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Metal's platypus - 60%

BastardHead, May 25th, 2008

Let's imagine that In Flames found a bunch of Celtic folk instruments lying around in an attic and decided that they'd try their hand at this folk metal thing that has gotten so popular as of recently. Now, imagine what this personified ideal would look like. To me, it seems like modern melodic death metal and Celtic folk metal's bastard child would look scraggly and unshaven, probably with less teeth than fingers. It would hobble when it walked and would be perpetually slouched over. The rasp of it's smoke damaged voice would be near indecipherable, and it's noxious aura of odoriferous funk would prevent anybody from getting close enough to hear it speak anyways. Now let's imagine blowing him up, say we slipped a small bomb into his half-eaten-and-found-in-the-trash burrito or something. After the chunks of dirt ridden meat finish raining down on the streets of the city, an amateur mad scientist with a scant understanding of human anatomy attempts to stitch him together. This resulting creature stands as my visual representation of Eluveitie, a patchwork entity that is coherent and recognizable, but at the same time disjointed and ugly.

There are tracks like Giamonios and Anagantios that are instrumental Celtic folk pieces, but are then immediately followed by folkless melodeath slabs of aggression like Bloodstained Ground. The blending of the two styles is interesting in theory, considering the two schools of folk metal seem to blend with power metal (Ensiferum and the like), or black metal (every other folk metal band in existence), so it was refreshing to hear this band at first, but the thrill and originality wears off by halfway through the album. I think the Achilles Heel of the album is that in inherited modern melodeath's inability to variate. You hear the same four rehashed In Flames riffs throughout the entire album, and the folk parts get old when you start to know exactly when they are coming and exactly how they will sound. The predictability severely hinders the enjoyment for me. Some bands (*coughRunningWildcough*) can write the same song over and over across 12 albums and remain interesting. But then again, comparing bands to such legends is sort of unfair, but the point remains that Slania isn't really all that interesting when you break it down.

My platypus and homeless Frankenstein comments reference my observation that the majority of the songs do an atrocious job of blending the two styles. They are both there, and they are both prevalent, but no songs apart from the first three are able to blend them seamlessly into each other. It seems like a quilt knitted by Michael J. Fox; the two styles being either thrown in randomly with transitions that that are about as subtle and tasteful as an atom bomb or have some random folk thing going on behind a generic chugging riff. Very rarely are the two integrated into the same coherent whole. I understand that oil and water don't mix, but this is more like trying to mix grape Kool-Aid with lemonade. They are just two different beverages, and while the resulting concoction may not taste wonderful, you don't have to just drink out of separate cups the whole night.

With all of that said, this isn't a bad album. Elembivos, Inis Mona, Sublime Grey Archon, and Primordial Breath are all really good songs, and the patchwork nature of the songwriting doesn't really start bothering you until you hear the In Flames reject called Bloodstained Ground. I gave Slania a passing grade because it is enjoyable, and I occasionally spin it regardless of the shortcomings. I'm sure a lot of people can look past the awful blending of different styles, but something like that is the reason I despise bands like Opeth. If you enjoy folk metal, give it a try, but if you are like me, you'll only get through half the album before you want to headbutt a sidewalk.