Album Review – Helvetios – Eluveitie
Posted by RiffRaff
Eluveitie is a special band to me. They were my entry point into the realm of Folk Metal and I couldn’t be more grateful for them opening up a huge musical realm for me to discover. The first album I heard by them, Slania, is a Folk Metal masterpiece and its follow-up, Everything Remains (As It Never Was) was no sloucher either. Needless to say that upon hearing that their new album was to be released my anticipation and expectations went sky-high. Like many albums I over-hype, often times, in the end I am let down. So, you may be wondering if Helvetios lived up to the hype I built up for it in my head. Let’s say I wasn’t let down in the slightest.
Helvetios is Eluveitie‘s first concept album as it recounts the Helvetian/Gaulish War (50-58 B.C.) and they do a great job at balancing the story so the music doesn’t suffer from trying to fit the narrative in. This great story is infused with Celtic melodies and instruments such as various flutes, a hurdy-gurdy, mandolins, and violins as well as all the traditional metal instruments, which in the end leads to a very ambitious album. One would think with all these sounds and concepts attacking your mind that all the music would lose focus, but, alas, with some phenomenal songwriting and great structure Eluveitie pull all the chaos into line and make a highly enjoyable album and succeed with their ambition.
Guitars, bass, and drums focus more on maintaining rhythm and structure as the folk instruments are used to create memorable melodies and build underlying atmospheres. Flute solos, violin harmonies, and Folk Metal breakdowns adorn the album and Helvetios is that much richer for it. I can’t wait to see how the mosh pits open up when they play songs like “Neverland” or how high the crowd bounces when they break out “Luxtos”. Live shows was definitely on the back of their minds when writing this album.
Throughout the L.P. you will hear serene instrumental songs, hints of Thrash Metal on the guitars, and a variety of diverse vocal styles. Chigrel Glanzmann’s growls and screams are commanding forces to be reckoned with, but its hurdy-gurdiest Anna Murphy who steals the show and commands your attention whenever she gets behind the mic. While she is more prevalent on this album than the previous ones, she is still a bit underutilized, which is a shame as she has one of the best voices female in metal. Each track also contains its own ‘moments’ where a different member(s) shines, more or less meaning, “oh, this track has that awesome violin harmony”, “the riffs in this part are f’n killer”, or “check out the awesome flute solo on this song”. This adds even more personality to each individual song and keeps the awesomeness varied and flowing. They also veer off from Celtic style adding Middle Eastern and Asian themes to the music.
If I do have to dig to find any faults on this record other than Anna Murphy’s vocal talent not being used nearly enough, it would have to come from the ‘loudness wars’ argument. I did feel at times the guitars and vocals were turned up way too high and drowned out the melodies and atmospheres that the underlying folk instruments were creating. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Suidakra‘s The Book of Dowth or Metallica‘s Death Magnetic, but I do wish a bit more discipline was put into the production since there are so many instruments playing at the same time. The songwriting is also so strong, it’s a shame to see aspects of the production mar it. But it’s nothing that is going to stop me from listening to this album hundreds more times.
What can I say, I love Helvetios and feel that you will too. Everything I was expecting came through as well as a return to a couple of songs sung in the Gaulish language (a major gripe of mine from their previous album). I wouldn’t say that Helvetios tops Slania, but it is definitely its equal. If you have an interest in getting into Folk Metal, Eluveitie is a great starting point and you can not go wrong with this. Fans of Elueveitie and Folk Metal will be extremely pleased with this release. Now that I have this in my hands, I can start waiting with bated breath for their upcoming acoustic follow-up to Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion. Helvetios should keep me well held over until then ;) Peace Love and Metal!!!