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I have recently been besotted with Eluveitie's music. It's no sin, no. Having only been deeply enamored with black metal, it's only fitting that it would be time for a little change of scenery. Having not been exposed to such music previously, I find it almost too ethereal. Good God, what a change!
From much research and observation, Eluveitie seem to have disappointed many with this record. I cannot imagine why - there lies beautiful symphonies, amazing vocals and an overall great atmosphere. Although I would usually be slightly ticked off by a band who brings forth an album with several songs, Eluveitie seemed to have shoved off that discontented feeling with their 17 songs. Yes, the human beings behind this band are brilliant. Yes, you should bloody well listen to this record!
A prologue is heard before 'Helvetios' kicks off the album with instrumentation and a female named Anna is on vox in the first part of the song before Chrigel Glanzmann takes over. I believe it is compulsory as a listener to let the music fully consume you as you listen to the rest of the album. That, I think, won't be so hard to do when listening to the sounds of 'Hope', as it is a beautiful instrumental song. Or when you are listening to the amazing solos in songs such as 'Santonian Shores', 'A Rose for Epona', and 'The Siege', to name a few.
There are, fortunately, songs you can find yourself headbanging to, which is what I almost always seek, songs such as 'Havoc' and 'Luxtos'. And then a song that is sing-a-long, 'Neverland'. Eluveitie have managed not only to rise feelings of pure ecstasy within me, but respect for musicians who are neophytes in cooperating folk metal with melodic death metal and exceeding in doing so.
'Helvetios' is a decent record and is recommended. Eluveitie might just be the change you have been looking for in heavy metal.
Is Eluveitie even trying anymore? These guys were living the folk metal dream not too long ago. They found a lovely Celtic-looking typeface to use on all their albums and merchandise. They took lots of wonderful blue-tinted band photographs. And when some family’s beloved pet goat passed on to that great, never-ending folk festival in the sky, they paid tribute to its memory by turning its hide into a set of bagpipes. But somewhere along the line, Eluveitie somehow managed to go from being one of the better folk metal bands out there to being masters of the ancient Eastern art of phoning it in. Was this inevitable? Perhaps, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing, and Helvetios is an unfortunate consequence of a band that seems to have forgotten much of what made it great in its prime.
I knew I was in for a real cliché-fest when I first heard the intro track. A spoken word section over nature sounds? Seriously? Is anyone ever NOT going to skip this? It doesn't even have an interesting traditional instrumental bit like the intros on Spirit or Slania did, which is the only thing that made the intros on two far superior albums tolerable.
The first actual song starts off with your typical folk medley, and then abruptly breaks into unremarkable melodic death metal chugging before going back to a folk medley. If you repeat this sequence enough times, you’ll have gone through basically the same process that Eluveitie went through while writing the songs on here. Yes, they have committed a cardinal sin of folk metal: the folk elements and metal elements are almost completely segregated from one another, and they don’t complement one another at all. That really sucks, and doesn't make for good music.
It’s not all bad, though; there are a few decent songs on here, most notably Luxtos, a delightfully festive, toe-tapping track that outshines everything else on the album. A Rose for Epona isn't bad either, featuring an excellent flute and violin segment just past the midway point that is over far too quickly, and though Maria’s clean vocals teeter dangerously on the border between being charming and irritating, the track still sounds extremely distinct, and shows some development and experimentation on the part of Eluveitie.
These bright spots aren't really enough to make the album worth it, overall, though, and the whole sordid affair is cheesier than a grilled cheese sandwich on Italian-style cheese bread, but doesn't have the benefit of being fun to listen to like Eluveitie's earlier work. I really hope these guys discover how to be great again.
In 1999, M. Night Shyamalan wowed audiences with the mega-blockbuster The Sixth Sense. Everything came together perfectly--the right story, the right actors, the right tone--making for a film that was so popular it spawned a number of cliches and launched Shyamalan into superstardom. The writer/director's previous work never hinted at such brilliance, and his subsequent work has eventually proven that he was just a flash in the pan.
