Review by Stephen Pedicino
Those lovely Swiss folk have yet another item to export from their wonderful little country. In addition to cheese, bank accounts and Celtic Frost, a folk-metal outfit named Eluveitie will be among the things to mention when discussing Switzerland. They are a young band that brings a more neutral, moderate of style of Celtic apparel fashion to the table. (Yes, I keep up on Celtic fashion) Slania is their second release and proves to be worthy of a listen.
The prologue, “Samon” has a very organic feel with a lot of whistles and pipes. It’s there to purposely tell you, “Hey. This is how we get down. If ya don’t like this shit, turn off ya stereo!!!” The very well named, “Primordial Breath” then rips through with a melodic death backdrop and of course the “earthly-folk” feel. The growls are supported by choir parts in the chorus. You can tell they are deliberately more Celtic than classical sounding. Not bad, not bad.
The next couple of tracks have a folksy yet modernized feel to them. They have a conscious edge which will either turn off or excite traditional folk metal fans. “Grey Sublime Archon” sounds exactly like In Flames would if they were to go folk. It’s got melodic power yet enchanting auxiliary instruments such as the fiddles, whistles and pipes. The guitars and drums drive most of the song though.
“Anagantios” is a nice, lenitive interlude that is basically a repetition of legato style fiddle playing. For some reason it made me imagine my friends and I out drinking on a boat in the middle of nowhere. I guess its kind of an alcoholic fisherman’s tune…..for me at least. The sound mutates completely into an aforementioned form with the following, “Bloodstained Ground.” The Gothenburg rhythm is executed very well and the chorus is as catchy as anything else. It’s a very short track, but the variety of instruments seems to expand the length of the song. A very crisp piece that might have the spot as my favorite. The next track is basically drawn from the same formula. Good, yet not the most original.
The vocals on Slania are predominately stable growls. Not too low, not too high. Thick and rough, but the range isn’t the greatest. Some distortion is used here and there which hint even more at the In Flames aspect at times. Examples of this distortion can be found on “Slanias Song.” Incidentally, you also get females vocals on this track. They’re not the prettiest, but hey…….its folk!
“Gianomios” impeccably reminds me of a minstrel tune you’d here around a Celtic campfire. The acoustic guitar and pipe flute really do an excellent job of painting that image of prancing embers in the listener’s head. (It suddenly gave me the hots for a medieval Helvetian girl!) The interludes on Slania do separate things quite nicely. But just as you sit back and dream, “Tarvos” abruptly cuts back to the melodic death metal intentions. It’s done with quite the smack and might actually be my second favorite after “Bloodstained Ground.” The next track also follows in the same footsteps. I must state, at times it’s a bit easy to notice the formula of Eluveitie’s sound…..
“Elembivos” brings this album to a close with that consistent bagpipe/fiddle ambience and fast chugging guitars. The solo vocals are replaced with Celtic chants and the rhythm is pretty repetitive. Not the most climactic way to close, but nonetheless listenable. You actually get a little guitar solo at the end! It’s no John Petrucci, but its probably as much as folk metal typically gets. The hidden track thirteen is basically a “classical” reiteration of the intro without the heavy guitars.
Well, we’ve got folk…..we’ve got metal. Combine the two and voila! The guitars and the album are more melodic than other folk metal bands. Some will appreciate this, while others may turn a cold shoulder. The rhythms are solid, but along with the drumming, is nothing to rave about. You won’t find hardly any solos either. Of course, folk and shredding don’t exactly go hand in hand like Rod Stewart and middle-aged white people. The production is perfectly clear throughout. Almost too clear, if that doesn’t make me sound too stupid. Sometimes folk needs to be rougher around the edges. This band has spirit and imagination, but some may not fancy the way melodic death and folk metal are blended here. Try it out and see for yourself!