The six members of Hungary’s Dalriada are back with their patented brand of violin and flute-laden folk metal. On this record, the band also invited a number of gifted guest musicians who play bagpipes, cello, doublebass, kobza, and viola, as well as additional acoustic guitars, flutes, and violins. The band offers up different talented vocalists performing quite different styles, from clean female leads over male throat singing to a few harsh vocals. The female vocals are the most dominating, and to my surprise, the singer doesn’t only look good, but also has a grounded and powerful voice rather than coming across as another overwhelming symphonic metal diva. The vocals are all performed in Hungarian, and I’m positively surprised by how epic, graceful, melodic, and powerful this language sounds.
The approach and style of this band is comparable to acts such as Arkona and Haggard, but I prefer the Hungarian band over its Russian and German colleagues. Fans of folk metal bands such as Ensiferum, Elvenking, or Eluveitie should also give this excellent band a fair try. The joyful folk parts and imaginative compositions even remind me of the great Mike Oldfield. Despite these different influences, all of Dalriada’s records manage to have a clear focus without forgetting a few well-integrated surprises. Their latest effort,Napisten Hava, is undoubtedly one of the band’s strongest outputs. The only shame here is that I haven’t discovered this brilliant band sooner.
After a short, traditional violin introduction that reminds me of bands such as Bodh’aktan, Fiddler’s Green, Les Cowboys Fringants, Les Bâtards Du Nord, Naio Ssaion, or Rondo Veneziano, the band kicks its latest record off with the epic “A Dudas”, which includes a truly catchy chorus led by powerful female vocals and excellent chorals. These moments almost feel like a truly touching Christmas carol. The really great things about this song are the folk elements. The fast violin parts just make me want to dance, and the bagpipes add a lot of powerful volume and majestic atmosphere to the track. The throat singing is well performed and adds another fresh note. Despite all of these influences, the song is led by strong guitar riffs and melodies, and also has a few faster sections with powerful drums.
The band doesn’t stop there. “Tünderkert” includes even better violin melodies, and is probably the best folk metal song with violins that I have ever heard. The lead vocals here are pure magic, and the supporting choirs in the chorus don’t feel overwhelming, and add the right epic touch to another excellent song. “Napom, Fenyes Napom” convinces with harmonious acoustic guitar passages and joyful male and female vocals that give the song a comfortable but exciting campfire atmosphere. “Napisten Hava” presents us strong flute melodies and a guitar solo that would make Dragonforce’s Herman Li blush. The beautiful “Julianus Utja” includes great piano melodies, powerful guitar, and fine keyboard solos. The vocal performance of this song is also one of the record’s strongest, from my point of view. “Hunyadi Es Kapisztran Nandorfehervari Diadalarol (Saltarello)” includes a strong combination of male and female vocals, enchanting flute tones, and a cinematic feeling that could be drawn right out of a fantasy film. “Borivok Eneke” is probably the fastest song on the record, and invites to dance with its vivid violin sounds while female and male vocals collaborate very well together. “A Juhaszlegeny Balladaja” is probably the darkest and most epic song on the record. The record’s most metal orientated track also has a cinematic feeling and offers fewer folk elements than usual. The band keeps these for the acoustic outro that closes the circle, and reminds us of the opening introduction.
In the end, Dalriada offers us one of the strongest folk metal releases ever written, and includes only killer material. After a few spins, this record has already become one of my top ten records of the past three years. The song writing is diversified and inspired, but never too ambitious or progressive. The vocal performances are powerful and grounded, and I could listen to them for hours and hours. The riffs and solos on the record keep it metal, and the folk sections are performed with passion and harmonize very well with the rest. The only reason to not give this album a perfect rating is that I could see Dalriada doing even better in the future. Only time will tell. Fans of all aforementioned bands and the genre itself simply can’t get around this release right now. Discover and enjoy!