Eluveitie is folk metal's M. Night Shyamalan. In 2008, they blew just about everyone away with the brilliant Slania. In a pure, magical moment, they combined folk metal with melodic death metal so perfectly that it's never been matched before, or since. Particularly not by them. They experimented with a purer folk approach, then unsuccessfully tried to re-hash Slania. Now, they've once again attempted, and failed, to recapture any kind of magic.
Sure, there are still flashes of what made them great. "Meet the Enemy," "Havoc," and "Siege" are all great tracks. But there is a disturbing trend of mainstream-friendly material seeping into many of these songs, most notably on the two female vocal-led cuts, "Alesia" and "A Rose for Epona." The latter is even fit for rock radio, and the two of them together will probably get the band's female members on the cover of Revolver's "hottest chicks in metal" issue. You may think it's a stretch to find a folk metal band on the radio or touring with the likes of Lacuna Coil. But Apocalyptica's mainstream breakthrough once seemed just as unlikely.
In the end, the tracks don't fit together, despite the stated intent to create a concept album. And the material is far too weak to hold up across its hour-long runtime.
The Verdict: For me, this is Eluveitie's The Village. It's the moment when I finally realize the artist isn't that great, and had only one brilliant moment. Turns out, I'm not actually a fan.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Folk metal is a fascinating genre. Bands from all over take inspiration from their homelands and infuse it into their music. When combined with the exotic instrumentation of folk metal, this usually makes for a unique listen. Eluveitie, however, are pretty much "the" folk metal band these days. They're far beyond the popularity of most other folk bands, and as such, they're the band that sparked my odyssey into that fascinating genre.
With that said, it is always depressing when a band that is responsible for expanding one's musical horizons seems to be inevitably descending in quality. Such is the case with Eluveitie's recent effort, Helvetios.
Eluveitie, at its core, has always been generic melodic death metal. No powerful, bone-chilling riffs like Insomnium or Skyfire, and no atmospheric keyboards like Dark Tranqullity. They never needed it though, as that's what the folk instruments were for - the hurdy gurdy, flute, all of it; they added the slick melodies and atmosphere that was lacking. Helvetios is the first album where those folk instruments don't seem to be enough. It's the first album where it seems obvious that the music is lacking something, though, however good their music might've been before, I personally always thought that some Insomnium-esque riffs or Dark Tranquillity style keyboards would've made it that much better. Even so, I think that, ultimately, the problem with this album is that everything has the "been there and heard that" feeling. It's the same damn thing they've been doing with practically no deviation or differences to distinguish this album from anything else in their discography; only, this time, they're doing it worse than usual. Furthermore, the songs seem to run together, leaving me wondering which song is which. Most of the songs are all the same - same tempo, same folk sounds, and never any real technically to set any of it apart.
Now, that isn't to say the album is bad. There's 17 tracks and none of them annoy me or make me want to skip them. That alone makes this a good album. Furthermore, even if all the melodeath elements are even more trite, the melodies of the folk instruments, though they sometimes seem rather contrived, are generally still cool and well composed (just not as well composed as on previous albums). There's highlights, such as "Luxtos" and "Santonian Shores," which have slick and sweet folk melodies and super catchy choruses. "A Rose for Epona" is also fairly different, in that it's more of a poppy folk rock song fully sung by their female vocalist, Anna Murphy; it's not really heavy at all, but I like it.
I think one of the biggest highlights, though is "Alesia." It opens with a beautiful melody and more clean singing, proceeding into a more slick folk melodies, a cool guitar groove, and a fun duet of clean singing and growls. It's all good stuff, but its the ending that really gets me:
We offered a living sacrifice
Outside the doors of Alesia
Where our tears run dry
This is sung by a child-like choir; it's really atmospheric and leaves me with goosebumps. "Tullianum" directly follows; another atmospheric and short segment, mostly vocal driven with a simple melody, it would've done just fine as end of "Alesia," and I do believe the two should be listened to together at all times.
