Review Summary: Eluveitie drop their metallic edge for a purely acoustic folk album incorporating a slew of Celtic instrumentation and somber atmosphere to capture the essence of the Celt.
When rising folk metal heathens Eluveitie announced that they were going to go ahead and release a pure folk album I was more than overjoyed by the news. Their blend of Celtic folk and melodic death metal with the previous three albums succeeded in bringing a new found credibility to a style of music that bathed in parody more often than not. After their 2008 major label success in Slania, Eluveitie have returned one year later to deliver a stunning introspective on Celtic culture. And despite 90 something +% of the world population not being able to translate the Gaulish lyrical content, you can feel the majesty and the cultural significance brought forth by Eluveitie with their wide array of Celtic instrumentation which includes the bodhran, tin whistles, bag pipes, hammered dulcimers, various flutes, lutes and mandolins. And these are just the instruments we know about.
Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion part I of a II part story finds Eluveitie stripping down their metallic edge for a purely acoustic folk album driven by up-tempo rhythm’s, layered instrumentation and several guest musicians who enhance the project with a variety of sounds and projections. The artwork for this album displays a rather melancholic looking Celt with a Gold torc in his right hand and a growing ember in his left. The art displays a mythical and somewhat peaceful image at an often maligned group of people who seem to be known more for decapitating the heads of their opponents and running naked into battle as crazed, unorganized masses rather than boasting a significant cultural influence. Sacrapos translating to At First Glance opens the fifteen song album with Primordial’s front man A.A Nemethanga delivering a spoken word section layered under rather ominous instrumentation. A far cry from their first single Omnos who’s pop-folk leanings sounded more in line with The Corrs than anyone else. Not to bash The Corrs in anyway because I like them a lot. With the exception to this particular song, Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion is far darker, more triumphant, and much more spiritual than Omnos. To those who were turned off by the single should give this album chance for the other thirteen tracks are more in depth and expansive than Omnos .
First things first the biggest shift in climate for Eluveitie besides the subtraction of electronic equipment is the vocal department. Besides playing a smaller role here than on Slania and Spirit, the hurdy gurdy player Anna Murphy displays a more prominent role in singing making up for much of the vocals in a mostly instrumental album. She is at her finest on the track “Voveso In Mori” greatly enhancing the somber atmosphere. Driven by slight percussion and a rollicking flute/acoustic guitar combination, this is perhaps one of my favorites on the record with Anna’s crooning vocals perfectly accentuating the melodic backdrop. Aaron Nemtheanga returns once more on the 7th track Nata which opens up powerfully with the bag pipes. Once again the lyrics are written in Gaulish a long dead language so I’m not able to make out the words but rather than dwell on that aspect I found myself a little under whelmed with the song. Maybe it was Eluveitie front man Chrigel Glanzmann’s gruff vocal delivery that put me off but I don’t know. Not too particularly fond with this one. Aside from the vocal driven tunes, Eluveitie show they are more than capable of producing some seriously addicting much less rocking the house down styled anthems. Memento is a powerful up-beat track that utilizes the bagpipes once more to create a perfect dance song. You know the arm in arm switch partners until you become too exhausted to dance anymore or just passing out from a copious amount of alcohol abuse in true Irish fashion. The pace is quickly slowed down with the flute and Anna Murphy dominating the next track Ne Regv Na.
Strong musicianship is a critical factor in determining whether or not a multi instrumental folk album will succeed. I’ve noticed the sputnik rating for this album isn’t quite as high as I would have hoped but I personally find this album as great entertainment with solid replay values. Songwriting is varied, the blending of instruments are structured pretty well, vocals are mostly terrific and overall I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from the 15 songs that this album has to offer me. I’m stuck between a 3.5 and a 4 myself but anyone who is a fan of Eluveitie, neo-folk, Celtic inspired music, or for those just looking for a remedy for an every day of the year id St. Patricks day mentality, I tell you to go out and acquire this. Go spike up your hair with berry juice and animal dung, pop open The Raid by Randy Lee Eichhoff and put on Evocation I. You shouldn’t be disappointed but if you are, oh well you cant please everybody.