Last year you already had the opportunity to get to know Celtic Hills on our blog. Therefore, I will spare myself a longer introduction at this point. The fact that the band from Udine is releasing their third full-length within two years is certainly remarkable. Those who are afraid that this will be at the expense of quality can breathe a sigh of relief: Huldufólk has become a good album, which is even really superb in many parts!
Stylistically, we are dealing with classic power/speed metal known from German bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray. In this respect, we have to do with a departure from the sound of the predecessor Mystai Keltoy, also reviewed on this platform, which offered some significantly heavier tones as well. I have to admit that I definitely like the new direction, as the third album by Jonathan and his comrades-in-arms is more consistent this way. I also dare to say that it might become a bit easier to position themselves on the market, as fans and journalists love pigeonholes…
The outstanding feature is and remains the versatile vocals: Jonathan sometimes sounds like a Michael Kiske in good condition, but he can also be rough and harsh. He moreover succeeds in creating memorable, not always immediately catchy vocal lines, which usually stand out pleasantly from the uniformity of the genre – positive long-term effect guaranteed!
Being able to take the Huldufólk to one’s heart depends decisively on the question whether one likes dominant keyboard parts. Since Celtic Hills use this instrument at the appropriate moments and manage to enrich the individual songs, I have nothing to complain about. I am also usually sceptical about symphonic elements, but on this record the whole thing is well dosed – and never too kitschy. Of course there are some “Happy Happy Helloween“ moments, but Celtic Hills are by no means a fun band, but an outfit that knows how to create energetic, life-affirming music with the urgently needed depth.
Particularly noteworthy is the song “Metal Message“, which the band dedicated to their PR man and friend Markus Eck from the agency of the same name. Anyone who is familiar with Markus knows that the Bavarian is one of the most passionate and authentic guys you can meet in our scene. That’s why I’m especially happy that Celtic Hills are honouring him like this!
Are there also weak points? Not really, in my opinion, but personally I can’t do much with the potential party cracker “Villacher Kirktag“. But since I’m sure that many fans will like the number, I don’t want to absolutise my own taste.
Conclusion: If you like varied, old-school European power metal, you will definitely enjoy Huldufólk. However, I can imagine that you need a few listens to really get into the Celtic Hills universe. In my opinion, this is mainly due to the sometimes unusual vocal lines, which after a while unfold a special magic that is hard to resist. Give the third full-length of the band around Jonathan a little time to unfold. You won’t regret it – you can get standard stuff elsewhere!