I guess the best part of the album is the lyrics. While Eluveitie have always had fascinating lyrics about the Gauls and whatnot, this album is a full blown concept focusing on the Gallic Wars. This is what turns the album into a real journey; even if the music feels generic and uninspired at times, there's undoubtedly a certain flow to the music that the conceptual lyrics portray. They deserve props for that, if nothing else. This odyssey of sorts has a "Proloque" and "Epilogue" - and "Epilogue" is, surprisingly, one of my favorites of the album. The narration is haunting but convincing, giving me a sense of pride for the ancient Helvetii that is the album's perspective. The flute that dominates after the narration is passionate, and the entire track is atmospheric yet again. It simply establishes a breathtaking emotion that most of the album lacks.
Nonetheless, despite the good this album has going for it, and despite how much I really want to love this album, I simply can't help but get the feeling that the majority of it is not only too similar for me to opt listening to this ahead of, for example, Everything Remains (As It Never Was) (my personal favorite of their discography, and an album that has gotten an unfair amount of criticism from its fans), but also too similar within itself, with little diversity to separate most of the tracks. Maybe it will one day click with me the way it has others, and I'll suddenly understand how this is such an improvement. Until then, though, this stands as a disappointment.
I have been a fan of Eluveitie since their release of Slania in 2008. That album and its predecessor, Spirit, were defining points in the history of folk metal. 2009's release of Evocation I was a nice softer side to Eluveitie, with plenty of atmospheric tracks as well as hauntingly melodic folk tracks. Then came Everything Remains (...), which was in all respects not a bad album, but it failed to capitalize on what the band was known for. It was a generic folk metal album with four instrumental breaks.
Now with their latest release of Helvetios, I find myself feeling somewhat unhappy with the release. Eluveitie are extremely talented musicians and rightly deserve the attention they receive, but Helvetios proves that more is not always better. With 17 tracks (one of which being a twenty second long break), I actually only liked 5 tracks off the entire album. Apart from the opening and closing narration, which I found to be incredibly pointless, the songs are reminiscent of their last release, only this time less spectacular.
The guitar work was, sad to say, the least of it and seemed to me they had just ripped passages from old In Flames and pasted it alongside folk tunes. The folk tunes, which I fell in love with Eluveitie for, were just...there. The entire album seemed to be just cut and pasted. The drumming is impressive and Merlin enjoys a little freestyle in the middle of the only real stand-out track, Havoc. That song stands out as being the first to have a real thrash vibe aside from the other melodic death metal tracks. Chrigel's voice is the same as it always is, but is still disappointing as he did not do many high screams as he did on Slania and Spirit.
Anna once again stands out as a rising star in Eluveitie. Her clean vocals improved rapidly since Everything Remains and her excellent screaming on The Siege is something to be admired, but overall this album came as a disappointment. I expected much more from a 2 year gap from a band that HAS the potential to do great things, but failed to reach their full potential. I'm hoping after a soft break in their next Evocation II release, Eluveitie will once again show the folk metal community why they are the best at what they do.
Eluveitie, the masters of folk metal, have finally returned with a brand new album, entitled “Helvetios.“ The album contains an outstanding 17 tracks and gives you everything you want and more in a pagan folk metal album. They include wild solos from unique instruments such as the flute, the violin, and even the hurdy gurdy. You’ll also find violent guitars, dominating drum rolls, and beautiful piano riffs throughout this pagan masterpiece.
It all begins with a “Prologue” of a man telling a story while ocean sound effect drift in the background. This fades into “Helvetios” which storms in with melodic riffs by the infamous hurdy gurdy and monstrous guitars that chug away violently. Thunderous drum rolls accompany this epic sound as female vocals chant loudly in the background. The first verse comes in with roaring growls and fast guitar riffs. The chorus contains fast pace double bass pedal drumming and aggressive growls as female vocals chant in the background. Later you’re met with a wild solo by the hurdy gurdy. This solo will absolutely knock you on your ass. It’s melodies make you want to get up and dance while the guitars and drums make you want to bash your head recklessly.
One thing that you can always count on with Eluveitie is how clear their growling vocals are. Usually it’s so hard to understand what death and black metal growls and screams are actually saying, but with growls as clean as these you can pretty much hear everything that is said. Songs like “Home” and “Santonian Shores” are some perfect examples.
