Celtachor Album Review: “Fiannaiocht”

Album Review by Dark Juan


Celtachor are:

Stephen Roche – Vocals/Whistles
David Quinn – Guitars/Backing Vocals
Fionn Stafford – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Liam Henry – Violin/Harp
Robert Macdomhnail – Bass/Bouzouki/Harp
Anaïs Chareyre – Drums/Bodhran/Backing Vocals

I have been sitting for quite some time contemplating playing this record. I can’t wrap my head around Irish Celtic black metal involving bouzoukis. It’s the bouzouki that’s bothering me. Bouzouki. Not even the word is metal enough. Although it is pleasing to say and type. Bouzouki. It conjures up images of Demis Roussos in some kind of colossal multi coloured kaftan singing about making love to beautiful ladies in the sun on a beach in Rhodes. Yeah right, Demis. You’re the size of a small planetoid and you won’t have seen little Demis for quite some time, you porky Greek philanderer. Stop pretending! Oh. I’m meant to be writing a record review, aren’t I?

Ahem (I have now wrenched my train of thought back on to the correct track and WILL NOT think about Demis Roussos any more…) let me please introduce you to the dark chest of wonders that is Celtachor, whose new record Fiannaiocht (there’s accents in there somewhere but I only have a racist and indifferent English keyboard, so my apologies to the band. And Ireland as a whole) is based on the classical Irish folk tales of Finn of the Fianna. This immediately grabs my interest because I am a bit of a fan of the legend of the Tuatha de Danann. I’m surprised at how apt black metal is to tell the tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his derring do in battle. It fits well, and let me tell you, fans of guitars and savagery, bouzouki, tin whistles and violins in black metal is the way forward! They make for an interesting counterpoint to sawblade guitars and walls of gothic keyboard wankery. There’s much of interest on this album. I find myself enjoying the Celtic folk arrangements and clean vocals among the Stygian darkness of the black metal. Don’t get me wrong, I love black metal in its rawest, purest form but I also approve of people taking it to new places. I was prepared, when I first started listening to this record, to compare Celtachor instantly to the Scandinavian folk metal bands like Korpiklaani and Turisas but I would have been terribly wrong to do so. The nearest comparison I can come up with to Celtachor is English folky black metallers The Meads Of Asphodel. They are similar in style and mission, but obviously there is proud Irishness standing tall here (a bit like Fionn himself, the proud beast!) rather than Metatron thumbing his nose at all and sundry in his usual inimitable fashion. The metal component is very similar in style and arrangement to The Meads’ style, but this is no bad thing. Where Celtachor stand out is in the light and shade. There is the blackest of black metal, obsidian, sharp and dangerous, but then there’s light in the form of a harp or bouzouki or whistle and it adds a surreal and almost sunny counterpoint to the mayhem.

So, I really like the tunes and I dig the concept. What I don’t dig is the production. It’s muddy. Like a peat bog. For this music to work everything needs to be crystal clear. Arguably, the production works best when the traditional Irish instruments are being played rather than the amplified stuff. Of the noisy bits, only the drums stand out with any clarity and they are quite far down in the mix and the cymbals sound like they were recorded down the hall from the rest of the drumkit. Oh, and the bass drum sounds like someone hitting a stretched out tea towel with a floppy, wet, dead rat. This is not good news, although it is a very very metal way to play a bass drum. There is no particular stand out song for me here, as the record is a story from start to finish and I like the arrangements very much. I feel that the unusual instruments complement the sound of the band very nicely and give the record a quintessential Irish folk feel – full marks for hitting that target guys and gals!

In summary, a brave stab at trying something different which the band have mainly managed, and are only let down by a poor production job and a slight confusion about identity. Are Celtachor a black metal, folk metal or doom metal band? I don’t think they are even sure! Otherwise it’s a war chariot of a record, racing towards enemy lines at breakneck speed, and leaving trails of broken and bloodied bodies in its wake. It has been a pleasure though, this record. It’s always nice to go off the predictable path and have a little voyage of discovery…

Go raibh maith agat agus is breá liom do cheol.

The Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System has crept back out of its hiding place after the bloodshed and awards Celtachor a thoroughly charmed 7/10. That’s enough blood found in suspicious circumstances in a French suburb to warrant an investigation by Europol.


Sons Of Morna
King Of Tara
The Search For Sadbh
Great Ships Came From Over The Waves
Tears Of Aoife
Cauldron Of Plenty
Dubh, Dun Agus Liath


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