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Eluveitie - Slania - 70%

Radagast, April 26th, 2008

I've noted before in my reviews on this site that folk metal is in most cases some sort of variation on power or black metal. And then to blow all my cosy little suppositions away come the nigh-unpronounceable Eluveitie, an 8-piece all the way from sunny Switzerland, playing a bizarre mix of folk and Gothenburg death metal with Gaulish lyrics.

Their debut CD 'Spirit', released in 2006, was an intriguing, if at times incoherent, blend of 2 disparate styles. There was room for improvement in the songwriting, but the central premise was an intriguing one that left plenty of room to be built upon. 2 years later and the follow-up, 'Slania' is now presented for dissection.

The most immediately notable change is that the 2 styles – folk metal and melodic death metal – are more often than not played separately from one another on individual songs. While the debut CD meshed them together more closely, there are large patches of music on 'Slania' – mostly the verses - where the traditional instrumentalists in the band stand twiddling their fingers while guitarists Ivo Henzi and Simeon Koch lash out modern melodic death metal riffs that stand at odds with the band's more wistful leanings.

While on one hand the songs feel less clustered and more developed, at others they simply feel too sparse. While efforts like "Bloodstained ground" are perfectly serviceable Gothenburg songs, they feel somewhat out of place among the fey atmosphere found elsewhere on the CD and feel more like Dark Tranquillity songs with the keyboards replaced by traditional flourishes.

The bigger triumphs on 'Slania' are the more balanced combinations of heavy guitars and drumming with fully developed roles for the folk instruments rather than leaving them as mere window dressing. "Slania's song" is rousing and atmospheric, with proper interplay between the guitars and the assorted fiddles, whistles and hurdy-gurdies, while "Calling the rain" manages to remain heavy without over-reliance on guitars to do all the work.

The grandiose atmosphere of 'Spirit' has definitely been lost somewhat on this CD, and while it stands well on its own, it feels like the steps taken forward from the debut in becoming more memorable and fluid have been doubled back upon to some extent by the loss of ambience.

While the combination of styles is not always a successful one, it is nice to see a genuine attempt at something different in the increasingly huge folk metal sphere. Eluveitie don't seem to have struck the right balance with their sound yet, but all the components are there for a truly great CD to be seen in the not-too-distant future. 'Slania', like its predecessor, will make a good addition to a folk metal enthusiast's collection, but is not exactly essential listening.

(Originally written for