Competition / Cruachan, The Reaper and now the gift of rebirth

The Reaper is the song from Irish folk-metal pioneers Cruachan, which premieres on MetalTalk today. Filmed with drone cameras over a two-day shoot, the track truly marks a big step forward for a groundbreaking and genre-inventing band that are still pushing hard some 30 years after their beginnings.

The Reaper is from the album The Living And The Dead, which will be released on 24 March via Despotz Records and marks almost a re-incarnation for Cruachan. “A number of long-term members chose to leave the band,” Keith Fay told MetalTalk. “But that prompted a time of rebirth for the band, and it has only been a positive thing.”

MetalTalk have a t-shirt, CD and backpatch to give away. Read on to find out how.

Competition - Win this The Living And The Dead package at MetalTalk
Competition – Win this The Living And The Dead package at MetalTalk

Since forming the band in 1992, it’s been Keith Fay’s singular vision that has steered the band for over thirty years. “The song The Reaper is about my dad, who sadly passed away in 2020,” Keith told MetalTalk. “There was a point when Audrey [Trainor – Violin, Viola, Cello] was layering the strings section for this song, I was listening with Joe [Farrell – Bass] and our producer Mick [Richards], and it literally brought me to tears. I turned to Joe, and all I could manage to say was ‘wow’.”

The Reaper is taken from the band’s ninth album, The Living And The Dead, which is a tremendous blend of the band’s hardest Metal riffs and hauntingly beautiful folk and traditional instruments. The song features Sinead Richards, the 14-year-old daughter of the album’s producer, on Euphonium. “She is a huge talent,” Keith Fay told MetalTalk, “and added such orchestral heft to this song that we can’t imagine how it would sound without her contribution.”

Cruachan - The Reaper
Cruachan – The Reaper

Cruachan took their tentative first steps back in 1992, and frontman Fay is the sole original member left. “When I started writing music as a 13-year-old,” he said, “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.”

Their unique place in Ireland’s musical landscape is secure, hard-earned and hard-fought, but there are always challenges to be faced. “I faced a decision in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when three band members left the band,” Fay said. “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.”

You wonder if there was pressure to deliver. “This album had to be good,” Fay says. “No, it had to be better than good. This had to be the best Cruachan album ever made.”

The Reaper is a great example of the class of the music in the album. “I did my dad proud with that song,” Fay says, “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.”

The record deal signed with Despotz Records led to thoughts of new music resulting in The Hawthorn. “The new album only existed in my head,” Fay says, “but they still pushed me to get a single out. We recorded The Hawthorn, and the reaction was immense.”

Thoughts turned to building a new version of the band. “Joe Farrell had already re-joined Cruachan on bass at the start of 2020,” Fay said. “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 it 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.”

With a new line-up in place and songs Fay felt were among the strongest he had 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,” Fay says. “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 in some of the new songs. The honesty and credibility in the finished songs takes my breath away.”

For The Living And The Dead, all the music and lyrics are by Keith Fay and the album was recorded, produced and mixed by Michael Richards at Trackmix Studios, Dublin, Ireland. However, the list of additional musicians is impressive and extensive, featuring former GWAR and Finntroll vocalists, an impressive list of guest musicians and even a Harry Potter actor.

“There have been many ups and downs over the last thirty years,” Keith Fay says. “Band members have come and gone, and record deals have come and gone.”

As Johan Soderberg from Amon Amarth says, “I really like Cruachan’s style of music, and this album is a definite must if you’re a fan of Folk Metal.”

“We’ve played some of the biggest Metal festivals on the planet and travelled to more countries than most Irish bands would ever dream possible,” Fay says. “It has all led to this – our ninth album, The Living And The Dead.”

To win The Living And The Dead package, email telling us the answer to the following question: Cruachan is also known as which archaeological site? UK Only.

Cruachan are:

Keith Fay – Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Bouzouki, Mandolin, Keyboard, Bodhrán
Audrey Trainor – Violin, Viola, Cello
Dave Quinn – Electric Guitar
Joe Farrell – Bass
Tom Woodlock – Drums, Percussion, Hand Clapping

Music and lyrics by Keith Fay
Recorded, produced and mixed by Michael Richards at Trackmix Studios, Dublin, Ireland

Additional Musicians:

Kim Dylla – Backing Vocals
“Kim is the former vocalist of GWAR and runs Kylla Custom Rock Wear,” Keith says, “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. A long-time member of Cruachan over the years, and it was a pleasure to have him back and still be 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.”

Sleeve Notes

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