As a young lad, I took great pleasure in diving deep into the mythologies of the world. Little Me buried himself in books detailing Greek mythology like most people would with comic books. As years progressed and I discovered the joys of metal music, I found plenty of inspiring stories from around the world. From the books of J.R.R. Tolkien to Elias Lönnrot’s timeless Kalevala (thank you, Amorphis), my appreciation for stories of different cultures and lands would not be so rich had it not been for the music you and I love so very much. Now, Ireland’s Celtachor crafted Fiannaíocht, a 57-minute epic based on the stories of hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, long-regarded as the bravest, strongest warrior to ever walk the Emerald Isles.
And at least from the start, Fiannaíocht conveys an equally powerful delivery of this story. Opening with a somber guitar-and-whistle melody, “Sons of Morna” sets the mood beautifully before blasting with blackened fury. If you wished that Eluveitie did away with the goofiness and just got down and dirty with the riffing, this just might be your golden ticket. Stephen Roche’s powerful rasps and shouts capture the sorrow and the torment of battle effectively, and with the riffs and melodies of guitarists David Quinn and Fionn Stafford lay a great foundation for the story to grow and develop. From this promising beginning, it appears that Fiannaíocht would be an epic to be remembered for years to come.
But things begin to go south as “The Search For Sadbh” occurs. An otherwise beautiful ballad, “The Search For Sadbh” reveals a major shortcoming, and that is Stephen Roche’s clean vocals. Plainly put, they don’t possess much in the way of power or timber, and come off as incredibly flat, crippling what would have been a nice mood-changer. Instead of elevating the sorrow, his voice just sits on top of the music. Elsewhere, his delivery is extremely pitchy (“The Battle On the Shore”), bringing key moments down considerably. And it kills me because his screams and shouts are on point, but every time he starts singing, I was yearning for someone else, like country-mate Krum (Darkest Era), to bellow instead.
Another sticking point to consider is the lack of self-editing abundant on Fiannaíocht. “Tuiren” could shave off a minute or two from its nine-minute length, and become more compact and potent. The two instrumentals, “Great Ships Came From Over The Waves” and “Tears of Aoife,” while not bad in the musical sense, don’t really add anything to the album as a whole. By the time “Dubh, Dun Agus Liath” crosses the finish line, my spark of initial excitement turned vanished, leaving me hollow due to too much repetition, overly long songs, and some bad vocal melodies. At least it sounds good from a production standpoint.
But I won’t close the book on Celtachor just yet. When the album shines, Fiannaíocht exhibits glimmers of what the band is capable of, and perhaps in an album or two, Celtachor will show the world what they’re capable of. As it stands, Fiannaíocht is a tale worth ingesting in bite-size portions. In terms of a full-course meal, your mileage (and appetite) may vary.