Towards the middle of the album you will come across “Meet The Enemy” which jumps at you immediately with heavy chugging guitars and exploding drum fills. The verse starts off right away with demonic growls that echo throughout the entire track. Meanwhile a little flute melody jumps in the background giving an uplifting feel to the song. You’ll run into this flute again in the middle of the song as it delivers a mind blowing solo that will make you want to replay this song for sure. Double bass pedal drum rolls rumble heavily in the background keeping an upbeat tempo. The end ahs an interesting surprise and female vocals step in with spoken word. This spoken word quickly turns into a bone chilling growl that will definitely make you shit yourself. More female vocals show up in “Neverland” as well only this time they are in the chorus and accompany the male growls giving a strong beauty and the beast type of sound. Later you’re met with a catchy violin solo that will have you dancing in circles in no time. Double bass fills shake from underneath you with detailed rolls and shattering cymbals.
If you like the use of female vocals so far then you’re gonna love the song “A Rose For Epona.” It opens with gorgeous piano notes and angelic flutes and hurdy gurdy melodies. The female vocals take full control of this song as you‘ll find only short clips of growling lyrics. The chorus is filled with ravishing vocals and aggressive guitar riffs. Make sure you pay close attention to the drums on this one because that are insane. Constant double bass also opens up the song “Havoc.” This is followed by relentless snares and cymbals that constantly smash away in the background. Monstrous growling vocals step back into the picture and completely pound you into the ground with its viciousness.
“Hope” is a short piece that is strictly instrumental. Gorgeous flutes soar high over bag pipes and acoustic strings. The melodies are catchy and definitely leave you wanting more. Two and a half minutes just isn’t enough. Of course, you’re reawaken by the devilish growls in “The Siege.” This is one of the more violent song on the album for sure. You greeted by both male and female growls throughout the song and booming drum rolls as well. They include an upbeat violin solo that carries jolly melodies that really mix up the mood of the song. “Alesia” is another track you don’t want to miss. Beautiful female vocals open the first verse as the reckless growling vocals follow. The chorus contains both vocals layered on top of one another. Meanwhile quick kicks and snares beat up the background and carry heavy distorted guitar along with them. Another flute solo steps in during the bridge forcing you to get up and dance. This is another one of those “must play again” kind of songs.
Over the years Eluveitie has used the female vocalists more and more through each album. They really play a big part in this album and it definitely adds more diversity and balance to the band and the music. As far as the instruments go, everything mixes together perfectly. Refrains are catchy, guitars are heavy, and the drums are punishing. There are times you will want to dance and times that you will want to mosh. When an album gets you moving as much as this one does you know you’re in for a treat!
Eluveitie was one of the first bands that got me hooked onto the melodic death metal style of folk metal, with Slania being the first album that I listened to. Unfortunately, over the years as the band's style of music evolved, my interest in the band dipped similarly. While the acoustic folk-rock album Evocation I was still bearable and unique in itself, their return to extreme metal grounds with 2010's Everything Remains as it Never Was was a disappointing album, sounding like an uninspired, watered-down melodic death metal album.
This year marks the release of the band's follow up to Everything Remains as it Never Was with Helvetios, and out of nostalgia's sake I decided to have a listen to the album. The epic and heroic feel that the band has always incorporated in their music is still present, first with the dramatic spoken introductory track, Prologue, sounding like the narrating of the opening chapter of the album and this definitely helps in building the anticipation for the journey that is to come. As title track Helvetios begins, the familiar folk instrumentations and arrangements immediately greet the listener, building the tension in the air. First listens certainly sound good, and there is the potential that the band has returned to their original form or even better, with the smooth progression of the tracks, and the perfect fusion of brutality through the gruff, death vocals and the melodies that the folk instruments provide.
Some of the most charming moments on the album are the heavy usage of folk elements compared to the previous release, and this is certainly a welcome move considering this was what made Eluveitie such an enjoyable band personally in the first place. The usage of the female vocals also add a nice dynamic and contrast to the gruff lead vocals, and the singing style gives a somewhat tribal feel to the music as well, instantly transporting the listener into the middle of a battlefield, and it is these folk elements that help to make the music catchy and keep the listener constantly interested.
