SuidAkra // Eternal Defiance
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Suitably epic fodder
Label: AFM Records
Websites: suidakra.com  |  myspace.com/suidakra
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.24  NA: 06.04.2013

suidakra_eternal_defianceIt’s true, going into any Viking metal-related band and expecting innovation is an exercise in futility. With Eluveitie basically making the same album over and over again and Ensiferum getting more clichéd and boring with every passing record [How dare you??? Steel Druhm], not to mention countless other bands putting out forgettable records; they all tend to blur into one. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for SuidAkrA though — a band that offers all the enjoyment of bands of Ensiferum‘s ilk, but with none of the cringe-worthy theatrics and clichés. While I can’t speak for their earlier material, having never heard it, I can speak to their great 2009 record, Crógacht. It featured a mix of melodic death metal and gorgeous, triumphant sounding bagpipes that not only added a bright, invigorating energy to the sound, but also ensured a certain uniqueness to their musical palette. Couple this with some great riffs and great performances all around and you’re onto a winner of an album. Their last release, Book of Dowth had many of the same aspects, but ultimately was a more forgettable experience, overshadowed by the achievements of its predecessor.

This brings us to Eternal Defiance, minus a few minor details, it’s the same album yet again. This isn’t necessarily meant in a derogatory way either, as many people would be absolutely thrilled at the idea of a mix of Crógacht and Book of Dowth, which is what this album essentially is. You get catchy riffs, occasional non-metal instrumentation handled far more tastefully than the majority of their peers (note to Eluveitie: playing a bad melody on a hurdy gurdy doesn’t make it a good melody), and songs that have structures that don’t stick to verse/chorus. There are also a few minor  twists and turns. Luckily, all of them serve the album very well, which proves SuidAkrA are a band that understands control and how to avoid the over-use of gimmicks. A lesson many of their peers could stand to learn.

When SuidAkrA decide to use the more “in-your-face” genre clichés, they handle it well. The introduction track, “Storming the Walls”, is enough to get the pessimists of the style interested with some tasteful orchestration teamed with pounding drums and guitar, all handled just about perfectly. This track is a proper herald for the rest of the album which is suitably epic. A lot of the tracks have minor highlights rather than overt variation, with “Beneath the Red Eagle” having a great vocal performance by both the frontman and the female session vocalist; “March of Conquest” having wonderful interplay between the vocalists and bagpipes buzzing away in the chorus; memorable, catchy and damn enjoyable. However, I could do without the forced and contrived folk songs like “The Mindsong,” which is a cringefest from beginning to end. Not because of bad performances, but because it’s just so shamelessly accessible and clichéd. A blunder on an otherwise good recording.

Otherwise, the rest of the album is the same mix of melodic death full of catchy riffs, pounding drums, war-like orchestral pads,suidakra2013band bagpipes, male/female (and some great raspy vocals). Just like the last two albums, and possibly more. While it sounds like I’m not impressed by this album, allow me to stress that I am. It’s a good album — it’s SuidAkrA playing to their strengths and it quite frankly proves that SuidAkrA are a band that the folk metal scene needs. A band that sticks to what they’re good at and doesn’t fall into clichéd radio rock potholes with every consecutive album (Eluveitie). Nor are they biting off far more than they can chew and trying too hard to re-live the successes of past albums (Equilibrium). Or just deciding “You know what? Let’s suck!” (Ensiferum) [Dude!!Steel Druhm]. They don’t strive to impress, but they craft a mix of winning elements that results in an enjoyable, epic, yet tasteful album.

For those with a taste for the epic, Viking-influenced side of metal, I don’t think I could recommend anything better these days. It goes to show that good riffs and melodies can indeed conquer all, and conquering is what this music is all about, right? Or is it about mead? Both in equal measure? Or perhaps the Emperor or Rome? Bah, I need a drink.

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  • Thiago Oliveira

    I’ve been listening suidakra for about 10 years, and they are sure
    one of my all-time favorites. While I’m more fond of their early years
    (Lays from afar, the arcanum, and their best album IMO, Emprise to
    Avalon), the now-Suidakra is sure enjoyable. They kept the success
    achieved in Caledonia with Crogacht, but I don’t know how I’ll feel
    about this one, since, by the feel of their new MV, it just seems
    another Book of dowth, witch wasn’t that great. I hope this to be at
    least a solid album.
    Damn, I hate having high expectations ;

    • Noctus

      It is definitely a solid album, back-to-front better than Book of Dowth. In fact, you could probably just consider this a ‘Book of Dowth’ done right – nothing mindblowing but damn enjoyable.

      -Noctus

  • Yeah no, new Ensiferum does not suck for me, I enjoyed Unsung Heroes and the new material totally rips live. So, other than the Ensiferum bashing, this review piqued my interest on this record, so good job.

    • Noctus

      To each their own! For me though, Unsung Heroes was a mix of boredom and cringing. If anyone can listen to the lyrics “Tyrants and cowards for metal you will kneel” while looking at unfit dudes holding guitars in bad viking attire without cringing I’d be damn impressed. Even if the song had any energy at all maybe it would work, but for me at least, it doesn’t.

      -Noctus

  • Amelia

    As a fan of folk metal, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ensiferum bashing. Their music is so boring and having seen them twice, they aren’t much more interesting live. I can’t for the life of me understand why so many people seem to like them so much.

    • Noctus

      I think every single one of their albums is such a mixed bag that I can’t listen to them from beginning to end, but they have made some great tracks. Several tracks from the s/t hit home, Victory Song, the Heathen Throne tracks… The only album by them I consider completely useless is Iron. Oh, and Unsung Heroes.

