Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 2/15/2008
posted on 3/2008 By:
Winter is slowly receding here in Minnesota as all of the snow and ice is giving way to mud, cold rain, and stormy winds. I love spring for a lot of reasons, but right now top on the list is that spring's raw power puts me in a constant folk metal mood. Only folk metal can answer spring's call of the wild and provide me with that musical sense of adventure that I need to thaw my bones and get outside. So it's fitting that I've found a new friend in Slania, whose Celtic woodland melodies are as immediately convincing as they are escapist. Eluveitie sound a lot like Dark Tranquillity filtering In Flames and expanding their sound with eight musicians playing Celtic music with instruments like the hurdygurdy, the violin, various pipes, a bagpipe and female vocals. If that sounds as good to you as it does to me then fear not because this album should meet your expectations. If you still need a review read on.
The band call their style the "New Wave of Folk Metal", and that tag suits them well. This is folk metal for sure, but definitely also something fresher than the mere combination of folk melodies with metal instrumentation. Equal parts melodeath and folk, with neither side overpowering the other, the songs here feel so natural that even after many spins I often find myself wondering whether that song on my iPod shuffle is some new Gothenburg band I've forgotten about or some kick-ass folk metal band that writes good riffs and catchy choruses that could stand alone if separated from their Celtic accompaniment. It's always the latter. "Bloodstained Ground", for example, comes ripping out of the gate before the folk instruments make their appearance, and even when they do, the song's forward lurch doesn't slow to make room for the piercing woodwinds that supplement rather than overpower the sound.
None of this is to say that the folk elements are superfluous. It's not the heavy Dark Tranquillity vibe that makes Slania so great, and neither is it the folk melodicism; it's the seamless pairing of the two that Eluveitie does so convincingly and that makes Slania such a great listen. Watch the video for the first single "Inis Mona" for example. Around two and half minutes into it, during a very metal bridge with riffing that calls to mind In Flames in their good days, lead singer Chrigel pulls out his pipe and belts out a solo. And it's not funny at all, because it just feels so right with them. Similarly, if you thought bagpipes weren't metal, think again: Sevan looks fit to play bass in a viking metal band and he plays his bagpipes with as much conviction as any viking metal axe-man.
Of course a unique, well-executed sound can only get you so far, and luckily Eluveitie write really good, catchy, forest-evoking, beer-swilling, sword-fighting songs to boot. My favorite tracks are "Inis Mona", "Calling The Rain", "Gray Sublime Archon", "Slania's Song" and especially closer "Elembivos" which is the least like its other non-interlude brethren. It's got a long buildup featuring pipes and male chanting before, at nearly four minutes, a guitar solo joins the folk metal march and is soon followed by the violin's turn in the spotlight. This pipe-driven song is simple and really more of a cool-down than a track proper but it's done well and representative of the more traditional folk sound that Eluveitie are equally skilled at producing. Think of Týr for a good point of reference.
The one flaw with Slania is that it doesn't vary too much. There's an intro, outro, and a few Celtic instrumental segues along the way, but the ride mostly consists of this New Wave of Folk Metal played on repeat with little variation among the song structures. Why the scores are so high then, in case you were wondering, is because I think the formula is done so well that the listener shouldn't mind the repetition. I certainly don't.
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