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Cnoc An Tursa

In 2013 maakten we kennis met Cnoc An Tursa. Het debuutalbum ’The Giants Of Auld’ gaf de krachtdadige pagan metal van deze Hooglanders een specifiek Schots timbre. Er is wat vertraging opgetreden vooraleer de opvolger klaar was, want helaas moest gitarist Reni een operatie aan zijn pols ondergaan, maar gelukkig kunnen we nu volop genieten van het trotse ‘The Forty Five’, een conceptalbum over de beruchte Bonnie Prince Charlie. Gitarist Alan Buchan en Reni McDonald Hill (zang, gitaar, keyboards) waren zo vriendelijk om ons van informatieve antwoorden te voorzien.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

Hello guys! In February your excellent sophomore album ‘The Forty-Five’ was released and we are glad that the wait is over. How are you doing?
Alan: Yeah, everything is good at the moment and we are very excited about the release of our new album.

Since it is our second interview with you, let us pick up the thread around the release date of debut ‘The Giants Of Auld’ which happened in 2013. That is already four years ago. What happened on the live front to support your debut album?
Alan: We played a few local shows, then done a UK tour with then label mates Falloch at the end of 2013. Unfortunately due to Reni having to get an operation on his wrist we were unable to do any more touring. It basically put the band out of action for two years.

When did you actually start writing the material for ‘The Forty-Five’ and who are the main songwriters this time? In other words, can you tell a bit about the writing process?
Alan:We started writing the new album in 2013. We started jamming some new songs at rehearsal and started playing a new track live and were hopeful of a release in 2015, but the issue with Reni’s wrist and again production issue caused some delays. Reni done pretty much all of the writing on this album, compared to on our last record where we worked on everything together and we jammed every song from the early writing stage to the finished version where on this album things were done a little different. The rest of the band never really got involved with the newer songs until the later stages of the writing process and then of course the production of the album. I had other commitments at the time, so it was left to Reni to take on most of the work, but the most important thing was recording an album we were happy with and an album we hoped people would love.

This one is a concept album. Can you dig a bit deeper into the theme(s) of the album lyrics, since they are naturally deeply rooted into your Scottish history? Why did you exactly choose this era?
Alan: There wasn't any particular reason other than we wanted to do a concept album and it seemed a great idea for the concept. We had so much material for lyrics to work with, due to the deep history and the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie. There is so much old poetry and songs about this era in Scottish history.

How did this genuine interest in Scottish heritage arose in you in your youth?
Alan: Just used to love visiting historical landmarks, old castles and monuments and as I got older I got more involved in the historical side of it.

Did you use any authentic folk melodies or lyrics from traditionals interwoven into your blackish heaviness?
Alan: Yes as we did with the first album, we used old Scottish poems and songs for the lyrics and we always try to incorporate the folk melodies in the music. I think it gives the band its Scottish feel and this is what Cnoc An Tursa is all about.

Let us focus on any characteristics of the album now: first of all: the songs are way much longer than earlier. Was there any intention to do that or did it just turned out that way?
Alan: I think it was a bit of both really. We wanted to try something different from the first album where most of the songs were pretty short, but with some of the songs I think it just happened naturally.

I have the impression that ‘The Forty-Five’ is more layered than the debut in order to get a kind of cinematic flavour . There are also more authentic folk instruments I think. Which ones and who played them? In that respect: are there guests on the album?
Reni: The keyboards/folk instruments are Vsts played via a midi keyboard. The software and technology that is available today or that I could afford when we started just didn’t exist, so I had to make do with what I had. I was limited to four gig of ram due to using a 32bit daw and operating system. In terms of layers as a comparison take ‘The Lion Of Scotland’: I used about four vsts/instruments on this track where as on this album a single song could contain up to 40+ keyboard tracks. There are no guests on the album be it Penny Whistle, Bagpipes, Piano, Violin, Choirs, Brass... everything I played and composed on a computer. A few of my favourite go to vsts are from REFX Nexus, Project Sam Symphobia and Best Service. I'd like to use a real violin and whistles in the future or layer them on top of the vsts, so guest musicians on the next album is something I will look into.

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In the meantime any line-up changes occurred too. Can you go deeper into the reason why Alan stopped singing? Don’t get me wrong, vocals of Reni are ace… but you have been looking for an outsider as singer for a while as well, isn’t it?
Alan: Yeah I have been having some issues with my vocals. I started to notice a change in early 2014. My voice was just constantly badly strained and was burning out a lot quicker than it used to. I started taking singing lessons to see if I could cure the problems, but unfortunately it never made any difference, so we decided the best option was to look for another vocalist. We had a couple of guys auditioning, but it never worked out, so we were running out of options and Reni decided to fill the position on main vocal. I am still performing live, doing vocals on the tracks from ‘The Giants Of Auld’ and doing of lot of backing vocals on the new material, so we will see what the future holds for the band on that front.

And we have a change on bass, but Tony is a familiar one, isn’t it? And the clean vocals are done by him…
Alan: Yeah our new bass player Tony is the former lead singer from Falloch and he performs clean vocals on the album as well.

I like to be complete, so tell the readers about your connections with Saor, Falloch and Winterfylleth…
Alan: We first met our good friends from Winterfylleth back in 2009 when we played a gig together in Edinburgh. We also did a full UK tour together and it was Chris Naughton who introduced
Cnoc An Tursa to Candlelight. Reni, Bryan and Tony are live members for Saor.

It has been a long recording process which started in August 2015. Where did you record this time and what about the production, mix and mastering?
Alan: We started off recording the drums at LSD studio in Lubeck in Germany with producer Lasse Lammert: then we have done the rest of the recordings at home. We used the kemper profiling amp for the guitars which Lasse also did the kemper profiles for the album. The album was mixed
by Scott Mclean (Falloch) and then mastered by Scott Atkins at Grindstone studio.

I am a bit confused, somewhere was written that the mix and mastering should be done in Sweden… please help me out of the dream…
Alan: The album was originally being mixed by Plec at Panic Room studio in Sweden, but
unfortunately the mix didn't work out it the way it should have.

You changed from Candlelight to Apocalyptic Witchcraft. What is the story behind this label switch?
Alan: We signed a deal with Apocalyptic Witchcraft records late 2016. We were only contracted to one album with Candlelight Records, so we had to sort out a new deal for the next album. Candlelight got taken over by another company, so we were not sure what was going on there. So we started looking around for another label and luckily we were able to sort a deal out with our new label.

The artwork is breathtaking again! Can you tell a bit more about it?
Reni: The artwork was created by the very talented Jan Yrlund @ Darkgrove design. The front cover is of the shores of Glenfinnan where in 1745 Bonny Prince Charlie landed to begin raising an army to overthrow King George.

Your heritage is reflected in the outfits and paint you use on stage. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Reni: We’re currently wearing the Black Stewart tartan on stage as part of the Jacobite concept and this was the Tartan the Jacobite army wore at Sheriffmuir in 1715, an area located not far from our home town of Falkirk.

What are the plans for the near future? Will it also include touring and/or live gigs?
Alan: Yeah we will be getting back on the road in 2017 and we hope to play some more shows abroad, hopefully some festivals and we want to start working on our next album.

If there is anything you like to add to this interview, please feel free to do so...
Both: Yeah check out the new album and we will hopefully see you on tour in 2017. Cheers from Alan and Reni from Cnoc An Tursa!

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