Formed in 2002, Swiss Folk Metal act Eluveitie were thrust almost immediately towards the front line of the burgeoning, so-called Viking Metal/Battle Metal scene as it erupted around them during the middle of that decade. Metal inspired by Vikings and Folk music can be traced back to the likes of Bathory and Skyclad, if not before, but such was the explosion of bands around this time, you couldn’t get out of bed for tripping over accordions, fiddles, animal skins and antlers.
Although having all but disappeared from the covers of the glossiest Metal magazines, the Folk Metal genre is still as vibrant and varied as it ever was, with bands like Eluveitie still leading the way, even if many have undergone some pretty major changes over the years. Eluveitie themselves are now down to frontman Chrigel Glanzmann as the band’s sole remaining member from their debut album back in 2006.
With themes based on ancient archetypes, change and renewal, new album Ategnatos (Nuclear Blast) shows how Celtic mythology and spirituality are mirrored by modern society. Opening with the title track, the album begins with spoken word and a tin whistle, starting with a slow and dramatic intro before exploding into a fast riff backed by venomous vocals spat out with furious intent. Changing shape as it goes, the song becomes a jaunty little jig before returning to its more dramatic side.
‘Ancus’ is a ten-second interlude leading into ‘Deathwalker’ which features short, sharp staccato riffing with a catchy chorus driven by Fabienne Erni, while the epic sounding ‘Black Water Dawn’ includes an irresistibly bouncy section and a chorus in which Erni takes control completely.
The heavier aspect of the record is represented by songs such as ‘A Cry In The Wilderness’, ‘Mine Is The Fury’, ‘Threefold Death’, ‘Rebirth’, and the fast and furious ‘Worship’ which features Randy Blythe from Lamb of God as guest vocalist. Along with a handful of instrumentals and interludes, the rest of the album is a more accessible affair with the likes ‘The Raven Hill’, ‘The Slumber’, ‘Breathe’, and the superb ‘Ambriamus’ which allows Erni to take centre stage for a time.
At some point, virtually every song on the record veers off into a different area. From fast-paced brutality to dark, moody atmosphere, to happy little jigs, to introspective balladry. Sometimes this is clearly the natural journey that particular song needs to undertake, but other times it can feel a little forced. That said, Ategnatos does manage to maintain the balance between its many shifting moods over the record’s lengthy running time, with the heavier songs leading to immediate neck spasms and those led by female vocals remaining in the memory the longest.
7 / 10