Unfortunately, the band falls in terms of the metal instrumentations. The downtuned guitar, the beefy tone of the guitars and the chugging style that the band constantly utilises throughout the album may sound refreshing and suitably aggressive at first, but as the album drags on it almost starts to sound somewhat nu-metallish, and this particular so if one imagines the songs on the album without the folk instruments, especially on tracks like Helvetios. In fact, removing the folk instrumentations on the album, Helvetios would probably come across as yet another of those uninspired melodic death metal records, with the flat-sounding guitars and the boring riffs that are filled almost solely with power chords and little innovation attempted.
As already mentioned, the saving grace of Helvetios are the brilliant folk and acoustic arrangements that are present on the album. While I am all for bands attempting progress in their musical styles, in such an instance it would have been nice to see the band revert back to the style they had created on albums like Slania and Spirit instead. That said though, this album is still an improvement over the band's previous output, Everything Remains as it Never Was and is perhaps a step in the right direction for Eluveitie once more.
After hearing the tracks released before the album itself, I wasn't too impressed. However, I did have some hope as a whole album should not be judged based on 2 tracks alone. Now, after listening to the entire album, I do have to say that it sure left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I don't even know where to begin listing the down-side of the album.
The album appears to be an exact replica of it's predecessors (san The Arcane Dominion), there is absolutely nothing new to offer here. It just seems like Eluveitie's just floating on the waves instead of surfing and conquering them.
The album lacks direction on setting up the necessary mood shifts. Like many other folk projects, the guitars have dulled down so other instruments can take the lead (which in most cases is Keyboards, but here it's other things). Also, for parts that actually are dedicated to the guitars, I don't get why they have 2 guitars. They barely have harmonizing as both guitars are pretty much playing the same things, and what's worse is that if you strip the folk from this album, it will fail to stand out. The riffs are the usual generic Gothenburg style riffs.
The folk instruments on the other hand are still going strong and giving the songs the little bit of epic feeling that they actually do have. The female vocals that once painted images of history can not be found here, I don't even know what the female vocalist is doing. There is no emotion, and once again, like the instrumental parts, she fails to set the right mood.
The last thing that doesn't seem to click with me on this record is the repetition of a chord progression that they had on the last album. They used it twice back then, they used it twice again on this record. Perhaps the last notes/roots being different, but that's about as close as it gets to being set apart. This can be found on "Helvetios" chorus section, and on "Havoc" at about :50 seconds in. For those who'd like to refer to the last album, the song that comes off at the top of my mind is the chorus section of "Kingdom Come Undone".
In my books, if a band/project can't deliver good music continuously, it's just not good enough to be in my collection. The last album was generic, and this album's even worse. I am very disappointed but will be deleting all their songs off of my tablet, my computer, and selling the CDs.
If you're the kind of person who seeks originality and freshness in music, this record is not for you. As for those who will pretty much listen to anything, please, knock yourself out here.
My final scores are as followed:
Headbanging Factor: 5/10
Overall Feel: 3/10
Cover Art: 10/10 (That's another factor that I do consider as Cover Arts provide a sense of an album, they speak a 1000 words).
The fourth effort of Switzerland's Eluveitie (fifth, if you count the all-acoustic "Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion") is an album that presents many pros and cons, and instead of analyzing the recording track by track I am going to depict it in its different aspects.
One of the worst things I hate about pretty much every folk metal band is that - with some notable exceptions (Tuatha de Danann, Mago de Oz) - every band that focuses itself on some kind of "traditional" music and therefore creates its identity around instruments as violins, flutes, or - as in Eluveitie - even hurdy-gurdys always tends to put aside (I would say to ghettoize) the whole guitar work. Moreover, many folk metal bands (Eluveitie, Korpiklaani, Fintroll etc.) chose to play with two guitars, two guitars that unfortunately play the same riffs over and over again. This is even the case of Eluveitie, since in this "Helvetios" the guitars are probably the worst section, reminding to me some of In Flames' works but really standardized, in order to leave all the space to Meri Tadic's violin, Anna Murphy's hurdy gurdy and Päde Kistler's flutes. In fact, if you're searching for guitar solos, "Helvetios" is not a good album to listen to, and this is evident in some "filler" songs that have no good "folk" instrument solos or patterns, thus ending in monotonous melodic death-like fast tracks. Apart from this aspect, though, and I will talk about this in a few lines, the whole "folk" instrumental section is astonishing, and along with some catchy choruses they have been able to write more than a handful of awesome songs.
