal history, but that of Ireland’s musical landscape, has been hard earned and hard fought. But Fay was always confident that he and the band would always deliver. ‘This album had to be good. No, it had to be better than good. This had to be the best Cruachan album ever made. I faced a decision in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when three band members left the band. ‘Do I call it a day? or do I press on with the mammoth task of replacing everyone’. There was no real decision to be made, I worked way too hard over the years to allow Cruachan to fizzle out. I had been writing some of the best music of my career in recent years. I secured a record deal with a label (Sweden’s Despotz Records) that understood exactly what Cruachan and my vision is’.
From the uplifting excitement and energy of track one, The Living, this album grabs your heart and mind then drags them on a fantastic journey through haunting and foreboding stories put to sublimely beautiful folk and aggressive metal, constantly interweaving until we reach…. The Dead’ – Jon Campling / Actor (Harry Potter, Final Fantasy)
With the deal signed, talk obviously turned to new music. ‘The new album only existed in my head but he still pushed me to get a single out. We recorded The Hawthorn and the reaction was immense.’ Buoyed by the amazing reaction to the single, Fay recruited new members for Cruachan in ‘record time’. ‘Joe Farrell had already re-joined Cruachan on bass at the start of 2020, apart from being one of my oldest friends, he was also my rock during this time. Tom (Woodlock), one of the best metal drummers in Ireland, joined us early in 2020. I’ve known Dave Quinn for many years so was a relief that I didn’t need to audition for guitarists, he came in and was a natural fit for the band. I did advertise for a folk instrumentalist and had a few interesting applications. Audrey sent me a mail with some links to her playing. My jaw literally dropped and I recruited her right away. She has been playing violin since the age of 4, the quality she brings to every aspect of Cruachan is beyond compare, from our folky stuff to our classical stuff, it has all just moved to a level I never thought possible.’
‘It was a pleasure to be a part of this project, the fusion of heavy metal and folk music on this album is furious, organic, and natural. Folk metal fans are in for a treat.’ – Camillus Hiney / The Fureys
New line-up in place, and a clutch of songs Fay felt were among the strongest he’d ever written for the band, the time came to enter the studio to work on what would become ‘The Living and the Dead’. ‘Finally, in April 2022, we entered Trackmix studios to start recording. The quality and maturity of our new material was obvious right away. There have always been elements of classical music in Cruachan’s material but I explored this a lot more on some of the new songs. The honesty and credibility in the finished songs takes my breath away. The song ‘The Reaper’ is about my dad, who sadly passed away in 2020. There was a point when Audrey was layering the strings section for this song, I was listening with Joe and our producer Mick and it literally brought me to tears. I turned to Joe and all I could manage to say was ‘wow’. I did my dad proud with that song but I think we did all of our fans proud with this entire album. I could talk about many other parts in many other tracks but you’ll hear it yourself and see what I mean. I achieved my goal. I created the best Cruachan album to date.’
‘This album has everything from groovy death to the folkiest of metals! If you’re a true folker then this album is for you!’ – Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmans / Finntroll
More on Cruachan:
Since forming the band in 1992, it’s been Keith Fay’s singular vision that has steered the band for nearly thirty years. Appearing originally under the moniker Minas Tirith the band’s focus on Irish history and mythology prompted a change to more suitable Cruachan. The band’s blend of Irish folk music and metal was unique and in late ’93, their demo ‘Celtica‘ soon landed the band their first record deal with Nazguls Eyrie Productions. The first fruits of this endeavour was the band’s cult classic debut album, ‘Tuatha Na Gael‘, which hit the shelves in 1995 to critical acclaim. The band began to draw admiring glances from a number of bigger labels, but none suited the band’s ambition. They eventually signed with Hammerheart records and released ‘The Middle Kingdom‘ in 1999. ‘The Middle Kingdom‘ record saw the band make their first international live appearances. Their third album ‘Folk-lore‘ was produced by and featured the unmistakable vocals of The Pogues legend Shane MacGowan on ‘Ride On‘ which was a surprise hit single in Ireland. Subsequent releases, including ‘Pagan‘ and ‘Blood on the Black Robe‘ saw the band join up with AFM and Candlelight records and led to Cruachan hitting some of the biggest festival stages, including; Hellfest and 70, 000 Tonnes of Metal (where they became one of the few bands to ever perform three sets, one of which featured Gwar vocalist Kim Dyalla as special guest), as well as their own ‘25th Anniversary’ show in Ireland.
After a few tumultuous years band leader Keith Fay observes; “A number of long-term members chose to leave the band, but that prompted a time of rebirth for the band and it has only been a positive thing.” Despite the upheaval behind the scenes, one thing has never faltered; and that is Keith’s passion for folk and metal music, and Cruachan’s unique way of bringing the two together.
‘The Living and the Dead‘ features NINE guest musicians. Here is some info on everyone who helped make this album what it is!
Kim Dylla – Backing Vocals
Kim is the former vocalist of GWAR and runs Kylla Custom Rock Wear, making stage clothes for the greatest metal bands in the world! When she can, she is also our live female vocalist.
Nella – Lead Vocal (‘The Changeling’)
Nella is a singer songwriter based in Ireland. She has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry and performed live with ‘Video Games Live’ as well as sang on the soundtrack for ‘World of Warcraft’.
Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns – Lead Vocal (‘The Ghost’)
Mathis is lead singer with FINNTROLL!! He adds some really amazing growls to the most ‘Death Metal’ track on the album.
Jon Campling – Backing Vocals (‘The Crow’, ‘The Changeling’)
Jon is an actor that has appeared in Harry Potter (the Death Eater that stops the Hogwarts Express) as well as King Regis from Final Fantasy. In recent years he decided to learn to play guitar and sing and we’re delighted his professional singing debut is on this album (and he nailed it)
Geoffrey Dell’Aria – Bagpipes, Tin Whistle, Low Whistle
Geoff is an accomplished musician who plays in many, many bands. He made a huge contribution to this album with pipes and whistles throughout.
Camillus Hiney – Accordion (‘The Festival’)
Camillus is the box player for the legendary Irish folk group THE FUREYS. Having a folk musician of Camillus’s calibre on this album is a huge moment of pride for us.
Stu ‘La Rage’ Dixon – Guitar solo (‘The Witch’)
Stu is the guitarist with metal legends VENOM. An amazing lead guitarist who lends a real touch of class to this song.
John Fay – Tin whistle (‘The Children’)
John needs no introduction, long-time member of Cruachan over the years it was a pleasure to have him back and still involved with the band as a guest musician. You’ll see John on TV all the time in shows such as Vikings, Game of Thrones etc
Sinead Richards – Euphonium (‘The Reaper’)
Lastly a huge thank you to Sinead, the 14-year-old daughter of our producer. She is a huge talent and added such orchestral heft to this song that we can’t imagine how it would sound without her contribution.
Check out the video for ‘The Crow’ here: