Slania, Slania! Voice of a distant past. Ode to Helvetian and Celtic times, when the tribes ruled; as far as they could until the Romans arrived and made a mess out of it.
It appears that Chrigel Glanzmann, the lead singer of the Swiss band Eluveitie saw the name of this girl on an ancient slab of stone and decided to name a song and their 2nd studio album after her. Nice story, by the way: Se non è vero, è ben trovato – as we say in Italian.
Perhaps a tad too much glorification of a time historians hardly know about. When tribes (supposedly) ruled on the land today called Switzerland. A story about people long gone and dead. And we don’t even know if they ever existed in the way imagined. It only appears that the Romans did not have too many difficulties to conquer these people.
Yet, the unmistakable sound of Pagan and Folk Metal chiseled onto a granite slab of Melodeath that they so expertly mix together does tell this story, real or not. And their trademark sound really starts to take off on Slania.
Chrigel is however by far much too overwhelmingly present with his ever-present death growls. There is – to my taste – too much super aggressive paganized Death Metal in there. Minus the melodic parts, I mean. To a point that the archaic instruments and the other contributions of his band mates almost get lost in the fray. Good talent pounded to dust on the altar of Pagan Metal purist heaven.
In addition, the guitar work is quite repetitive and I am missing the stellar riffs that other groups so aptly deploy. And this is a pity! They could have made more out of this record. More of the melodic piece, not killing so many potentially good tracks with senseless growls. On their follow-on Everything Remains (as it never was) the band corrected this and gave Anna Murphy a bit more room.
Having said that, this is still very good work, very much in the vein of the band’s own and unique household brand. The album starts off with an intro Samon that – for once – is good and not a waste of time. Some spoken words and a nice theme melody, that’s it. I like it.
Primordial Breath starts out – well – primordial, aggressively chewed and expelled again, but with a very nice flourish at the end. You need to be in the mood for that one, but it is really good. Then follows Inis Mona sounding very much like something that I already heard in other folk songs. I remain unsure about that one and I am surely not certain where the stellar reviews came from for this track.
I like Gray Sublime Archon. Pretty cool track with a stellar chorus line to boot that will follow you around for a while. Then again interspersed with some stellar soloing and riffing, Eluveitie style.
The following few tracks are lost in Folk Metal Purist Heaven or have been instrumentally misguided – not worth to mention them. But then comes Slanias Song, which with Anna Murphy‘s expert contribution morphed into a very nice concoction. The text itself is perhaps a bit too heavy and heroic, but then this depends on taste, doesn’t it? The following instrumental track will bring you back down to earth nicely from the rosy heights of mighty Alpine madness.
The rest of the album – hmm – you be the judge. I was not overly impressed – whereas there are some catchy elements in there. Too much harsh Chrigel in there for my taste and some weird stuff as well. Elembivos finally producing – oh surprise – a nice guitar and violin solo – dual whammy. Who would have thought? Looks like the guitar man woke up towards the end. The album ends nicely with the instrumental version of the intro.
Overall, I like the album. Yet the outcome is a tad too harsh and too Chrigel. Without Anna’s contributions, Slania would be a tough cookie indeed and sink on harsh cliffs of a meal-laden pagan shore. With her it is bearable. On top, the stellar musicianship and overall execution of the album save the day. The record is however for sure an early stepping stone to future glory.
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