ALBUM REVIEW : ELUVEITIE — Ategnatos
If any man have an ear, let him hear. (Revelations 13:9)
We metalheads always expect a lot from our household names, and Eluveitie is unequivocally one of the biggest folk metal names out there. Fans of the bands were therefore holding their breath when Eluveitie announced they would be releasing a new full-length in 2019.
Like a colossus rising out of the sea, Ategnatos appeared in the spring, massive and unavoidable, and has everyone back at the altar to worship one of the great folk metal beasts of our time.
Much of Ategnatos brings us back to the days of Helvetios and delivers the dark, heavy yet folky music that Eluveitie has become known and beloved for. Songs like “’Mine is the Fury” and “A Cry In The Wilderness” flirt with pretty heavy death metal, but their Celtic folk melodies are never out of place. Ategnatos also has 2 softer intermission tracks (“The Silvern Glow” and “Trinoxtion”) that intercut the album with the band’s typical Gaulish charm. Juggling their heavy metal and traditional sides as they do, the album is really well-rounded, and very uniquely Eluveitie.
A song that stood out for me is “Ambiramus” — which means voyage. It is their take on an immram, a traditional Irish folk tale of a hero’s travels (by sea) to the otherworld. And while it is not quite a sea shanty, it is probably the most cheerful and bright-sounding song the band has ever written, with a melody that is almost reminiscent of Amaranthe to cover up the rather tragic lyrics.
Eluveitie — Ategnatos
Perhaps the most impressive song on Ategnatos is “Worship”. With guest vocals by Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), it is an apocalyptic, almost Lovecraftian dark song with a tinge of traditional instruments that give it a perfectly suited arcane aura. “Worship” is second of 2 songs that tie together on this album (the first one being “The Slumber”) and is told from the point of the legendary Sereroneos, who overthrew 2 Celt rulers and crowned himself king — as per Plutarch. To be honest despite it being part of my heritage (Ardennais ergo Gaulish), my knowledge of Celtic mythology is very poor and I would benefit from a lesson from the man behind the music. Though if you follow him on Instagram (@chrigelglanzmann_official), you know that when he was active he had the habit of writing educational posts about his songs — that is the greatest gift an artist can bestow upon his history nerd fans.
The outro “Eclipse” is a great display of new singer Fabienne Erni’s vocal talent, and one of my favourite tracks. It reminds me of when the band used to play “Scorched Earth” live with Anna Murphy singing, during which I have seen grown men and women crying — it’s powerful stuff. “Eclipse” is a very dramatic song, and it leaves the listener on a high note but not a cliffhanger.
Speaking of “Eclipse”: I love when bands repeat a melody, lyrics, or symbolism throughout an album to give it a sense of continuity or familiarity (Chthonic’s latest album is a great example of this). With Ategnatos, Eluveitie pulled this trick off wonderfully as well. “Eclipse” as well as the intro to “Ategnatos” and the chorus to “Rebirth” all use the same melody and poem/incantation, and for each track it creates a different vibe. It’s very interesting to see how simple tweaks like different instruments, soundscape or type of vocalization can completely change the feeling of the exact same words.
And if anyone knows about change, it’s Eluveitie. For the Swiss band, member turnover is just part of their history, but the 2016 departure of their unique female vocalist Anna Murphy as well as drummer Merlin Sutter and guitarist Ivo Henzi left the band on hiatus, a scary void for fans everywhere. Lucky for us, Eluveitie has a bag of tricks bigger than Chrigel’s bag of flutes, and to fill the role of the soulful, dramatic female vocalist they took in Fabienne Erni, a woman with a vocal range and style as similar to Anna’s as one could find. Anna left with her hurdy-gurdy, so the band had to find someone who could play the rare instrument as well, which they found in the very talented Michalina Malisz. Add a new drummer (Alain Ackermann), a new guitarist (Jonas Wolf) and the return of violinist Nicole Ansperger to the cauldron, and Eluveitie was summoned whole once again.
I was lucky to see some of these new songs performed live way before the album came out, on 70000 Tons of Metal this year. It was also my first time seeing the new lineup of band members (by now I think I’ve seen 4 iterations of Eluveitie?), and I was slightly anxious to see how they would fare with such a big change. But they sounded just as good as they always had, and made me excited in anticipation of Ategnatos.
With Chrigel Glanzmann at its helm, the 9-piece has yet again weathered a storm of member changeovers and come out unscathed, and conjured an album that can easily be said to be one of their best to date.
Maybe they’re born with it… maybe it’s Druid Magick™
ELUVEITIE — Ategnatos
Release date: April 5, 2019
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