Released: 2012, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Eluveitie are 8 multitalented musicians who have already earned a reputation for producing high quality folk metal. They fuse metal with a range of traditional instruments including whistles, uilleann pipes, bodhran, harp, hurdygurdy, flute and violin. Helvetios is Eluveitie’s fifth album and second concept album and is as epic in duration as it is in sound: 17 tracks over 60 minute. The conceptual element of the album is enhanced by a narrative which features in the prologue, epilogue and at various points throughout giving it a cinematic feel.
Title track Helvetios bursts into life at the conclusion of the narrative prologue. Taken in the context of the cinematic mood of the album, this would serve as the music to the opening credits. Growling male vocals backed with melodic female vocals are unmistakably Eluveitie; a trademark which makes then standout from other folk metal acts. The refrain ‘Cos we’re born free, cos we’re born wild’ and the song being sung entirely in English makes this is a very accessible track. Eluveitie virgins would be encouraged to listen further.
Helvetios gives way to Luxtos, which carries on the galloping pace. Folky and catchy with a sing-a-long chorus (despite being in Gaulish) but still very metal. It is so anthemic that it evokes visions of boozed up warriors celebrating a victorious battle. It is difficult to work out the true meaning a few songs without looking up the gaulish translation, however it can be more fun to make use of one’s imagination.
The album continues to race along with Home. An impatient hurdy-gurdy melody overlaid with metal guitar and vocals. I am guessing Anna does some rather epic hurdy-gurdy head banging action to this one when it is performed live. Four songs in and this album shows no sign of slowing down, as the powerful Santonian Shores bursts into the listener’s ears. Despite being very similar in style to the previous three this song contains plenty of variety (all held together by the ever present hurdy-gurdy) to maintain the listener’s interest. After 5 storming tracks Eluveitie briefly take a breather with the wholly gaullish lament Scorched Earth. Then we are straight back into full on metal territory with Meet the Enemy. Compared to preceding song this is more death metal heavy over the folk, but the quick tempoed flute and other traditional instruments, provide relief from harshness of the metal.
The non-relenting rushing pace continues with "Neverland" before there is a total change of pace for the single "A Rose for Epona". This stands out by being a poppy, MTV friendly tune much in the same vein as "Omnos" (from the 2009 album Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion). The girls take centre stage, it is light on both the metal and the folk – token commercial track maybe? Never fear though, because an Irish folk fiddle introduces the arrival of "Havoc" which brings back the storming metal. This is almost a metal hornpipe, not a bad thing to the ears of the eyes of hardened folk metal fans. The Uprising is another unrelenting metal track, contributing to making this Eluveitie’s heaviest album to date. However the strong folk element means takes off the brutal edge.
Time for another break; this time for some bagpipes and an instrumental – hope before the brutal Siege. This is the heaviest song on the album including painful sounding death metal vocals. After all that throat shredding the girls are back to provide the soothing "Alesia". "Tullianum" is a narrative telling of bad happenings before the really rather lovely Uxellodunum which has a lot going without sounding overcrowded – one of the many talents of this band. The album closes with a narrative epilogue and what could easily be end credits music.
This is an album which should be listened to in its entirety to be fully appreciated. It is an astounding piece of music which takes folk metal into serious music territory and away from the increasingly tedious tongue-in-cheek.
Review by Victoria Fenbane