Oh, Helvetian Ones, we salute you! You just have to love the drummer on steroids that the Swiss band Eluveitie1) employs. This guy seems to work himself from one frenzy to another on his drums. But then, ’tis the drummer’s fate on fast-moving metal pieces, right?
Helvetios yet again combines modern-day and archaic instruments into a savvy mix of red-hot Melodic Death Metal and olden folk. Pagan or Folk Metal that dissolves into Chrigel Glanzmann’s heavy growls and rumbles, seconded by the angelic voice of Anna Murphy. That’s pretty tasty, ain’t it? But will this new record really beat all others into the dust? Let’s find out.
Helvetios is a concept album of sorts, and it – supposedly – tells a story of pagan wars in Gallic times. And for this theme, the Eluveitie sound is perfectly suited. The purists may lament that there is too much mainstream in that record. And whilst there might be some truth to that, there’s enough harsh metallic fare to please both sides of the coin. Yet again, a light push towards the vile mainstream may not be a bad thing. Because Glanzmann here indeed has this urge to shred everything to metallic bits. And this – sometimes – may not give credit to the truly amazing folk talents of other members of the band.
However and to the purists’ credit,2) A Rose for Epona or, again, Alesia – both expertly interpreted by Murphy and Glanzmann mind you – may lean a tad too much into pop culture waste. But then, Eluveitie here will always include a commercial track or two into their records. And Helvetios is no exception.
And often those intros and outros sound like a waste of good disk space to me. By all means, the record clocks in at around one hour, and getting rid of those would have helped towards creating a crisper piece. Also, Eluveitie here tend to pack everything and sundry into the mix. To the point that they often lose half of the instruments in the heat of battle. In other words, building a brick wall of death ain’t going to find them a great number of new fans. So, in the midst of all this increased growling and hollering, I sometimes wish I had the mystical airs of Slania back. But hey, all of that disappeared in the haze of past history. Right?
Folk Metal fans will be very pleased with tracks like Havoc, The Uprising, or The Siege. Yet, the best track on this album is definitely Neverland. A great cocktail of Melodic Death Metal and Folk. Even more surprising is that – suddenly – the howling and rumbling stops and you’re treated to traditional folk tracks like Hope. Going unplugged is, by the way, one of this band’s strengths. As they will prove in future releases.
And what other tracks would be recommendable? Well, Helvetios (the title track), Luxtos, and the excellent Santonian Shores for sure. So, lot’s of good stuff. If only they could have cut away terrors like Scorched Earth from the tracklist. Apart from turning adepts of Wardruna or Heilung into happy campers, nothing good will come from that. This is paganized filler material, nothing more and nothing less.
So, there you have it. Helvetios proved pretty tough to rate in the end. And that is because the band mixed a lot of good, bad, and ugly together into an often frantic melée of Pagan and Folk Metal. And in this crew’s judgment, a better selection of tracks would have made a world of difference in quality and also impact. But the record still remains an impressively powerful record, a rough testament to times long gone of the tribal past of pagan Switzerland.
Ed’s note: The review made it successfully onto our first ever Intermittent Best Of list. And this version replaces the review from October 2014. And if you would like to find out what Eluveitie has been up to at RMR, read this.