Cnoc An Tursa - The Forty FiveHow do you keep a genre fresh without turning it into something it’s not? This is a question I’ve been pondering for a while now. See, I’ve been a near-obsessive devotee of the whole atmospheric-blackened-folk metal shebang ever since I caught Winterfylleth as a support band back in about 2009. Unfortunately, after many years, countless foliage-themed album covers and a surfeit of unintelligible shrieks about Odin and mountains, the sub-subgenre is starting to feel a little stale, and thus my corresponding enthusiasm for new releases is beginning to wane accordingly. Despite this, one such band I’ve been looking forward to hearing more from for a good while now is Scotland’s Cnoc An Tursa. They released a cracker of a debut album in 2013’s The Giants of Auld, showcasing formidable musicianship and an air of folksy authenticity. When their latest release—The Forty Five—came along, therefore, I cast my growing pessimism aside and prepared myself for a treat. I’d been waiting a long time for this, so my expectations were high.

Cnoc An Tursa—whose Scots Gaelic name translates into “Hill of Sorrow”— draw their thematic influences from old Scottish poetry, and I strongly suspect this to be the reason why their first outing sounded as authentic as it did; they kept their emphasis on themes that were sociologically relevant to them. This celebration of their heritage and culture translated into a rousing debut, and this stylistic thread has been duly carried across onto The Forty Five as well. Regrettably, in the end, it ultimately fails to live up to its potential.

Now let me be clear: The Forty Five is not actively bad. What’s so frustrating about it, however, is what it could have been. The Giants of Auld was heavy with a sprinkling of folk styling thrown in here and there to give it character and depth. In the case of their second outing, however, the band have reversed this formula, opting instead to place greater emphasis on the melodic side of things. While this seems like a good idea in principle—it feels like a logical progression for their music—a significant proportion of what is on offer here is neither stirring nor memorable enough to really grip the listener in the manner in which it ultimately should. This is immensely disappointing considering its promising predecessor.

On first impressions, The Forty Five actually starts out fairly encouragingly. Intro “Will Ye No Come Back Again” gives way to “The Yellow Locks of Charlie,” which utilizes traditional folk instrumentation to bring the music to life. Once the vocals kick in, however, it all begins to get a bit hit and miss. For such a delicate record, the production is surprisingly soft, and thus when the sounds begin to layer up, it all becomes a bit soupy. Furthermore, while there are pretty atmospherics, there’s nothing that really engages the listener to the degree, or in the manner of, comparable acts like Primordial, Cruachan or Saor.

In all fairness, The Forty Five is not a complete write-off. “Sound the Pibroch” and “Fuigheall” are both suitably gutsy, with plenty of fist-pumping grunt and rousing melodies. Indeed, if the whole record were up to the standard of these two tracks then my verdict would be considerably more favorable. The highlight of the album, however, is the haunting instrumental interlude “Flora MacDonald.” Featuring an achingly beautiful piano refrain, it really is a crying shame that it’s consigned to just a fleeting two minutes in length, as I could quite happily sit and listen to an entire album’s worth of such material. Even if the record as a whole hits somewhat wide of the mark, such moments demonstrate that the potential Cnoc An Tursa showcased on their debut album was not a complete fluke.

I had high hopes for this record, so it’s a real shame that it failed to fully deliver. Far from being a complete failure, it simply lacks the quality forecasted by its predecessor. There are signs of promise, and I’ll listen with interest should Cnoc An Tursa ever elect to release a follow-up. In the case of The Forty Five, though, I found that a significant proportion of the time when I ought to have been enjoying it was instead spent lamenting what a magnificent album it could, and ultimately should have been.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: Yes please | Format Reviewed: A stream of consciousness
Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings
Website: cnocantursa.com | facebook.com/cnocantursa
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2017

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  • Dethjesta

    This is a real shame, I really love The Giants of Auld; It was one of my favourites from 2013 and I was keenly anticipating this. Even though I’ve been slightly underwhelmed with the tracks I’ve heard so far from the latest record, I was optimistic none-the-less.

    You hit the nail on the head regarding the heaviness. It was a key part of the charm on their debut and it’s a shame they’ve lost a bit of that.

    I might get it anyway, but until then think I’ll spin The Giants of Auld for auld times sake.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      That last line made hot tea come out of my nose.

      • Bloated Goat

        Which is strange because you don’t even drink tea.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          u wot m8

    • Lord Lucan

      If you enjoyed their debut then it still could be worth a shot. Like I say, it has its moments for sure, and this reviewing game is all subjective anyway. It wasn’t really my cup of tea but that doesn’t mean it won’t be yours.

  • antitayyip

    pagan metal sucks..

