SKILTRON - The Highland Way CD Review
TITLE: The Highland Way
REVIEWED BY: Paul Dorsz
There must have been some sort of mystical astral alignment at work when the members of Skiltron found one another. Argentina, long-known as the South American Florida for Nazi war criminals, is apparently home to not one but several musicians who have a passion for folklore and Scottish history. And one of them plays the bagpipes. One would think such an odd combination would be destined to fail, but it’s good. Really good. In fact, the band’s latest album, The Highland Way, is as much a journey of ancient history as it is heavy metal’s musical roots, with Skiltron offering up what is essentially an homage to classic heavy metal with modern production.
First, let’s get the obvious “What the hell is a Skiltron?” question out of the way: it is a formation of soldiers carrying pikes and pole arms to fight off cavalry. Right, on to the music: heavy metal, played with conviction. The Highland Way begins with Bagpipes of War, a fast, riff-driven musical charge embellished with bagpipes and tin flutes. It’s the most power-influenced song on the album, with the others adopting a slower-paced approach. Storm in Largs has a fast section inspired by Iron Maiden, led by Fernando Marty’s bass, which then switches to a bagpipe lead before closing off with soft guitars. Instrumental track St. Patrick’s Death is fast Celtic folk guitar played over a driving beat, which switches with a mouth harp – disappointingly short, the song begs to be played in bars the world over for last call. Through the Longest Way has some exceptional lead guitar work that could have been repeated elsewhere on the album, but it’s a minor complaint.
While Pablo Allen’s bagpipe riffs – well, bagpipe lines – certainly add a colorful element to the music, it’s the vocals of Diego Valdez that stand out on the album. He is the reincarnation of Ronnie James Dio. His delivery, his timber, his pitch – the man channels the legendary metal elf with every verse and every chorus. It’s astounding that he hasn’t been picked up to play in a Dio cover band, or to perform for Heaven & Hell. One listen to The Bonfire Alliance and you’ll want to prance ‘round the flames while throwing the horns as hard as you possibly can. Emilio Souto’s mandolin adds a folk touch to the song that drives home the feeling of a clandestine meeting in the woods. When he adds just a touch of a growl, you can hear the Dio influence and it is chilling.
That’s not to say the album is flawless. Bagpipes of War and Join the Clan are the only two tracks that are balls-to-the-wall fast and aggressive, and even then they’re not up to speed with some of the harder acts out there (Grave Digger, for example). Also, Souto and Juan Jose Fornes are talented guitar players, but they rarely go out of their way to explode on their instruments. Restrain is all well and good, but there’s nothing wrong with busting out a solo that’ll knock the kilt off the guy next to you. Those minor points aside, The Highland Way is a great album for drinking, driving, or office data entry, today’s battlefield. You’ll be hard-pressed not to put on face paint and try to stem a cavalry charge while listening to the album.
And I repeat: Diego Valdez sounds like Ronnie James Dio. No self-respecting metal fan should be without this album in their collection.
01. Bagpipes Of War
02. Between My Grave And Yours
03. One Way Journey
04. Awaiting Your Confession
05. A Last Regret
06. The Bonfire Alliance
07. Storm In Largs
08. St. Patrick's Death
09. Through The Longest Way
10. Join The Clan
11. For Those Who Have Fallen In Battle