On the other hand, we have many great aspects on here, and as we can hear on Alesia and, above all, on A Rose for Epona, is that hurdy-gurdyst Anna Murphy's voice has been greatly improving over the years - in fact, she gives an outstanding performance even on some parts of what in my opinion is the best track on the album, Luxtos, and I sense that Eluveitie's choice to give space to Anna's great vocals is one of the most clever things they could have done after the release of their debut album "Spirit". These three tracks are, in my opinion, the best ones of the whole album along with Neverland, and with no doubts at all in the future Anna's voice will be enhanced more and more.
Apart from Anna, whose great voice we had already had the opportunity to enjoy in masterpieces as Slania's Song and Omnos, another thing that can be pointed out is that vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann's melodic death (Anders Friden-like) vocal style (yeah, it seems so similar to me!) has been improving too, and in masterpieces as Luxtos or Neverland he has been able to give an intense feeling - in the same way that he delivers when playing live shows. The bad thing is that in some songs his singing style could sound a bit monotonous, but I think that in the six or seven songs that I am continuously mentioning in this review he has made a great and emotional performance. It's my opinion!
All this said, the most interesting, varied and inspired aspect of Eluveitie's music has always been the "folk" one, and here more than ever we can hear an astonishing use of flutes and violins, so that pretty much every song has folk solos, and many of these (Helvetios, Meet The Enemy) are really catchy and enjoyable, in an elaborated way. Whistler Päde Kistler has made a really remarkable work here!
After all these good things, there are some other bad ones to write about. One of these is that 17 songs are frankly too much, even if we have some spoken ones and a filler (Tullianum), so with such an abundant number of tracks is natural that some of them are not that good or inspired, and it seems that apart from six or seven astonishing tracks, the other ones flow without giving anything to the listener, and since I have mentioned those I think are the most beautiful songs it's useless to recall all the skippable ones.
For what concerns the lyrical aspect, it's not a mystery that Eluveitie has always been writing about Swiss history, and on this "Helvetios" they have made an awesome effort, trying to describe the so-called Gallic Wars from the Swiss (or better: the Helvetian) point of view - and everyone (like me) who loves history will surely enjoy to read the ways in which a contemporary Swiss band tried to depict all those events (the battle of Alesia, the last Gallic revolt in Uxellodunum etc.) in the way that they were (in Eluveitie's point of view) lived by the Helvetian tribes facing the Roman conquest from 58 to 50 b.C.. Not everything is great, of course, but most of the lyrics are really enjoyable and they will probably make the more careful listeners to go and search more about the ancient history of the whole Central Europe in a complex period like that of the wars of the Roman Republic north of the Alps.
So, what can we say in the end? This "Helvetios" is undoubtedly a great successor of "Everything Remains as It Never Was", and it follows the patterns tracked on songs as Thousandfold or Nil, i.e.: fast drumming, melodic death-like growl, catchy choruses accompanied by folk instruments and, of course, solos made up only by violins, hurdy gurdys or flutes - no guitar solos, no "inspired" guitar patterns, and no different guitar melodies (a thing that we could expect, knowing that Eluveitie has two guitarists!). The main bad thing, though, is that half of these 17 songs are in some ways "skippable", since they may be enjoyable for some flute or violin parts but in the end there are not catchy choruses, female vocal parts or something to be remembered. In any way, if you have enjoyed not only Eluveitie's first two albums but all their discography you won't be disappointed, and even if you have never heard of Eluveitie before or if you know only their last works this "Helvetios" will surely please you.
Over the last few years, Eluveitie have established a reputation (rightly, I should add) as one of the best folk metal acts on the scene. Their last album, Everything Remains (As It Never Was), represented probably the ultimate refinement of the sound they had been crafting over their previous three releases. Having reached this point, the band inadvertently found themselves in the unenviable position of having to pen a follow-up to that seminal record.
