So, as a confession, I have watched Ruadh live at the Beermageddon festival in 2019, or at least I think I have, because on the day in question, I made an ill-fated decision to sit in the sun for a couple of hours drinking vodka and milk. Through a bit of a hazy memory, stilted by sunstroke and curdled alcoholic dairy, I think I really enjoyed them.
As way of penance, I decided to review this, their second album.
I say “their”, as Ruadh (which I am told translates as “Red” in Scottish), is actually the brainchild of just one man, Tom Perrett. Inspired by all things north of the border, hence the name of the album one presumes, “The Rock of the Clyde” is a blackened folk metal album. That description may well be filling you with as much fear as it does anticipation, being as it is a broad church of styles and approaches. Are Ruadh the kind of band that produces half-baked black metal riffs and smash away at their mum’s Casio in the background? Thankfully not. This is an album which is thoughtful, progressive, immaculately played and full of surprises.
Starting with the ten-minute epic “Embers”, it is clear that Ruadh have an approach that wants to evoke atmosphere, rather than rush to normal verse, verse, chorus, verse songwriting. Within this first track, there are sounds of a flute, mandolin (I think?), as well as the normal six and four string electric axe and drumming instrumentation. “The Rock of the Clyde” is next, this time weighing in at about ten and a half minutes, with a slow, methodical introduction that sets the scene for the tale told by the rest of the track. Here, there are clean vocals to be found, which – despite myself – I thought elevated the song to a far more epic sound; somewhere between a weird mix of latter period Skyclad, Messiah-era Candlemass and Viking-style Bathory music. It’s an excellent track, full of twists and turns, with some brilliant dynamism between quiet acoustic passages and more typical metal.
…In fact, Ruadh are at their best when they’re not just doing the straight ahead metal thing. Third track “Winter Light” is probably the closest they get to a standard metal track, falling somewhere between the more muscular black metal sound and melodic death metal. It’s not a terrible song, albeit it does remind me of some of the less great early Amorphis discography, but alongside some of the more atypical song writing on display, it does sound a little basic. Luckily, “Fields of Heather” comes next, with a great blend of folky melody and downbeat atmosphere. “Only Distant Echoes (Part 1)” is an acoustic number, bringing to mind similar numbers from Solstice (UK), while album closer “Only Distant Echoes (Part 2)” is the most angular and spiky number on the platter, all sharp-elbows and frantic drumming.
“The Rock of the Clyde” is actually a belter. I could now really kick myself for my self-stupefaction last Summer, and wish I that I had seen this band in full flight. There are a couple of caveats to the album; firstly, while I personally loved them, some might find the clean vocals a bit of a turn off. Secondly, you may need some attention span to listen to a succession of post-ten minute epics.
Me? I thought it was great.
Public Advice: Do not drink vodka and milk in the sun for hours.
(8/10 Chris Davison)