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One of the earliest adopters and most influential acts in the folk-metal genre, Cruachan emerged in the early 1990s with a sound that combines the traditional melodies, instrumentation, and mythologies of Irish folk music with the sonic might of heavy metal. Led by vocalist and guitarist Keith Fay, the band debuted in 1995 and have spent the ensuing decades perfecting their unique brand of Celtic metal on acclaimed efforts like Folk-Lore (2002), The Morrigan's Call (2006), and the ambitious "Blood Trilogy," which concluded in 2018 with the release of Nine Years of Blood (2018). Formed from the ashes of an earlier band called Minas Tirith, Cruachan (which means "the big stack" and doubles as the war cry, or slogan, of the Argyll region's Clan Campbell) coalesced in 1992 around the talents of Fay (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Jay Brennan (guitar), John O'Fathaigh (flute), John Clohessy (bass), and Jay O'Niell (drums). Released in 1995 via Nazgul's Eyrie Productions, Tuatha Na Gael's prime sonic objective was meshing Irish heritage, Celtic history, and mythology with death and black metal savagery. The LP caught the attention of Hammerheart Records, which enthusiastically added Cruachan to its roster and released their 1999 sophomore outing, The Middle Kingdom, which brought new drummer Joe Farrell and vocalist/percussionist Karen Gilligan into the fray. Cruachan had their first taste of mainstream success with 2002's Folk-Lore. The album was produced by legendary Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, who lent his inimitable voice to the single "Ride On," which became a hit in Ireland. Having escaped the heavy metal underground, the band quickly became festival favorites, with performances at Hellfest, Brutal Assault, and 70000 Tons of Metal helping to raise their international profile. 2004's lack-luster Pagan was released by Karmageddon Media, but the group redeemed themselves with The Morrigan's Call in 2006, which was issued by AFM Records and elicited accolades both at home and abroad. Myriad lineup changes preceded the release of 2011's black metal-leaning Blood on the Black Robe, with Fay taking over lead vocal duties from Gilligan, who departed alongside drummer Joe Farrell. The first installment of a planned trilogy, the album was issued by Candlelight Records. The band moved to dedicated pagan and folk label Trollzorn for the concluding pieces of the trilogy, 2014's Blood for the Blood God and 2018's Nine Years of Blood. Two years later, Cruachan inked a deal with Sweden's Despotz Records, and in early 2021 released the fiery single "The Hawthorn."
© James Christopher Monger /TiVo


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