Scots Cnoc an Tursa unearth homeland’s bloody history on second record ‘The Forty Five’

cnoc-an-tursaIn this day and age, many people abhor violence when it comes to the affairs of one’s country. True, we have advanced and hopefully are beyond those action, but just about every corner of the Earth had their country’s current status set the way it is due to violence, justified or not.

Scottish black metal outfit Cnoc an Tursa do not shy away from their homeland’s bloody past. It’s a huge part of their folk-infused sound, and their amazing second record “The Forty Five” pays homage to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, led by Charles Edward Stuart (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) to take the throne from King George II and return it to the House of Stuart. While the effort ultimately failed, it stands as an example of putting forth a plan and doing what you must for the betterment of one’s homeland. We’re locked in a strange time in the United States right now where people are trying to figure out what’s best for this land and are lining up trying to find a way to defend what’s right. So, “The Forty Five” lands at a perfect time for us as we search for inspiration.

cnoc-an-tursa-coverCnoc an Tursa, which means “hill of the standing stone,” have been around a little over a decade now, but they only have two records to their name. Granted, those have been pretty strong albums, with their debut “The Giants of Auld” landing in 2013, and now “The Forty Five” arriving four years later. There’s an amazing energy to the band. It’s nearly impossible to listen to this record and not have your heart set ablaze. The band—guitarist/vocalist Alan Buchan, guitarist/keyboardist Rene McDonald Hill, bassist Tony Hill, drummer Bryan Hamilton—channels something similar to Amon Amarth, albeit in a different style, as they find ways to make their music approachable and brutal, catchy and crushing. This record is ridiculously fun, even when they’re looking back at a bloody surge that colored their nation’s history.

“Will Ye No Come Back Again” kicks off as an introductory cut, with winds blowing, Scottish-style music in the background, and pianos dripping before launching into “The Yellow Locks of Charlie,” which starts with folkish whistles before the track opens up. The guitars drive like a storm, while a furious tempo and wild howls lead the way. The track has a glorious, epic feel, with pianos bleeding in later, group chants causing your emotions to surge, and the back end of the song dissolving into the heart of battle before it gallops off. “The Standard on the Braes O’Mar” feels like it jolts out of a cannon, with a power metal-style rush leading the way, grim growls bruising, and no shortage of playing that should have your imagination running wild. “Wha Wadna Fecht for Charlie” has epic riffs and a heartfelt pace, with surging melodies, vocals that drip with emotion, and later the charge going cold, letting in some chilling air before blasting off again. The song again captures you, unloading onto your senses, before the thing comes to an end with an eerie, whispery dialog.

“Flora Macdonald,” a hero in the Jacobite Uprising, is lauded with a brief instrumental that contains blurry keys, strings, and a gothic hint. “Sound the Pibroch” has a round of gang shouts before the song shoves off, erupting in total chaos. The growls are furious, while the choruses are rousing, and as the track keeps going, it always finds new ways to reignite the fires. Later, the song heads into a fog, but out of that are more infectious melodies that rise and bleed away. “Fuigheall” crushes everything in front of it, bringing back gothy tendencies, with the song blasting into plinking keys and sheets of synth. Bagpipes pop in, bringing a folk texture, before another explosion sends dirt flying before the track ends in calm choral sections and raucous drums. Closer “The Last of the Stuarts” is serene at first, with acoustic guitars spreading and hand drumming acting like a heartbeat. Of course, that quiet is momentary, as the track tears open, and the band powers forward. Great lead guitar work and compelling playing provide the power, while the vocals rip, and the drums blast you. A repeated recitation of the song title loops over and over, as the music continues to spill thunder, and the track and record get a hearty, explosive end.

Cnoc an Tursa’s music finds a way to chisel into your heart and bones and light up intensity inside of you. “The Forty Five” is a fantastic record, a huge step forward for this band and more proof their music deserves every ounce of your attention. The world is in a strange place right now, and no one knows how things will even out. Having music like this should help galvanize your emotions and keep all us striving for what we think is right.

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