Eluveitie – Helvetios
Calling themselves “The New Wave of Folk Metal”, Switzerland’s Eluveitie has made quite the name for itself over the past few years. Starting with their epic and quite impressive debut Spirit before being signed to Nuclear Blast for its successor, Slania, (which, though some complained was too commercial sounding, I just found a logical follow up), taking what worked before and streamlining it a bit. It wasn’t as fresh or quite as impressive overall, but still excellent. My introduction to the band came with their fourth album, Everything Remains As It Never Was, a solid release that doesn’t quite have the magic of its predecessors (in between that one and Slania was the nice acoustic folk album Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion, which is supposed to be getting a sequel soon, likely the next album).
Nonetheless, I was excited to see what they would do with their latest album, Helvetios, their first ever concept album. Actually, I’m not an expert in the area, so I’ll oversimplify things to avoid making mistakes: in a certain language the band’s name means Helvetios, which refers to a particular tribe that existed over two thousand years ago. Naturally, the album is about that tribe, and looking to be as authentic as possible, the band even uses the long extinct Gaulish language on several songs (something they’ve always done).
Musically, this is their most diverse album yet, with a combination of everything they’ve done before, including some non-metal tracks like “Scorched Earth”, a celtic folk song with strange chanting the whole way through. They also include the brief instrumental interlude, “Hope”. Aside from that, the album mostly contains the band’s signature style of Gothenburg-flavored melodic death metal combined with celtic folk, using such atypical metal instruments as flutes, bagpipes, and even the hurdy gurdy. This is the most melodic of their metal albums, and also by far the catchiest, with songs that are often intense, fun, and upbeat all at the same time.
Proving that intro tracks don’t have to be boring, the aptly named “Prologue” features an old man giving a pretty epic narration, adding some background to the concept, before the band briefly plays a nice little piece that transitions into the title track. Here we have the prototypical Eluveitie song, starting with a pleasant folk section before launching into the frantic assault of the verses, which lead into an incredibly epic chorus sung brilliantly by band leader Chrigel Glanzmann and his often emotional growls. Things calm down for the much slower “Luxtos”, which emphasizes the non-metal side of the band. Using Gaulish lyrics and highlighting the very pleasant duo female vocals of Anna Murphy and Meri Tadic, especially in the chorus, this is a very beautiful song, and easily my favorite on the album.
Perhaps my only complaint about the vocals is that whichever of the ladies sings the chorus for the ballad ” A Rose For Epona” slightly over-sings, which throws things off just a bit. Otherwise, the song is excellent and one of many highlights on this exceptional album. Other favorites include the very intense “Meet the Enemy” and “The Siege”, both of which showcase the band’s heavier side while still keeping their identity intact, and another amazing slower song, “Alesia”, which features the best female vocals of the album. The songwriting is very strong and consistent throughout, with my only complaint being that there are possibly two or three too many songs, as a couple of them towards the end start to sound too much alike. Even then, they are still great songs, just not as memorable as they should have been.
For someone as picky as I am about folk metal, I can say Helvetios is a shining example of why I deal with duds in order to find the gems, and is probably the most accessible Eluveitie album to date featuring the most clean vocals aside from the acoustic album. Spirit remains my favorite, but I’d go as far as to say this is their best since then, so obviously fans of the band should be very happy with it. Highly recommended for fans of folk metal who like a mix of heavier passages and calmer, less metal passages.
Travis Green’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5