Monumental change took place within the confines of Eluveitie. Anna Murphy and her entourage (or faction, as evil tongues have it) left the band in 2016 seemingly in protest. And that meant long-time drummer Merlin Sutter and guitarist Ivo Henzi left with her to found Cellar Darling. Or – as the lore goes – Merlin got left first and the others chose to follow suit.
Well, whatever the sequence of events may have been, fact is that the growler-in-chief had the decidedly thorny task to recruit and train a new crew. This may also explain the unusually long wait before the new album Evocation II – Pantheon saw the light of day. And Eluveitie ended up with a 9-member band. Wow! That is like overcrowding and only pandemonium can be the result of this. But then they always had a relatively large number of musicians in their outfit.
And who would have thought that RockmusicRaider would review an unplugged, pretty much acoustic Folk album issued from the likes of Eluveitie? Not yours truly, that is for sure.
Folk becomes them so well, though. And the purists and metal nerds surely already started loudly foaming at the mouth. Stating that not only the metal on the former albums was cringeworthy, but now the band definitely fell from this questionable Olympus to the depths of Hades by going Pagan Folk outright.
Evocation II – Pantheon sounds much like a softer version of Huldre if that is possible at all. With a hint of Faun in their former incarnation, where they spoke in many tongues and indulged in strange dances. And – lo and behold – on Epona and Cernvnnos one Oliver S. Tyr of the aforementioned band appeared as a guest musician. On nyckelharpa and Irish bouzouki to be precise.
Methinks that Eluveitie functions better in an unrestrained Folk environment, more than with their recent metal streak. Or is it that Origins and Helvetios displayed too many of the same metal tricks over a number of years? Whatever the case, the idea to follow up with an Evocation 2.0 is a good one.
And where by Loki is the master of darkness?
Chrigel Glanzmann went totally awol from the growling board. Truly, I kid you not. You will detect the occasional roar here and there, but no grumbling about the stage, mad riffing, or driving the drummer to a heart attack. Well, perhaps in Catvrix you’ll hear some more of him, leading a Rotting Christ-esque merry line dance straight out of Rituals into pagan oblivion.
Now, Fabienne Erni – the new female ‘front’ on Eluveitie‘s war band – really does a stellar job. And I don’t envy her. New in the band, singing in an unfamiliar dead language AND having to replace the talented Anna Murphy is no easy feat.
Especially wearing Anna’s shoes and being judged by that measure must be very difficult. So, the RMR deck crew was up to a very pleasant surprise once we started on the Evocation II – Pantheon. And dare I say it? Erni‘s voice may even be better suited to this kind of tune, even if at times she kind of lacks some of the reach necessary.
Now, the true instrumentals on this record really – and I mean really – shine. This is full steam jam level, straight ahead. Eluveitie demonstrated this distinct quality already before and I sometimes wondered why they would not exploit this trait further. A good example would be Isara on Everything Remains (as it never was).
On Pantheon songs like Grannos or the succulent Aventia really sparkle on this record, too. And invoke long-lost memories of stuff The Dubliners did in the past. Yep, the record is that good. The band’s way to start a track traditionally and then all of a sudden slam a scoop of Eluveitie brand on top just gives me an additional kick every time I hear it.
That said, the tracks garnished with vocals deserve their due credit too. Like their flagship Epona that Nuclear Blast touted a bit too loudly over the last weeks and months. The track may be a bit too mainstream and commercial for the more hardcore slice of the fan base. But it for sure does not reach the cheesiness that A Rose For Epona from Helvetios did.
But fear not, Lvgvs (read Lugus) will help to get over the cheese some. Like a kirsch that you are supposed to drink after a fondue. This one talks about an obscure deity right out of the Celtic Pantheon. Now by definition, Eluveitie took a real unholy liking to arcane gods on Evocation II – Pantheon, by Toutatis. Or Tovtatis, as the title of the track goes. Not surprisingly, this is all about the pantheon of Celtic gods. These guys have become so cvlt – in a very pagan kind of way.
The way Eluveitie included traditional Folk ditties into their tracklist erects another pillar to speak for this record. For example Ogmios. This track infamously appeared in all its metal splendor on Origins and just managed to piss me off. A waste of a good song on a metal platter. On Evocation II – Pantheon however this is a totally different story and the track really talks. The tune is a common folk song commonly called Tri Martholod from Brittany, which garnered some major attention through Nolwenn Leroy’s stellar interpretation in 2010.
Or you will find Antvmnos – an instrumental – that will invoke pictures of the past with Simon & Garfunkel in Scarborough Fair. The roots of that song go way back and interpretations are legion. Nolwenn Leroy – again – released a pretty good version (in tortured English, though – yikes). The same goes with a carefully murdered copy committed by Leaves’ Eyes on Njord.
And what is the conclusion of all these ramblings?
Eluveitie just proved that change is good. Away from their metal meanderings that circled to nowhere, the band created a truly great, epic unplugged album. Evocation II – Pantheon shows the true talent of the band at ease not only in traditional acoustic folk of all kinds but also in their own interpretations. And this regardless of the fact that this is basically a new band of a whopping nine members. And without descending into a total mess of flutes, bagpipes, and hurdy-gurdy.
Lastly, a word to those fans gnashing their teeth from a lack of metal in their Eluveitie cereal mix. Well, fear not. It will eventually come back. Chrigel Glanzmann will probably not be able to hold back for very long. So, let’s wait and see what the future of this band still brings. The RMR crew for one will continue looking.
Ed’s note: The record made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VI edition AND the 2017 Top 10 Records. At rank #2 – no less. And if you would like to find out what Eluveitie has been up to at RMR, read this.