Folk metal is a genre that seems to be getting more and more attention, and for good reason. Even being classified as folk metal, nearly all the bands have their own unique sound, due to either the instruments involved, or simply the other genres of music that play a special part. Power, black, death, melodic-death metal, even other genres called pirate, viking, or Celtic metal. Instruments range from keyboard samples, keytars, all kinds of wind instruments, you name it, it has been used. Folk metal is probably my favorite genre of metal, so if I were to introduce a friend to folk metal I do have a band that comes to mind that would really show off the genre. Eluveitie is a band that I would proudly introduce anyone to, and their newest release Helvetios is an album that is at the top when it comes to folk metal. Eluveitie is at the top, and they continue to impress with each new studio release.
Helvetios is the fifth studio album by Eluveitie, and their first concept album. Helvetios tells the story of none other than the Helvetians, a Celtic tribe that lived in Gaul (People in Gaul spoke what is now an extinct language, Gaulish, which you hear in many songs from Eluvetie), a region that covered most of what today is now France, Switzerland, Northern Italy, and France from the Iron Age through the Roman period. Helvetios focuses on the story of the Gallic (Gaulish) wars, which was a series of military campaigns waged by Julius Caesar, who sought to become the one and only ruler of the Roman Republic.
For Eluveitie’s first concept album, they certainly knew exactly what to do and how to execute it. The album starts with the opening track, simply called “Prologue“. A soft-spoken man speaks to the subtle sound of the wind, and water rushing, painting a beautiful picture of what once was, soon erased by the misery that war brings. The intro to the next track, “Helvetios“, feels on a theatrical scale, as if you were watching a film and the camera panned across the Swiss plateau before entering the battle below. Next, you will be treated to what has become expected from Eluveitie, some of the best folk death metal you will hear.
Along with the typical lead/rhythm guitars, bass guitar, and drums, Eluveitie continues to incorporate an armada of instruments that give their folk metal that really unique Celtic sound. Hurdy gurdy, bagpipes, whistles, flutes, pipes, violin, it’s all made a return on Helvetios. These instruments not only give Eluveitie that unique sound, but are what really gives this band the power to be able to tell such a story through music. The blending of folk death metal and classic Celtic music make it impossible for me to decide if I should band my head or Irish step dance.
The instrumentals are flawless, but what about the vocal work? Chrigel Glanzmann continues to provide great death metal vocals, and I enjoy his work, so forgive me when I lose focus from Glanzmann. What blew me away on Helvetios was the vocals performed by Anna Murphy, she has sung in the past, and I enjoyed it, but she never really had what felt like a lot of “umpf” behind those cords. With Helveitos it seemed that Murphy made it a goal to prove that she can sing on a higher level, and I still can’t believe the improvement in her performance.
The best example of the talent of Anna Murphy would be the track “A Rose For Epona“. The song is from the viewpoint of a Helvetian woman who along with many others, had to flee their homeland and migrate to begin a new life elsewhere away from the war. The young Gaulish woman then accuses the Goddess Epona for forsaking her poeple. The song is more tame, as it does not have much death metal influence in the instrumentals, while Anna Murphy takes the stage and floors everyone and anyone listening. The power and talent behind her vocals make me ashamed for most of the so called “female superstars” here in America. I have hopes that we continue to see Murphy behind the microphone in this fashion more often in the future.
On the track “The Seige“, there was clearly another voice performing along with Glanzmann, but with screams rather than growls. Now there is not much information on the album on the internet, and unfortunately me being in the United States, I still have some time to wait till my pre-order package arrives in the mail. Who was this voice? If it was either Anna Murphy or Meri Tadic, I’ll be floored by the fact they haven’t done these vocals more often.
The high point of Helvetios for me had to be the the next track after “A Rose For Epona“, named “Havoc“. This song really impressed me because of the fact that Eluveitie really picked up a beat on this one, it’s fast, very fast. Meri Tadic’s violin work on “Havoc” completely overshadows other very memorable past work such as her performance for the song “Tegernako“. The band as a whole seems to work together in an ultimate folk metal climax.
I can say with confidence that Helvetios just might the best work from Eluveitie to date, they continue to bring a whole new meaning to the term folk metal. With each album, there seems to be more and more improvement with the band as a whole. Eluveitie continues to climb to the top with Helvetios, and do not seem to be coming down anytime soon. If you are a fan of any work by Eluvetie, pick this album up now, right now! If you have heard nothing from Eluvetie and are just reading this review because you are bored. Do yourself a favor and Eluveitie on youtube, and then support the band of course.