      -Noctus

  • Ernesto Aimar

    I don’t really agree with the comparissons between bands in this review. I’ve been listening to Suidakra since their beginning, and also to the other bands quoted here and something it’s not very accurate with the descriptions. If you listen to earlier Suidakra stuff like “The Arckanum”, “Emprise to Avalon” (their magnum opus IMO) or “Caledonia”, albums like “Crogacht” and “Book of Dowth” are in fact repetitive stuff (though very good records as well). And though they had a few false steps (“Command to Charge”) they are very skillful musicians that should be respected. I could not listen to this album yet, but I did listen to the song “March of Conquest” and it seems it’s EXACTLY the same formula as in their latest two albums (hell, even Kris Verwimp is writing the same lyrics all over again).

    Now, you mention that Eluveitie keeps doing the same album over and over again. First of all, they only have 4 folk metal LPs (and an outstanding folk album mostly overlooked by the metal press) whereas this german fighters have published more than ten actually. I honestly think the first two Eluveitie albums are works of marvel in this genre and they have mixed the best melodic death metal riffing with the most pure and authentic celtic folk. The fact that many fans (myself included) question about the latest Eluveitie records is that their metal side had become more and more metalcore-ish and yes, the feeling seems not the same. But I really think it’s unfair to say that two standard albums (I wouldn’t say “Everything remains..” and “Helvetios” are weak, they have pretty good songs not to say many) makes Eluveitie a cliché band while comparing them to Suidakra, who, however good at, have used the same resources over and over again (the bagpipes for example are always used in the same manner, while Eluveitie has amazingly rich folk sections with an incredible wide range of sounds and instruments).

    Speaking of Ensiferum, I agree their latest offer is not their best, but at least I respect the fact that they’ve chosen to go for a more mid tempo rythm to their songs in order not to repeat the bombastic epic powerful sound of “From Afar”, which IMO it’s an outstanding record. But again, I feel that Suidakra is no cornerstone of complex progressive music who develop themselves differently from one album to another.

    I don’t mean to disregard the review though, I think it is very good and I actually enjoyed it. I just wanted to point out those few points. As AMG always say, reviews of any kind of art are all about subjectivity and no one holds any truth about anything. So, Keep up the good work!

    • Noctus

      Hi,

      1. I did clearly say in the review I haven’t heard their earlier material, and my comparisons to other bands only come from their last three albums including this one, as they’re the only ones I’ve heard. I think they’re rather alike.

      2. As for Eluveitie, their first album is okay, Slania’s okay too but after that they just fell apart – Evocation included. I don’t think it was a very good folk album at all, in fact to me it sounded far more like a pop album with folk instrumentation due to the overuse of female vocals and verse/chorus structure.

      The big difference for me is that Eluveitie re-use everything pretty shamelessly where SuidAkrA show control and restraint so it isn’t obnoxious. In this genre there isn’t really that much you can do to innovate so re-treading old ground is to be expected.

      3. As for Ensiferum, I just felt the new album was poorly paced and badly written – the tempo of the material non-withstanding.

      I appreciate the comments, thank you for the passionate response, despite any disagreements. I do hope you find the album more to your liking, it’s for sure enjoyable and I did think it was a step up from Book of Dowth.

      -Noctus

      • Ernesto Aimar

        It’s true “Evocation” had some pop structures in some of it songs, but all of them still hold true folk tunes and are not made up by them. You can hear a different version of ‘Omnos’ performed by Faun in their latest album (which BTW is more popier than their previous works but still marvelous). But there are many songs on “Evocation” that hold and amazing arcane atmosphere. The Lyrics, the isntrumentation, the guest musicias…I think it’s a great piece of folk work. Furthermore, in what I feel Eluveitie surpass Suidakra in the use of resources, it’s that the folk segments in most Elu songs are traditional folk tunes re arranged to fit in metal songs (not being this metal songs a distortioned copy of the folk melody, if you know what I mean). Suidakra does nothing more than throwing a bagpipe line here and there, or a mandolina from time to time, but I can´t see how they are more in contrrol of their resources when they have been re-doing them over and over again. Nonetheless, they have AMAZING songs (‘And the Giants Dance’ was a marvelous piece of accoustic work) and I’ll always enjoy the music. I’m not trying to set up a contest between both bands, I just happen to love both of them and wanted to talk abou it :)

        I think that in his review of “Bokk of Dowth” Steel Druhm portrayed Suidakra’s sound as a perfect mixture between Blind Guardian and early In Flames guitar riffing mastery (I’ll drink to that Steel Druhm!). That exactly what I’ve always loved about them, but in their latest albums their flame’ starting to wither I guess. But I’ll definetly buy this new album and I’m pretty sure I will enjoy it, even if it is for a short time.

        .

        • It was not I that reviewed Book of Dowth, but our sometimes contributor, Within Darkness.

    • See, this is why I love the AMG community. Thoughtful, friendly and insightful remarks. Kudos, Ernesto!

  • I’m gonna be that guy and add my two cents of: This is not viking metal for they have always sung of celtic related lore and history.

    • Noctus

      Going to quote someone on Facebook here:

      “That’s the problem when you define genres by lyrics. Suddenly two bands that sound exactly the same are different genres just because one sang about trees and the other sang about trolls.” – Garrick Anderson

  • MeatWolf

    The album is great, one of the best SuidAkrA has produced. Basically, it really is Book of Dowth pumped-up, also with sympho arrangements added, as if coming from those classical re-arrangements which were the bonus tracks on BoD. The melodies got much better and the songs are much more memorable, after a few spins I got to remember all of them, each having some special feature to it. All the other trademarks of the late SuidAkrA are here, incl. melodious bagpipes, slashing leads, crushing sound etc.