Thursday, February 7, 2013

Eluveitie - Evocation 1 - The Arcane Dominion (2009)

Remember how I said early on that this blog was to encourage me to listen to my actual CD collection instead of buying more? Well, in that it has failed - for I have bought more CDs in the last two weeks than I did in the entirity of 2012. Admittedly, that is a total of two CDs, but still!* I used some of the money accruing in my Paypal thanks to tarot deck sales on the Game Crafter, for one of them, however, so that hardly counts. Right?

Now, onto Eluveitie, who are a Swiss folk/death metal  fusion - with heart aching violins and other classically inspired  instruments interwoven with heart wrenching female vocals and snarling, furious male vocals. The lyrics are generally in the language of Gaulish, which is an "extinct" language.

The cover is moody and evocative in monochromatic shades of green - a bare-chested man stands, hands raised. In one, he grips a necklace; in the other, a flame flickers and burns. His expression is one of intense concentration, or perhaps constipation.

The album begins with "Sacrapos",  a whispered passage in English. Although the lyrics are printed, they are all but impossible to read due to the rather jagged font that seems to be fading. This gives it an excellent ancient look, but renders it almost illegible.

This first song, "Brictom" opens with rather upbeat violining. The female vocalist, Anna Murphy, has a sweet and delicate voice; the language must be Gaulish. It has a good rhythm and suits the music perfectly. The male vocalist, Chrigel, comes in occasionally, adding his guttural growls to the blend.

"A Girl's Oath" is taken in Gaulish - which has some quite harsh sounding syllables but flows like delicate water. We then whistle our way into "The Arcane Dominion". The folk sound is sublime and rolls over you, taking you away to those deep green forests, with ancient trees and trailing moss, where small creatures skitter in the undergrowth and great beasts prowl and growl in the shadows. The female vocals are divine, interspersed with masculine howls and the solemn voice of the violins/fiddles.

"Within the Grove" brings us a nymph, sitting on a moss-covered stump, her hair threaded with flowers and leaves as she plays her flute, pausing every now and then to take a quick breath.

"The Cauldron of Renascence" is an urgent, hurried song with growling vocals which, combined with odd scratching sounds, makes it sound as though some sort of beast is about to rage upon the scene. It is over in the flicker of a memory as forlorn bagpipes banish it and "Nata" begins. The male vocals are deep, forboding and forlorn; heavy with longing and loss. I suspect this is a song of mourning. Or perhaps a declaration of war. Maybe both.

Sampling and multilayered vocals add power to "Omnos". Not very folkesque, but it does make for a surging sound. The drum sounds oddly modern too. The song is, however, beautiful and catchy so I shall forgive them their anachronisms. Some parts of this remind me of Nightwish, except in a language I cannot understand. It certainly feels more contemporary than anything else so far.

"Carnutian Forest" starts with a swelling and a thrumming, with flute and whispered voices - something ominous is stirring. Perhaps some sort of Pagan ritual beneath the trees? The sound is one of emptiness and loss (is that the hurdy-gurdy?). Then the violins break through, lightening the oppression, like the clouds are breaking and showering us with summer rain. A crazed dance begins, beneath the trees.

Harsh, sibilant whispers herald that something sinister is afoot in "Dessumiis Luge". This fades into rather catchy, but slightly vicious female vocals. It sounds almost like a challenge, spitting words at one another, circling each other. It ends with a scream.

More gentle fluting and acoustic guitar marks "Gobanno". It is a song of sunlight, filtering through the rich green canopy, casting striations of light upon the forest floor, upon which strange ethereal beings dance.

"Vovesi in Mori" is a haunting number, whispers, mournful female vocals, weeping violin.

The forlorn wail of bagpipes brings us into "Memento". Is it coincidence that Memento and Mori are so close together? I believe this is a song of rememberance, and mourning.

"Ne Revg Na" is characterised by strong female vocals, although the language is quite a guttural one with many harsh syllables. This is counterpointed by the haunting voice of the flute.

Spectral string instruments mourn in "Sacrapos - the disparaging last gaze". Their sounds are eerie, otherworldly, ethereal. Like spirits dancing in the dying rays of the sun.

Now we are into the bonus tracks, including the very lively "Slana" which is a folk medley and a delightful reel to get your feet moving - or in my case, tripping over each other.

Finally, we conclude with a somewhat simpler version of the previous "Omnos". The vocals are a mix of the melodic and the snarled, with whispered passages. I love the rhythm of this song. Less of the extravagant additional instruments.

This is another band in which the vocals are more a supplement to the music, enhancing it, than that the music is merely there to support the vocals. The music is rich and vibrant, alive with the verdant nature of the forest, like sunlight and rain and the wild. This is a plus, in my opinion, as I am not overfond of the guttural, growling male vocals and actually enjoy the evocative nature of the music more. It probably helps that the language is not one that I (nor many people) will understand, allowing full scope for the imagination and your own interpretations of what the songs are about.

Beautiful and verdant - 8/10.

* I only bought one cd last year (Nightwish's "Imagineraeum") on account of having no decent cd stores left standing in Christchurch and an inability to find any in the USA when we toured there. I do not regularly buy CDs over the interweb anymore, since there is very little I know I want that I don't have already.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, now you've inspired me to go back and dig out my copy of this lovely album. It really does transport you away to a land of shifting fogs and damp forests doesn't it.

    Watch out for their other albums though: this one is quite unusual among their discography (all their others are folk-heavy melo-death, with only fleeting female vocals). Lots of their hardcore fans hated this album. I love it. It really is an atmosphere piece.

    Great review as ever.