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The folk elements of this album are overstated. - 30%

Ilwhyan, April 17th, 2009

The amount of undeserved praise this album gets is astonishing. Now, while it's obvious that creating an album full of mostly unoriginal, somewhat watered down gothenburg riffs on downtuned guitars, having a bassplayer just for show and getting a vocalist with decent abilities and misusing them, the resulting musical rubbish can't really be called good in any way. To juice this astonishingly mediocre attempt at metal with folk instruments and using some folkish guitar leads here and there apparently sounded like a good idea to these guys, but let's be honest. Average at best gothenburg and celtic folk music are not a very common and certainly not a very good combination, no matter how scarcely the actually folkish parts are sprinkled over the album, especially if no noticeable attempt at actually fusing the styles together has been made. No, playing saccharine, cheesy and extremely mediocre melodeath where good riffs are hard to come by and adding folk instruments on top seemingly just for show doesn't work at all. If the bass player Eluveitie has is only for show, their folk elements are even more so, since they're actually quite audible, but the little interludes aside, there isn't really any folk to be found from ”Slania”. Certainly, many great albums have been recorded using folk elements in metal, but bands like Moonsorrow actually let a respectable amount of folk music in their metal and blend it in a very interesting and very functioning manner, whereas the redundant folk parts of ”Slania” are simply glued on top of the steaming pile that their melodeath is.

The most prominent aspect of ”Slania” is clearly the melodeath. While some folkishness has been brought to the riffing, or at least the guitar leads where they appear, this is essentially melodeath. The interplay between heavy rhythm guitars and drumming, which adds considerable amounts of heaviness to the music (though attempts at brutality, like usually in melodeath, have all failed here) sticks out the most. Moderately high-pitched screams give a lot of aggression to the sound, and there are also some female vocals aswell as chanted male vocals for the softer, supposedly more atmospheric parts. The folk instruments really don't make much of a difference, even less than the bass, which appears to be there solely for the sake of providing more punch to the sound. In that, it succeeded: the guitars have a full tone and sound quite excellent, the drums have punch and are performed with precision, and overall, both the production and the performances are not bad at all, but the production leaves no space for bass other than the modest role of simply complementing the tone, and as a result, there's no way to tell what the bassist is actually doing aside from playing root notes, it's far from satisfying. If Eluveitie did pull off that department decently, the real problems of the album lie in the most important part of the music: the content.

”Slania” is extremely disappointing, but unlike in most cases, it's not because it could've been good. No, it's clear from the beginning that this album was deemed to be this mediocre. It's rather the asinine attempt at blending these styles of which the most prominent one is pulled off with zero inspiration, and how superficial, shallow and irritatingly pointless the result is. The music isn't necessarily boring, and there aren't too many headache-inducing parts (aside from the extreme cheesiness, terrible metalcore parts where the band seems to forget that pseudo-brutal chugging doesn't equal quality or good melodeath, and not to forget the strange rhythmic choices that often seem to draw down the melodeath parts of the music), but the fact that this album offers little of any actual value, so little satisfaction or pleasure other than that of the most instant and superficial type which quickly wears off, that it becomes very irritating to listen to before long. Fans of simplistic melodeath with a gothenburg sound and a metalcoreish edge might find the melodeath insides of this album appealing, at least initially, but it won't take long to realise how redundant and meaningless it actually is. The gimmicky folk elements are little more than a nuisance, and don't improve the music at all, since the core of the music is helplessly mediocre in any light you can look at it. It seems as if the melodeath trivel is there solely to provide a background for the folk metal gimmick so it can be fully displayed, and since no real effort was put into creating metal music with folk elements in it, and the core itself is beyond repair, it's not that hard to guess how low the quality of this album is.

Not everything about ”Slania” is terrible, however. It's not nerve-grating to listen to, really, as long as you can tolerate the recycled and uninnovative riffing and unrelated folk elements bluntly taped on top of it, because it is rather accessible, and while it features rather few good moments (some of the best being in ”Gray Sublime Archon”, where the melodic chorus actually manages to express some emotion and even create something slightly resembling of atmosphere), there are equally few that make your brain hurt. Extremely good production makes the music flow smoothly despite all the blunders and severe lackings in the content, so the album is certainly not painful to listen to. But then, there's really nothing to justify all the hype and praise either. While fellated over their supposedly beautiful blend of celtic folk and melodeath, on ”Slania”, fiddles, flutes and such instruments are simply used for leads like any other instrument could've been, and while they don't necessarily sound bad or out-of-place, they really add nothing at all to the music, other than replacing guitars as lead instruments: the music itself is definitely not folkish, barely even folk metal, and mainly so because of the redundancy of the folk instruments used, and the lack of actual folk in the music itself despite the image it tries to give with all those folky leads and whatnot. It's really quite depressing how the entire concept behind this album keeps digging its own grave deeper and deeper with each listen. It's also saddening that the little quality that ”Slania” has comes from the gothenburg foundations of the music, and while the folk elements aren't really hindering the music, they serve absolutely no purpose either, other than for existing for the sake of existing; making this folk metal, I guess.

”Slania” might be an interesting album to check out if looking for gothenburg with folk instruments, because even if the substance is near nonexistent, it's not something you hear every day. The great production provides a relatively tolerable listening experience despite the lack of quality and originality, and everything is so average and inoffensive that it will hardly make anyone want to kill themselves. As unambiguous and one-dimensional as it is, ”Slania” is definitely an easy album to listen to as long as you can tolerate gothenburg. But is this art? Is there anything of high quality here, or anything really worth mentioning other than the fact that this band plays gothenburg metal with flutes and pipes? The answer is pretty much no. In all its accessibility and ear-friendliness, and even the occasional head-nodding moments, this album has neither anything interesting or terrible, but it's nothing more than a sum of seemingly unrelated and random elements meagerly sewn together in a crude mesh which provides an unremarkable and extremely mediocre whole of old and worn out ideas and something new and moderately unconventional elements in an awkward combination. Needless to say, that doesn't equal innovation, or good music for that matter.