This being the case, it was probably an intelligent decision to change their course slightly for the release of Helvetios, by recording their first ever concept album. Concept albums are viewed in a different light to the conventional release, and when assessing this album I have judged it by a slightly different set of criteria than I would usually have done. Having said this, I found it difficult to buy into the concept of Helvetios as a continuous narrative. There is little sense of overall coherence and as such this album sounds like just another collection of songs, rather than a true concept album.
That said, there is plenty of excellent material here and anyone who has ever enjoyed Eluveitie's previous work will find plenty to keep them satisfied. Songs such as 'Havoc', with its twisting melodies, and 'The Siege', which features some absolutely stunning violin work, fit right in with the very best of the band's catalogue.
Though musically the album is quite similar to their previous efforts, it does seem that Eluveitie have tried to branch out slightly on Helvetios. Title track 'Helvetios' and 'Meet the Enemy' both tend to stick closer to the metal end of the spectrum, their folk elements uncharacteristically toned down, perhaps representing an effort from the band to demonstrate a wider appeal and cater to fans of standard melodic death metal.
Also, songs like 'Luxtor' and 'A Rose for Epona' are clearly more catchy and easily accessible. The cynic in me suggests that the latter of these two was intended as a radio-friendly single release, with its catchy, singable vocals, and though it is a decent and reasonably addictive commercial metal song, it's also the type of song that will grow stale with repeat listens. And, of course, that's without even mentioning its uncanny resemblance to Blood Stain Child's 'Metropolice'.
Some of the commercial elements aside, the highlight of the album for me is undoubtedly 'Meet the Enemy'. Preceded by the spine-chilling 'Scorched Earth' it is one of the only occasions on the album that truly evokes the visceral horror and chaos of the war that has inspired this album.
At this point I should admit that I have been quite harsh in my analysis of this album, because there really are plenty of brilliant moments here, and again a remarkably and consistently high standard throughout the album. If anything, this harsh judgement is a result of the high standards Eluveitie have set with their previous releases.
Though I don't feel Helvetios quite lives up to its billing as a concept, it's still an impressive effort and is undoubtedly one of the better albums I'll review this year. Moreover, it should see Eluveitie maintain their status as one of the top folk metal acts in the world. However, if you're new to the band, while you would undoubtedly find plenty on this album to satisfy you, I'd advise you turn to some of Eluveitie's earlier releases to get a truer picture of what this band is capable of.
Eluveitie is band that has always been lights and shades to me. They had truly amazing outputs such as "Slania" as well as one of the worst records I have ever heard in my entire life with "Vên". After the rather disappointing melodic death metal record "Everything Remains As It Never Was", the band finally delivers a great record once again with "Helvetios". The mixture between modern metal influences and addicting folk sounds of a bunch of diversified instruments such as the mandolin, the Uilleman pipes, the Bodhrán, the Gaita, the hurdy gurdy, the bagpipes, the fiddles and different whistles works way better than before. The band's music has also become more diversified, technical and progressive. The title track may already convince those who are critical towards this album but the best tracks are yet to come.
The choruses are very catchy and memorable and the band has also created many addicting melodies. The record is though a conceptual a record about the Gaulish wars of the Roman Empire on one side and the Barbarian raids on the other side as seen by the ancestors of the Swiss people. The great thing is that the story doesn't take too much space and the music still has a great flow without losing its guiding line and epic atmosphere. You can take the album as a whole and enjoy it but also pick single tracks out of the context like the epic and atmospheric "Santonian Shores" that gives the folk instruments enough air to breathe and space to stand out, the energizing single "Meet The Enemy" starts like an ordinary fast paced melodic death metal track that quickly leads into calm folk passages and a very surprising female vocal parts after several rapid changes of style and atmosphere or the enchanting "A Rose for Epona" that focuses more on the female than the male vocals and offers a refreshing change of style.
Even the songs that sound rather worn out at first sight turn out to include the special certain something to convince in the end which hasn't been the case on the last records. A good example is a track like "The Uprising". I was just about to skip the song after a fast paced beginning with mediocre melodic death metal vocals but the song was suddenly saved by folk orientated breaks an a atmospheric narrative passage that gave me unexpected goose bumps. I had to listen to this track a couple of times and really grew on me and became a highlight of this record.