    • Diego Molero

      Moonsorrow?

      • antitayyip

        i like them!

    • Dethjesta

      Primordial?

      • antitayyip

        not interested in..

    • LExpoZiod

      Kampfar? (We could do this all day)

      • antitayyip

        i like depressive kind of black metal…pagan-black seems awkward to me..

    • Reese Burns

      Wrong. Pagan metal rules.

    • Francesco Bordoni

      Elvenking, you FOOL!

    • antitayyip

      mostly sucks…

    • Lord Lucan

      Lolbutno

    • Tyr

      Sabbat?

  • Feytalist

    DR: Yes please | Format Reviewed: A stream of consciousness

    lolwut

    • Lord Lucan

      We didn’t receive a promo, I had to review it using an online stream so we weren’t able to run the DR unfortunately.

  • Zach Ward

    Even with the review being negative, and the score I’ll still have to listen to this. It seems pretty interesting, and who knows, I may like it. Art also helps. I have a soft spot for album art portraying Realistic wars and stuff like that. This art is good, so I shall listen.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Well, I loved “Giants of Auld,” and what typically turns me off from this style is that I find myself wishing the music was more melodic, although that wasn’t the case with GoA. Based on what I’ve heard here, though, your review seems to have hit the nail on the head. The music seems more streamlined and forgettable. Bummer. I also had very high hopes for this.

    • Lord Lucan

      Don’t let me tell you what to think though, it still may be worth a listen if you enjoyed their debut.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, it’s also based alot on that sample track, but you’re right that I probably should give it more of a chance. How DARE you do your job!?

        • Lord Lucan

          I don’t tell people what to think. I just tell people what I think, because for some reason they seem to be interested :)

      • [not a Dr]

        Paradoxal instruction. You’re telling him to think that it may be worth a listen.

  • Matt slatz

    “Attention k mark shoppers, we now have a blue light special in our face paint department….Blue paint only”

  • hallowed

    Cnoc cnoc.

    Who’s there?

    • sir_c

      It sounds more like some vintage whisky

      • hallowed

        I’ll drink to that.

  • Wilhelm

    There’s a joke somewhere here about the band photo and skirts.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Dragcore?

      • Here’s Johnny

        wtf?! really still making jokes about kilts? what banana republic do you live in anyway?

    • Here’s Johnny

      Is there? I mean nobody from Scotland would have ever heard that before!

  • Akerblogger

    Shame about this, I enjoyed their previous release a lot.

    Awful band photo, but I can’t stop myself from staring at the flash of blue nipplage from the bald fella at the back – mesmeric.

    • Reese Burns

      If you stare into the nipple, the nipple stares back. …or something like that.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the band picture. And then I felt guilty. The band picture is so lame I felt guilty for laughing at it!

    • basenjibrian

      Awwww. Even Scottish Warrior Monks need to show off their “guns”.

      • Lord Lucan

        Who needs protein shakes when you’ve got Irn Bru and deep fried chocolate?

  • that guys titty is hanging out

  • sir_c

    they did have some bitch fight with the Blue Men Group?

    • Lord Lucan

      Blue man group stole their lunch money and tore their clothing in the process. Baldy didn’t have his nip showing when he left the house.

  • Thatguy

    Folk instruments. You mean bagpipes don’t you. Bagpipes are on my list.

    • Lord Lucan

      Bagpipes and assorted flutey things.

    • [not a Dr]

      Bagpipes are the reason Hadrian had a wall built.

      • Thatguy

        I upvote this to infinity.

  • The Unicorn
    • Tyr

      Looks like he’s striking a pose….. :) VOGUE!

    • sir_c

      his nipple got twisted badly

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Oh no I was looking forward to hearing this :( I enjoyed the last album.

  • Zadion

    I dunno… that embedded track is pretty delightful. I really enjoyed Giants as well, but if the rest of the album is like the one on display then this more melodic version of Cnoc An Tursa might work very well for me.

  • Tyr

    The dude in back has a smurf tit. :D

  • Bloated Goat

    Cnocodile Dundee?

  • Here’s Johnny

    the comments section on this site has become so childish, dunno where to start. totally disagree with the review too.

    • From the guy going from review to review name calling. Please desist with the insults.

      • Here’s Johnny

        Snobbish reviews like the SFU one, slagging off other sites and the standard of the comments section has dropped considerably. Maybe this site needs a kick up the arse every now and then.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    Nice, though the only albums that I’d recommend to a non-fanboy are the the first two, maybe the third one and the last one. I also like whatever they put out in between, but it really gets hard to defend those albums with some one who didn’t grown up listening to them like I did ahahah