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Culloden - Witchpricker

Culloden
Witchpricker
by Max Elias at 22 June 2019, 8:23 PM

CULLODEN is not the folk metal the name might suggest. Rather, they play a style of NWOBHM-influenced power/speed metal as irresistible as it is overdone (there are so many of these bands, you guys). The opener of this EP, ‘Lindisfarne’, invites comparisons to GRAVE DIGGER with its opening riff that sounds like it came off Knights of The Cross. Actually, when I first heard the name ‘Culloden’, my mind went straight to GRAVE DIGGER, as they are a band who was at one point pretty obsessed with Scottish history. The vocals have some of the same rasp that the GRAVE DIGGER singer has, as opposed to the ‘prettier’ soaring vocalist a lot of these bands go for.

About halfway through the song, the slower tempo shifts to a more driving attack, though still not quite reaching the 80s speed metal sound barrier. Still, even if it isn’t as fast, the galloping drums and power chord stabs leave no question about what era inspired this band. Also like many 80s metal bands, the lead at the 3:45 mark is a big moment in the song; long bends with hints of Dave Murray towards the end of it, not flashy by any means, the solo doesn’t sound like a copy of any one guitarist’s style, which is a good thing.

The historical metal (again, GRAVE DIFGGER) comes in on full force once you hear ‘Hills of Culloden’. A bit faster, with a tribal-esque drumbeat instead of the classic straight ahead percussive assault, lyrics that detail epic battles and mention the exact dates involved (1746, if anyone was curious) and a simple, Maiden-like guitar refrain lend this track all the gravitas it needs. And at least to me, the raspier nature of the vocals helps me get into the music more; bands like HAMMERFALL or IRON SAVIOR are great musically, but the crystalline vocals make the fantasy subject matter feel cheesy and trite for me.

Like the last song, there is a dynamic shift midway through, characterized by the muted harmonic chugging of guitars. Unlike the last song, this shift is to a slightly easier feel, with more relaxed vocal delivery, and the introduction of what I think is a lute or acoustic guitar for part of it. The song ends with a frenzied screech of a chorus, showing the passion behind Halliday’s unique voice.

‘Witchpricker’ is the most clearly NWOBHM track yet, with a galloping main riff straight out of Steve Harris’ playbook. The vocals also sound the most savage they have so far; they are barely intelligible, a rarity for the style. I’ve always enjoyed bands with that type of vocalist, for example GRAVE DIGGER or CIRITH UNGOL, but it is anachronistic considering the subgenre. By the chorus, the galloping charge has been replaced by cavernous pounding, as big power chords reverberate around the gang-chanted title. But leading into the solo, the gallop returns, and to match the rhythmic urgency, this is the showiest lead on the EP thus.

The last song here is about half the length of any of the others; ‘Red Cliff’ understandably comes out swinging, with little time for preamble. This is definitely the fastest song on the EP. Strong galloping drums are matched by chugging guitars emphasizing their heft with power chord stabs, and a dramatic fade out closes the book on the EP. The main draw with CULLODEN I feel are the vocals; instrumentally it isn’t anything too far removed from what NWOBHM is known for, and in fact is more subdued, with fewer front-and-center riffs.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Lindisfarne
2. Hills of Culloden
3. Witchpricker
4. Red Cliff
Lineup:
Andrew Halliday - Bass/vocals
Jack Brown - Lead Guitar
Stefan Rosic - Lead Guitar/vocals
Alex Connor - Drums
Record Label: Heathen Tribes Records
     


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Edited 18 July 2019
 

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