The band delivers what they're known for but had a better focus on the song writing and the right mixture of the two faces of folk and death metal. They only try out something new with the song "Alesia". This track starts with dark piano melodies and breakable and highly emotional female vocals that remind me of Evanescence. The track gets darker and the female vocals harmonize well with the soft and atmospheric male growls and lead to a truly addicting chorus. If the band decided to put this track out as a single, they could probably gather a lot of new fans and have a little commercial success. This song has a lot of mainstream potential without sounding too random as this is still one hundred percent Eluveitie. I would have liked to hear more experiments of that kind on this record. The band delivers what we expected in a very strong way but musically, they are not very innovative on this new output.
That being said, there are also a couple of weaker tracks like the overlong ethereal and vocal orientated interlude "Scorched Earth". The real problem lies elsewhere though as many tracks sound rather exchangeable and make this record feel a little bit stretched. The band should have shortened the record by fifteen minutes or so and cut out three or four fillers to create a true killer album.
Nevertheless, the band is back with a bang and delivers its second best output after "Slania" in my humble opinion. Anybody that has lost interest in the band because of the last outputs should skip the rest and check this one out. This is how I like Eluveitie and they present us everything they stand for. Let's hope that they have learnt from their mistakes and start a progressive evolution this time by creating more experimental songs with the perfect mixture of authentic folk magic and the power and emotions of metal music instead of doing another boring and overrated acoustic output or a pointless modern death metal record with some lost folk interludes. Let's be optimistic and say that it's worth to keep an eye on their evolution and give them another chance after this great strike that pardon a little bit for the mistakes of the past.
Bands who are able to be propelled to the top of the head are done so by the grace of the attention paid upon them, whether it is deserved or not; depending on the band and musical style, the most attention-sought are usually the ones who aren't even worth crowing about, but I'd like to think that, in the case of the folk metal world, the rapid rise of Eluveitie is pretty deserved. That being said, I digs me some ELU', and have been digging it all back quite a few years, what with the whole combination of epic melodies, addictive rhythms and melodeath seriousness, and honestly I can't wholly sympathize with the nay sayers and some of their consistent bashing of the group in recent years. I've always said that there are worse acts out there to condemn, but is anyone listening? Doesn't seem like it. Ah well.
So it's been quite a while since the satisfying "Everything Remains (As it Never Was)", and I’ve been rather eager to find out what could come next…
What works for this record versus some of the ones in the past is that the serious feel of it all, while still present, is actually put to the side for a more majestic flavoring, that gusty-winter-wind-through-the-woods approach while still retaining a good amount of the modern meanderings they've used in albums past. All this makes for, I'd go so far as to say, probably Eluveitie's most fun album, more bouncy and atmospheric in spite of their darker takes on the old warfaring legends (if the intro track is any indication…), and I found myself absorbed into the album faster than previous works. What helps, outside of the more positive-sounding musical moments, is a general lack of the somewhat repetitive songwriting nature (I'm sorry to admit) the band has undertaken many times before; each song, in its own way, sounds fresh and brimming with grand ideas and only coming back to already-used structures so many times. Even then, though, it's still as addictive and well-done as it's all been before.
What also makes "Helvetios" work is that the guitars have more face time than before. Now granted, the acoustic instrumentation and the melodies therein are still the main focus of the songs, but hearing the guitars and bass play parts that aren't just simple chords underscoring everything else is a nice change of pace. However, it's their ability to use all those simplistic compositional methods and make them grand listens that's been keeping my own personal Eluveitie/Swiss flag fluttering high in the wind. It's the grand scale of the interplay between all the instruments, growling and clean singing that gives this record the staying power it demands, and it's strange that there are other acts out there who would try the same thing only to whiff versus knock it out of the park. But whatev', that's their problem, and I'm only here to discuss how the fanciness of songs like "Home", "A Rose for Epona", and "The Siege" absorb and cling to you throughout a damn-near exhaustive jaunt from one end to the next.
At the end of the day, "Helvetios" is another example of Eluveitie deserving their position in the folk metal realm. Even at their worst, they've done plenty to keep my attention, and chances are I'd put this at the top of my pile of discs begging repeated listens. VERY recommended.