Eluveitie – “Ategnatos” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
There’s folk metal, then there’s Eluveitie. Formed in 2002 by multi instrumentalist Chrigel Glanzmann, who along with fronting the band through his harsh vocals also adds in the mandola, whistles, pipes, gaita, acoustic guitar, bodhrán and harp such that you’d almost think this was a solo effort – except that there’s 8 other musicians that make up this terrific Swiss ensemble! From a very early point Eluveitie have been deeply rooted within Celtic mythology, Gaulish history and proto-European culture, and on this 8th release they continue their vision to propel mythology, pagan belief and spirituality into our modern world. Indeed, “Ategnatos” is the Gaulish word for ‘reborn’, and from being immersed in the Zurich University of Arts, a socio-critical view of today’s society unfolded as a dark prelude to the ancient concept of renewal. So don’t be expecting jovial drinking songs to make merry, but rather an album that follows a decidedly darker, monumental tone this time round. There’s also a spirituality resonating in the material largely thanks to Fabienne Ern’s deeply captivating clean vocals, almost trance like in their lure and when you add in her Celtic harp, along with bagpipes and hurdy gurdy, make for a wonderous mix on the 16 tracks here, all varying in length, but are consistently atmospheric and highly passionate. As such, despite the album coming across conceptually as something of a doomsday prophecy, folk metalists needn’t fear as indeed, the irresistible knees up singalongs, dance inducing melodies and outright pagan passion are clearly evident across and soaked into the material, albeit at times taking an epic and occasionally mature tone. From the addictive flowing pipes on ‘Black Water Down’, the guitars bring in the power as Glanzmann’s drawls and dry screams are soon added to by Ern’s soulful femme highs that take the song to the next level through irresistible passion, while ‘Ambiramus’ is nothing short of a total dance, initially led quietly by Ern’s tender tones, but soon getting the emotional momentum up as the pipes and hurdy gurdy get going as Glanzmann adds in his background growls along with some orchestrals from a real string quartet (a premiere) – wow! If you want it fast and hard, then the double bass drumming of ‘Mine Is The Fury’ will not disappoint along with its fast riffing and death growls, but with a captivating melody from the traditional instruments, so contrasting yet in Eluveitie’s expert hands all fitting in superbly with the furore. With Randy Blythe providing guest vocals on the arcane ‘Worship’ with its dark symphonic backdrop of strings racing with hurdy gurdy and drums, you really feel the occultism and elitism of “Ategnatos” in its full measure, while the outright aggression on ‘Threefold Death’ would be a chopping melodic death frenzy, if not for the tantalising ambient passages graced by Ern’s hypnotic tones, tranquil mandola, soothing violins and alluring hurdy gurdy. Totally gripping from start to finish and resonating class throughout, “Ategnatos” is a folk melody masterpiece that goes a long way to writing itself into history.