Album review: Eluveitie – Ategnatos

The Gods of Folk Metal are reborn with their eighth studio album and it is nothing short of divine!

Eluveitie (pronounced El-vay-ti) are a nine piece “New wave” Folk Metal band hailing from Switzerland, founded in 2002 by front man Chrigel Glanzmann the band has thrived on a unique blend of melodic death metal, traditional Celtic melodies and occasionally the extinct language of Gaulish. The unusually large number of the band is due to the sheer number of instruments in a sound as complex as it is, ranging from the expected electric guitars and drums to the hurdy-gurdy, mandola, Uilleann pipes, Celtic harp and violin, Glanzmann himself capable of playing a massive variety of mostly traditional instruments along with his harsh death metal style vocals and mesmerizing song writing. Eluveitie fashion their music around the history and mythology of the Gauls, Celtic tribes who faced invasion and occupation under the Roman Empire. Eluveitie brought their unique style to the forefront of folk metal with arguably their best album Slania in 2008. Eluveitie have a long history of line-up changes since 2002 but 2016 witnessed the biggest shake-up of the band with three core band members leaving to start their own band. 2017 saw Eluveitie release their second acoustic album – Evocation II: Pantheon making Ategnatos the first metal infused album Eluveitie have produced since 2014 with their new line-up.

Eluveitie is a Swiss folk metal band from Winterthur, Zurich.

The lead up to Ategnatos started in late 2017 with the release of the single Rebirth. The song wastes no time getting back to the folk metal roots of the band, tapping directly into the Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal tones and Glanzmann’s seasoned vocals before you’re struck with the serene energy of the traditional instruments and voice from new clean vocalist and harpist Fabienne Erni. Rebirth reinvigorated the fans love of Eluveitie’s sound and quelled most of the sceptics of the new band members, though fans had noticed a new emphasis on guitar, while not unusual in the metal scene Eluveitie tended towards more unique and innovative solos with the violin and hurdy-gurdy as seen in songs such as King. I too was sceptical of Fabienne’s vocals and Michelin Malisz’ use of the hurdy-gurdy after Anna Murphy left the band, but I can confidently say they have both instilled my faith in them completely as the band progresses. Fabienne’s voice and passion brilliantly shine through on both track and performance. New drummer Alain Ackermann deserves a nod too for some of the best percussion we’ve heard throughout the entire album.

Over a year later we have two more singles drop, the track brandishing the same name as the album, Ategnatos landed first with an introduction pulling from the first single Rebirth, the rest of the single is packed with raw emotion and epic storytelling, maintaining Eluveitie’s amazing sound while being even more creative and dramatic than ever before! Ambiramus follows suit but drawing more on the heritage of The Call of the Mountains from the album Origins and The Sombre Lay from Slania which tend to have more “pop” like melodies and less of Glanzmann’s harsh vocals, making it easier for the less hardened listener whilst still keeping the album’s darker mystic tone.

The official videos for Ategnatos and Ambiramus are also worth the watch. Recorded in 4K the imagery and mood are majestically captured.

April 5th brought the eagerly awaited release day of Ategnatos. Featuring sixteen tracks, four of which are melodic interludes making for just over an hours’ worth of new material. The album, like its predecessors, uses both English and Gaulish languages to dig deep into the history and mythology of the Gaulish people, this time exploring their spiritual and philosophical beliefs of renewal, death of a metaphorical part or even the entirety of ourselves, what we leave behind and how we choose to accept and act on this fate to make way for new life and to be reborn. The way in which the initial song and outro of the album are placed is by no means coincidental. Considering “Ategnatos” is the Gaulish translation for “rebirth”, the album goes full circle when reaching the outro, that holds the same name. This is symbolic to the entire album and its philosophy.

Ategnatos is a labour of love and culmination of everything Eluveitie has always been and even more rolled into one epic album, making it Eluveitie’s most varied album to date, a reminiscent yet refreshing new stance for the band, accentuating both traditional instruments and modern more than ever before. Ategnatos is possibly the darkest album the band has produced, bringing us some of the hardest hitting tracks to date and contrasting them with softer tones more in touch with their acoustic albums. Blending these styles together in a way only Eluveitie could, the complexities of this album require you to listen a fair few times through to truly hear all the detail the band has lovingly put in to their hard work, and subtle tones hidden under the guitars and vocals that completely hold up the integrity of the song. As always with Eluveitie, the lyrics are written exquisitely and sometimes cryptically while the musical talent is unmatched, energetic and powerful and often thought provoking. Worship, one the album’s heaviest tracks, features Lamb of Gods’ own frontman Randy Blythe, reinforcing Glanzmanns’ own harsh vocals throughout. Rebirth has been remastered since the original single release. Like the entire album, the track seemingly has better studio mastery than previous Eluveitie material, but now has a reworked guitar solo and some other slight changes to keep the track more in line with the rest of the album. Ategnatos is not only brilliant musically but a gateway into the beliefs, legends and philosophy of a people long lost, particularly surrounding change, loss and death. These insights can be woven into modern day life, giving the album profound meaning.

While Ategnatos doesn’t really break new ground for Eluveitie’s incredibly high standards, it does retain the band’s signature sound whilst keeping the music fresh and exciting. And though they are very different albums, I’ll go as far as to say that Ategnatos is up there with Slania.

 

 

 

 

Author: Paul, Cambridge store

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