Thursday 7 March 2019

Tuatha de Danann - The Tribes of Witching Souls (2019)

Country: Brazil
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Feb 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | YouTube

Back in January, I reviewed Battleblood, a Viking metal EP from a band who live a heck of a long way from Scandinavia. Heiteitr are from Colombia and it was a weird feeling to listen to a band so apparently authentic but who may well never have set foot in the northern hemisphere. Well, to continue that sort of twisted logic, here's the most Irish EP I've heard in quite a long time. Which county are Celtic folk metal band Tuatha de Danann from? Well, they're not. They hail from Varginha in the southern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Yeah, that threw me too.

What impresses me most is that they aren't just a clone of an actual Irish folk metal band, like say, Cruachan. Certainly there's a lot of that sound here, but this band demonstrate that they know more about Irish music than just folk metal because they dig deep enough to find not only other sounds but the emotional resonance that drives the Celts.

For instance, there's a real joy in the title track that kicks off this EP and it's the joy that comes from the wildness of Ireland and the community that only partly tames it. The whooping and hollering behind the music has meaning, not just as expressions of freedom but as an accompaniment to what is really music for dancing. There are jigs here and pipes but there's also a punk edge that's more akin to the Pogues than Flogging Molly.

Warrior Queen switches to a female lead vocal to sing what is quite clearly a rebel song, born not of wildness and freedom but of oppression and a will to fight back. It's led by a driving beat and what I presume is a mandolin. Tan Pinga Ra Tan, presumably named for a drum rhythm like their debut album Tingaralatingadun, has that female vocal aim for a plaintive tone. It's a yearning song with a neatly contrasting harsh male vocal behind that clean female and it's the only time we really hear an accent that isn't Irish.

Outcry certainly never sounds anything but Irish. It's another rebel song but an acoustic one that's driven by mandolin, pipes and drums. For a while, it's emphatically the Pogues but it drifts into the other obvious influence that I kept hearing here, which is bizarrely Yes. Oh yeah, this Celtic folk metal band from Brazil have a real progressive edge.

That Yes influence can be found most in the thoughtful Turn and the lively Conjura. The former has progressive keyboards dancing behind the rest and the song follows them into prog territory. Conjura often sounds as if the Dubliners wandered into a rock recording session and just joined in with the jam for a while. The Yes side kicks in a couple of minutes from the end with the vocals and keyboards highly reminiscent. It's fascinating stuff.

I've left Your Wall Shall Fall until last, even though it's the EP's middle track, because it's the most metal song here and it also shows that the band don't just listen to Celtic music. The vocals remind of Martin Walkyier of Skyclad fame, for no better reason than they are indeed Martin Walkyier. He wrote the lyrics and sang them and it's appropriate for him to be literally at the heart of this EP.

The original Tuatha dé Danann were the ancient Celtic gods, so that name is a heady one to live up to but this band of Brazilians do a notably fine job of it. Now, I need to track down their four full length albums and see how time has changed them. Three of them were recorded in the early years of the millennium with only 2015's Dawn of a New Sun being recent.

And here's where I should probably point you to Tuatha de Danann's YouTube channel because I'm sure you're having as much trouble trying to figure out what Cruachan, the Pogues and Yes sound like together as I would have been had I not listened to this first. The tl;dr version is that it sounds damn good.

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