A great big slab of heavy death metal here from Irish band The Sluagh. This album is often brutal, always quite striking. The frequently savage music, though nuanced by calmer, maybe comparatively sedate, melodies, takes no prisoners and remains uncompromising throughout. It is as far from background easy listening as you are likely to find and is not an album you are likely to turn to while you do the washing up. The overall concept of the band musically, according to the band itself, is to be instrumentally driven but not to have one instrument, individual or element dictate the sound.
Sluagh is actually a Gaelic word meaning horde, crowd or army, and Enivid Creatures is one of a pair of related albums that the band has released. Enivid Creatures 2 is an orchestral counter-part to this album. The music in any case draws on classical influences as well as extreme metal, progressive metal and technical metal.
Whilst being grandiosely artful, many listeners will find the growled vocals off putting. Here they remain incomprehensible, although people who are aficionados will maintain that the growl remains quite an art in itself. It certainly gives the songs a great deal of their atmosphere but it does become tedious after a while and detracts from the music itself, which is very proficiently played death metal. The albums final track, I bhFolach, does away with all the vocals, orchestra and choirs to a simple instrumental tune featuring only the bass, guitar and drums. A similar approach elsewhere might have produced a more balanced listen, the impact of the vocals may have become more astute. The band has released an edited version of I bhFolach as a single.
The group, although giving their names in the credits, otherwise adopt the anonymity of wearing masks. The decision for The Sluagh to wear masks was really a wish to extend the artwork into another medium, and to elaborate further on the efforts the group make for creativity. What each mask represents differs from person to person within the band. The Sluagh, in legend, was represented by a flock of birds, so the masks often have a bird-like design to tie in with the band’s title.
Although this is the kind of album that will be polarising for many in the prog rock world, there is enough about the release that is positive. It is the vocals that might prove a bug-bear. But if you can overcome that, then there is much to admire. The band’s desire to let no sound or instrument dominate has led to some great ensemble playing. Quite what the songs are about is anyone’s guess, but, much like a foreign language film with no subtitles, you can pick up the gist of it. The gloomy, threatening tenor of the tunes matched with the vocals make this quite explicit. Death metal with artistic intent might be the way to sum it up.
Jorge Nino – vocals
Sean Blacklock – guitar
Avinash Appadoo – guitar
Killian Chellar – guitar/vocals
Krzysztof Sowa – bass
Release date: 8th March, 2022