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Not overly convinced with this album.
on 1 August 2009
The oddly named Eluveitie are a band unfamiliar to me, so by expanding my listening horizon into folk music with a difference, I took the unprecedented step of purchasing `Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion'. On paper, this album ticks all the acceptable boxes with the alluring folk atmospheres, an assortment of different acoustic instruments and emotive female vocals. This is the third album from these Swiss masters, who have recorded two previous albums with the sound firmly entrenched in an amalgam of Celtic folk metal and melodic death metal. On this album, the band deliberately took a step backwards by replacing their electrified instruments in favour of more traditional folk instrumentation.
Eluveitie have taken a huge gamble with this, the third album in their repertoire, by breaking away from the music the fans have become accustomed to and recorded a Celtic inspired folk album. Other bands that have followed this trend (not from a Celtic folk perspective) and have succeeded are the hugely popular, Anathema, Paradise Lost and Katatonia, who broke their death metal moorings by opting for a more recognisable sound. Regardless of what the intentions were for Eluveitie, they must be commended for venturing so audaciously into uncharted waters. I will be quite candid here and say that upon the first few listens to this album, I was unimpressed with what I was hearing as I battled to make a connection to the music. I do take pleasure in Celtic folk music, with my taste varying from the likes of Clannad to the thrash laced stylings of Skyclad and everything else in between.
I began writing this review with an acerbic attitude and an element of biasness towards this album, as I just did not like it. What a difference a few days can make and thankfully, with few more successive listens under by belt, I began to appreciate what I was hearing and the message Eluveitie were trying to convey to the listening public. As mentioned, this album is acoustic folk music with female vocals courtesy of Anna Murphy, who has a decent voice, but her style and delivery is nothing too exceptional. Occasionally, there are sprinklings of male vocals that have been used more from an atmospheric perspective to add some diversity to the music. The album plays out at just over 50 minutes and comprises of seventeen tracks, one of which is a remix from last year's album, Slania.
There are eight members in the band, who play an assortment of different instruments from bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, whistles, mandolin and dulcimer - so one soon gets the picture how this album is portrayed to be. An interesting point is the album is sung totally in Gaulish, which was a language spoken in parts of Western Europe (mainly in Switzerland, Belgium and Western Germany) up until the 4th Century A.D. The language soon disappeared around this time and replaced by other dialects that are still spoken to this day. A bold statement for the album to be sung in Gaulish, but this is where I believe the album trips up slightly and would have sounded better and more dynamic sung in English.
When sung, Gaulish is a strange sounding language, but the tone is not as guttural as other Germanic based languages. As for the music, it does have a tendency to drag along in places and there is a large emphasis on the hurdy gurdy, which is an awful sounding instrument that has a monotone drone that penetrates deep into your subconscious. When the music does step out of the mould, it's very upbeat and thrilling with a real Celtic folk vibe that can rival some of the big names from this genre. However, several of the tracks can be rather gloomy and quite down spirited, but with this said the vocal melodies of Murphy are quite beautiful and very impressive indeed.
Several of the songs have a spoken voice intro prior to the commencement of the track - just a pity I botched my final Gaulish language exam at school, as I have no idea what is being said here, but obviously there is some deep-rooted message in the lyrics! Furthermore, the sepia tinged artwork is just as gloomy and is a perfect contrast to the music. All the musicians on this album are exceedingly talented in their own right; however, the production is not as sharp and has a tendency to become bogged down in the mass of instrumentation. Things really begin to pick up towards the second half of the album and this is where a number of of the better songs can be found with tasty acoustic guitar playing, bagpipes and whistles, which all incorporate a stunning backdrop to the music.
Along with this release comes a D.V.D. that was recorded live in Germany at the Summer Breeze Festival in 2008. The music is from the first two albums and they return using electric guitars, basses drums etc, along with all the strange looking folk-styled instruments. The picture and sound quality on this D.V.D. is superb with multiple camera angles of the band and the fervent crowd are all equally represented. Overall, this was an album that did grow on me at a slow rate, but I still have a few reservations as mentioned - otherwise a solid and likeable album. I am not too sure this will be to the liking of everyone as they do have a different stance towards Celtic folk music, but if you are an adventurous type or a connoisseur to the folk vibe, then this album might just surprise you too.