April 2, 2019 Eluveitie – Ategnatos (Album Review)
With nearly five years passed since their last true Metal album, one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved Folk Metal outfits, Eluveitie, deliver their latest hard-hitting epic, Ategnatos, on Friday, April 5, 2019, thanks to Nuclear Blast Records.
Founded in 2002 by Frontman/Multi-Instrumentalist Chrigel Glanzmann, Switzerland’s Eluveitie (pronounce that ell-vay-tee) combine elements of Melodic Death Metal with Pagan Folk music to author a sound that is truly their own. Part fairy prance, part vicious attack, the band’s blend of sounds, accompanied by their appreciation for history and love of folklore, have earned them a large fanbase that has continued to grow. This is much in thanks to their seven epic albums that have been released over the past 17 years, from 2006’s epic debut Spirit to 2017’s acoustic Evocation II: Pantheon. Though there have been quite a breadth of line-up changes throughout the years, Glanzmann soldiers onward with his talented outfit, and has gone on to share stages with the likes of Lacuna Coil, Sabaton, Epica, Wintersun, Amaranthe, Alestorm, and many, many more.
For their eighth studio album, the nine-piece Eluveitie — Vocalist and Multi-Instrumentalist Glanzmann, Vocalist and Multi-Instrumentalist Fabienne Erni, Guitarists Rafael Salzmann and Jonas Wolf, Bassist Kay Brem, Drummer Alain Ackermann, Violinist Nicole Ansperger, Multi-Instrumentalist Matteo Sisti, and Hurdy-Gurdyist Michalina Malisz — turn toward the past to explore the future and the concept of renewal. The 16-song Ategnatos is a self-described “occult, arcane, and elitist” exploration that utilizes mythology, Pagan beliefs and spirituality to turn a weary eye upon our modern world.
Ategnatos starts with a narrative that bleeds beautifully into the titular “Ategnatos.” Setting the scene for the entire collection, Eluveitie open their latest with Glanzmann’s harsh vocals and driving guitars complemented by the beautifully soaring vocals of Erni, along with some exceptional incorporations of the harp. All said, the contrast between the band’s Metal licks and their exquisite Folk elements is never better than on “Ategnatos,” promising a great album to follow.
Just seconds long, “Ancus” presents a short, spoken Latin passage that segues into “Deathwalker.” Here, the hurdy-gurdy opens the entire tour de force, and the heavy rocking kicks in with pummeling drum beats and a delicate dash of those bespelling ‘Beauty and the Beast’ style vocals. As the pace quickens, the fiddle and hurdy-gurdy race to set the stage for Glanzmann’s gutturals.
Sisti’s tin whistle dances the band into the dark jig of “Black Water Dawn,” where Erni’s siren song soars, delivering the band into one killer guitar solo. Part driving rocker, part jig, the track stands as a perfect example of Eluveitie’s talents and Ategnatos as a whole. Next, they go guns blazing into headbanger “A Cry in the Wilderness,” lest you doubt their ability to reach frenetic heights. This moves into a Folk chant that sets the scene for “The Raven Hill,” an explosion of gritty guitars and Glanzmann’s primal growls. Add to this an infectiously upbeat fiddle line and some beautiful tin whistle work and you have the band firing on all cylinders.
At just over a minute, “The Silvern Glow” is a fairy prance led by tin whistle that forms a bridge between its predecessor and “Ambiramus.” With Ernie’s melodic songbird vocals handling lead, the latter allows the band soar to heavenward. Somewhat conversely, “Mine Is the Fury” explodes into Glanzmann’s vicious vocal attack complemented by frenetic drum work from Ackermann and a voracious pace.
Entrancing harp opens the spell of “The Slumber.” Perhaps one of the best examples of the band’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ vocal theatrics, the track allows Erni a moment in the spotlight as Glanzmann weaves his bestial gruffness around her. A perfect complement, this sets the scene for some Spoken Word that opens into “Worship.” Intensely ominous, the darkly howling track features the incomparable Randy Blythe of Lamb of God.
At just over a minute, “Trinoxtion” is another cinematic interlude that sets a mood, much in thanks to that wonderful tin whistle work. Next up, “Threefold Death” is perfectly befitting of its title, a bold Metal offering that cranks everything to eleven. Meanwhile, “Breathe” goes for a melodic approach with its emphasis on the band’s exceptional Folk instrumentation and Erni’s beautiful vocals.
As Ategnatos begins to wind toward its conclusion, they weave their guttural, blistering inferno around all things melodic on “Rebirth,” another perfect example of the impressive strengths of Eluveitie. Ultimately, the wind rolls through the hills as Erni brings about the album’s climax, “Eclipse.” A vocal soliloquy that sees her singing into the rain, she slowly fades into eternity as Ategnatos comes to its triumphant close.
As with all that Eluveitie does, there’s a perfect balance between their straight-up Metal approach and the stunning Folk elements that they blend for their fully unique sound. There are few bands that present a product that allows their listeners to experience blistering Metal guitar work alongside the hurdy-gurdy, or pummeling drum beats alongside a harp, but Eluveitie freely incorporate a zillion musical instruments into their wall of sound.
On Ategnatos, Eluveitie continue to show that their unique brand of Folk Metal is as bespelling as it is heavy and rocking. Their instrumentation is flawless, their lyrical storytelling is intelligent and poetic, and they continuously craft songs that are as darkly haunting as they are beautifully bespelling. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Eluveitie’s Ategnatos 4.5 of 5 stars.