Review Summary: An important piece for the developing Irish black metal scene.
Ireland tends to produce a gemstone every once in a while, be it Thin Lizzy for hard rock, Horslips for progressive rock and Boyzone for pop bands. I jest, of course, but Ireland has always maintained a population of very talented musicians.
The usually Scandinavian dominated genres of folk metal and black metal have fused on several occasions but I challenge you to find a group who produce it as inimitably as Geasa. Originally entering the underground consciousness in 1994, their 1996 demo was highly praised for their stylistic take on Celtic folk music, while still maintaining a strong black metal feel. It was without doubt that this band were destined to produce ground breaking stuff, but not without trouble along the way. The main songwriter of the band, Fergal Purcell, left the group, forcing them to reform. After other line up changes, a 4 man team emerged; Philip White, Draighean (AKA John Kavanagh), Steven Maher and Simon O'Laoghaire (Also a member of Primordial). Together, these men would create something special.
Angel's Cry opens with an instrumental piece, "Tuatha De Dannan" which is incredibly symphonic in it's execution, awash with emotional credenzas and screaming guitars. This is the song that originally drew me to the band, when I heard this piece at the tender age of 12, and fell in love with it. From this point the listener feels the album could venture anywhere, but are rewarded for their patience by the masterful "Duan Do Mo Bheann Sidhe". This song features sweeping, speedy passages of guitar mayhem, with a combination of the droning, melancholic clean vocals and raspy, throat burning screeches, we get a sense of real diversity of influence, and a clear ethnic feel to the music. The next song to stand out comes as "Frozen Queen" almost ballad-like lyrics, and haunting celtic melodies stand this song out as a classic! After another few wonderous songs We reach the penultimate track, "Starside". With almost epic proportions, and yet again filled to the brim with traditional infused, yet incredibly violent black metal. Ending the album is "Spansill Hill" Geasa's take on the traditional folk song. It does not so much stand out, but maintains a fitting end to a vast and diverse album.
Of course, the album does have a few issues which will distract the unconditioned listener. As with most albums from underground scenes, Angel's Cry has relatively poor production values. Black metal tends to have a very lo-fi feel, but Geasa struggle to do their music justice in some cases. Guitar tones on occasion sound muddy where clarity was important to maintain melody, the vocal tracks have the occasional artefact. And the synthesised strings, while easy to manipulate and create the symphonic backing for this epic music, are very annoying at times, purely due to the fact that no MIDI can sound good straight from the keyboard to tape. But this does not detract from the listening experience of someone who appreciates the music, but the unprepared ear may be repulsed by their relatively low quality sound.
The one thing that in which not a single crack can be found, is the passion and dedication that the musicians had when writing, recording and producing this album. The vocals and lyrics are thought out, reminding the listener of charging gaels and evil banshees. The guitar solos are beautifully constructed, and the overall feel of the album, is that of true love for this music. Ireland had beheld a gemstone of the blackest onyx, adorned with the folk music of a proud and noble people.
A great album, for a shamefully unknown band. 3.5.