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Hand of Kalliach – Samhainn Award winner

Hand of Kalliach
by Gary Hernandez at 08 January 2022, 6:48 PM

HAND OF KALLIACH is Folk Metal husband and wife duo out of Edinburgh, Scotland. If you caught their 2020 EP, “Shade of Beyond,” you know they had a solid start. Their debut full length album, “Samhainn,” released on October 22, 2021, confirms that the promise seen in that early release was no fluke. Whether it was a matter of natural musical evolution, or the two just got way serious about what they wanted to do next, “Samhainn” shows significant growth from their first release.

While their 2020 EP explored a number of styles, “Samhainn” is much more defined. In the band’s words, they specialize in “a blend of melodic death metal with atmospheric Gaelic and Celtic influences, inspired by Scottish folk music.”  The album showcases the band’s impressive songwriting ability, weaving cohesive compositions which oscillate between the fierce and the angelic — represented both by John’s fierce guttural shrieking juxtaposed against Sophie’s haunting soprano serenades as well as the traditional folk sensibilities versus the razored edges of Blackened Metal.

Along with excellent songwriting we see exceptional execution not only vocally but with the instruments too, and with the clean acoustics as well the amplified distortion. As I am not a musician, I can’t tell if it takes a ton of talent to produce the music they do, but I do know it takes a keen sense of harmony and melody to make such discordant styles blend as fluidly and congruently as these ten tracks do.

Lyrically, the album centers on the dark cold sea and the witch-god that dwells within it. Although it’s tempting to see a Lovecraftian theme in several of the songs—powerful, eldritch denizens below the waves heralding doom and wreaking cosmic destruction—it’s actually rooted in ancient Celtic lore. And here we should embark on a short history tour to give more context to the band’s thematic intent: “The name HAND OF KALLIACH, comes from the legend of the ‘Cailleach,’ a Scottish witch-god of winter, and in mythology one tale holds that she sleeps at the bottom of an enormous whirlpool in Corryvreckan, off the western isles of Scotland where John's family is from, arising to usher in winter.” And as far as “Samhainn,” it “takes its name from the ancient Celtic festival of winter (pronounced ‘Sah-win’), marking the beginning of the dark months and the reign of the witch-god of winter, the Cailleach.”

On a final note of praise for “Samhainn,” the cover art is stunning. I love the monochromatic depiction of Cailleach’s triumphant and terrible rise from the roiling sea. Just like the songs on the album, it portrays beauty and power, deliverance and destruction. As far as standout tracks, I loved every track on this album. This is simply an 11. I even went back and bought their first EP, which as noted is also very good. I know we’re already several weeks into 2022, but this is one of my favorite albums of the previous year. A true sleeper album. I rarely cite other bands in my reviews, but if you are a fan of SYLVAINE, THY CATAFALQUE, or FRAYLE you'll want to check out HAND OF KALLIACH.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1.  Beneath Starlit Waters
2.  Solas Neònach
3.  Each Uisge
4.  Roil
5.  Cinders
6.  The Lull of Loch Uigeadail
7.  Ascendant
8.  Òran na Teine-éigin
9.  Trial of the Beithir-nimh
10.  Return to Stone
Sophie Fraser – Vocals, bass
John Fraser – Vocals, guitars, drums
Record Label: Trepanation Recordings


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Edited 06 February 2023

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