Few bands jump to mind quicker when you hear the term “Folk Metal” than Eluveitie. The combination of heavy folk influences, multiple vocalists, and instrumentation, along with their lyrical themes have made them titans of the genre since their early albums and kept them there. Still, their recent history has been tinged with dramas within the band, and rumoured issues about the creative direction of the band. Now, with the release of Ategnatos, it’s clear to see that they’ve emerged from their crucible with a strength of vision not seen since their earlier work.
Now to begin- it’s not an Eluveitie album without a narrated introduction, and the title track “Ategnatos” gives you the knowledge from the offset that this is a full blooded Eluveitie offering. A minute of atmospheric folk sets us up for the whole band blasting straight into the main song. Confident folk tunes riffing above a solid backing of drums and bass that feels as heavy as anything they’ve done before. However, as a massive 16 track album, a track by track feels insufficient to really encompass how strong this album is, so let’s talk generalities.
The band is as tight as ever on this album, and the mixing is incredible, though as always better speakers or headphones will help you pull the wall of sound apart and appreciate each piece. Chrigel Glanzmann’s vocals are the best they’ve been, and the relatively new voice of Fabienne Erni handles the heavier metal vocals as well as the more raw folk stylings found later in the album. The riffs are clean, backed by Alain Ackerman’s incredible drumming and Kay Brem’s bass lines that allow the folk elements to carry a listener above like an eagle above a turbulent field of war. “A Cry in the Wilderness” is a brilliant example of this, pushing a punchy metal sound that would rival Arch Enemy in its power, but breaking seamlessly into the wind melodies. This is the sort of incredible song writing that gives this band their hype. Across the whole album, the tracks are up there with some of the best work they’ve done, and the entire band brings their A game to prove that.
More than a few songs on this album that are reminiscent of their previous hits, but it feels more like a synthesising of what makes Eluveitie a great band than just re-treading old ground. “The Raven Hill”, for example, is a thumper of a track reminiscent of prior hit Luxtos in it’s rhythmic hold on the listener. However, this dims none of its sheen, instead bringing the same feeling that track did while feeling new, and this is the case with all other examples across the album.
We are given a few intermissions throughout the album in the form of more pensive songs or introductions- these are spaced expertly and give the brain a bit of recharge time from the more complex pieces. “Ancus”, “The Silvern Glow”, and “Trinoxiton” are great examples of this, and they are as usual filled with tension and a subtle craftsmanship that builds atmosphere as well as the immersive metal tracks do. Though it’s a cliché to say so, this album is a serious tour-de-force of how to do folk metal. As it comes on the tails of the far gentler folk influenced Evocation II- Pantheon, this heaviness is not only welcome but incredible in its breadth and quality.
Not only is it a return to form for old fans, it’s an incredible album to jump on to for first time listeners. Been listening to other folk metal but want something a touch richer? Chuck on “Deathwalker” or “A Cry in the Wilderness”. Been digging Within Temptation or Lacuna Coil and looking to reach out for a new similar band? “Ambiramus” or “Breathe” are incredible entries for such a fan. All this folk stuff too light, need a bit more death in your metal? Sink your teeth into “Mine is the Fury” or “Worship”, you’ll be well fed.
Overall, this is right up there with my albums of the year, and if you’ve even a passing interest in Folk Metal then I suspect it will be a contender for you too. An incredible return to form that promises great work to come.
Grab the new album from Nuclear Blast HERE