The heritage and landscape of Scotland has always provided an abundance of inspiration for extreme, atmospheric music. It goes without saying that bands such as Saor have spearheaded recent forays into bleak, mountainous lands and captured sonic versions of their journey. And now, with ‘The Rock of the Clyde’, Ruadh have donned their warmest apparel and taken the same ride.
Caledonian folk music offers a warm embrace and this forms the perfect companion to the bleakness of black metal. Ruadh combine the soaring progressions of classic atmospheric BM with the clarity and rhythm of ancient times, tying it all together with a monstrous barking voicing. From the hypnotic revolutions of ‘Fields of Heather’ to the epic title track, there are dynamic variations on this record that ensure it remains compelling and intrinsically listenable throughout.
The overriding emotion is sorrow – as any record of this nature should be bursting with. Ruadh successfully manage to present this as the misery of years gone by and scatter hope all over it through glorious fluted interjections and precise muted stabs. The conclusion of ‘The Rock of the Clyde’, a two part ambition titled ‘Only Distant Echoes Reign’, epitomises all that the record sets out to be. The tracks weave heaviness through ambience and distant voices, and all the while the journey continues and the landscape remains distinctly biting and unwelcoming.
Ruadh have not pushed any boundaries with this record but they have chosen to present their own version of a powerful and absorbing form of extreme metal. And, given their birthright to this Caledonian wilderness, they convey their music with exceptional ability and intelligence. As has always been the case in lands further north, it’s always better to allow the music to come to the mountains rather than making the mountains come to the music. In that way, ‘The Rock of the Clyde’ drifts around their eerie peaks with ease.