If there’s one band on the RMR beat that got extensive coverage, it is – for sure – the Swiss band Eluveitie. An outfit that appeared out of nowhere in 20021) and broke into real fame by the time the 2008 piece Slania hit our turntables. An enigmatic and sometimes downright excellent band that that didn’t always get good rates from this ‘zine during its 20-year career. But the band around Chrigel Glanzmann continues to fascinate those deckhands @ RMR, so future coverage is literally ensured. And besides, a ‘zine like ours is supposed to be critical and not a fanboy haven, right?
Many a metalhead laments that the first batch of material out there in the early ’00s was also their best. And indeed, the rough ‘n’ dirty style that the band boasted back with Vên and Spirit sports that raw power, a unique gift to portray ancient peoples and lands with a gritty mix of tasty folk and harsh Death Metal. And – truly – we didn’t give enough credit to what Eluveitie actually created back then, and now it is somewhat late to do so.
Slania, their first major record in 2008, really helped the band on a global scale. Larger numbers of Folk Metal adepts started to take heed and Eluveitie started its journey towards becoming a household brand of sorts.2) All in full Glanzmann mode with growls all over the soundscape. The fact that Nuclear Blast took them on board quickly surely helped in the sharing of fame. And it will also explain the distinct turn towards a more commercial approach to things.
Their typical sound truly started to take shape with this record on basis of a beautiful story about a girl who lived in the Alps about 2500 years ago. Fun fact: The story behind the album made this reviewer research the ancient female behind the sounds. And there’s indeed some archaeological evidence that she once walked this earth. The album also saw the arrival of Anna Murphy who got to a load of fame during her tenure for her enigmatic clear voice vocals and Hurdy-Gurdy contributions.
The 2010 arrival of Everything Remains (As it Never Was) cemented that trademark sound with one exceptional improvement. Gone was the Glanzmann supremacy and in came a more melodious approach to things. Not that the man behind the growls suddenly went still, far from it. You can’t change Eluveitie from being what it is, right?3) But giving the folk element more room to breathe clearly improved the quality of the offering. Unfortunately, though, we also saw that pattern appearing that was going to intensify over the years. And this is the structure of the record. Intro, outro, growly stuff, a couple of unplugged tracks, and a mainstream song mostly performed in clear voice mode.
The 2012 Helvetios confirmed that feeling of established structures. But now they added that terrible highlander monologue that sounds like a drunken Braveheart. Why on earth this thing became a standard of sorts is beyond me. But never mind me, it’s artistic freedom and all that jazz. Yet, this record sports a pretty snazzy flow and songs that truly pull you along. And they do that without losing that grime that made us come back to Eluveitie all over again. Then again, first similarities in song structures and arrangement started to appear. A tendency that made less sturdy metalheads pump up the volume of criticism to levels the band did not deserve (yet). Or they already jumped ship and started looking for sharper metallic pastures.
The next metal record – Origins of 2014 – did not improve anything. Instead, it went down the same route that its predecessor already took. And it took that structure thing almost to cookie-cutter levels. Albeit that the record still boasted a refreshing energy and a pretty neat flow that we admire to this day. In a way, Eluveitie finally found that right mix of folk and metal that made their brand just sound – right.
Origins is a good record, but the same, same, but similar approach drove some of the more virulent metalheads out there to fits of rage and over the top. But it surely must have filled the coffers of the label and – in turn – turned a tidy profit for the band. And – for the record – there’s nothing wrong with that. Creating music costs a fair amount of money and tons of energy. Thus, it’s only proper to make a mint out of it.
Upheaval struck for Eluveitie by the arrival of Evocation II: Pantheon in 2017. Gone were Anna Murphy and a few key members of the band, and in came the excellent Fabienne Erni. When I first heard her, the famous line of ‘where have you been all my life’ went through my mind. Not only did the band come forward with an unplugged Pagan Folk piece, but we got ourselves a new and superb female vocalist to boot. It also confirmed the old wisdom that Folk and Pagan Metal bands really start to perform well once you take their electric tools away.
As the lore goes, Erni only had little time to prepare for this and pulled this off beautifully. The scientific department at RMR also understands that the band members did some serious research into dead languages, pronunciation, and such before going forward. So, for all intents and purposes, the words we hear should reflect what science thinks they should sound like. But we’ll never know for sure, I guess, short of having a time machine. But the fact of the matter is, we’re still in awe of that record.
Now, we were less enthused by the 2019 record Ategnatos. And it’s not that Eluveitie did not try to inject some genuine power. It is that attempt to have it both ways that often sent interest levels to an almost comatose state. In other words, if you sacrifice too much to the commercial demons, the metal will feel lukewarm and stale.
Also, the hellfire hurry to return to a trve metal record struck me as odd. Or to put it another way, after a massive effort to release one great record, throwing another bulky record at the audience after barely a year and a half may more look like showboating than anything else. Or are we faced with a case of ‘taking back control’? Something I heard a few times already in my other activities in the music industry. Whatever it may be, Ategnatos felt rushed in 2019 and still does so today. A good record but somewhat frazzled around the edges, all compressors firing.
Now in conclusion, Eluveitie is an impressive band with a great track record. They pretty much singlehandedly created a style that others sometimes desperately try to copy. Yet, those other folks never quite seem to manage. And that’s a good thing.
So, here we are, lying in wait to ambush that new Eluveitie album. Let’s just hope that Eluveitie‘s next album presents itself with all that gritty metal and any number of snazzy fits of arcane folk that befit the old ages they try to depict so hard. RMR here would like to continue this story.