Album Review: ELUVEITIE Evocation II – Pantheon
I’m going to wager that if you give a flying fuck about Celtic mythology, Celtic gods and all things Celtic (including Celtic Frost), then you’ve probably already heard through the Celtic grapevine about this ambitious project from these Swiss leaders of the folk/melodic death metal pack. With 2009’s Evocation I being the first time the nonet switched off the breakers to their practice space to focus on presenting their form and style all acoustically, given it’s title, it should be no surprise that Evocation II does the same, though the amount of background work embarked upon in the execution of this is valiant and tremendous.
So, the album is a conceptual work of sorts dedicated to Celtic mythology (songs are named after Celtic gods, I’ve been informed) and the band consulted with researchers, academics and scholars in the appropriate field of study for the proper Gallic pronunciation of their lyrics. And if all that isn’t enough, the booklet (which I haven’t seen and am just going by what the bio is telling me – fuck you, digital promos) reproduces the lyrics in the original Gallic, provides an English translation and even prints them in the ancient handwriting script that would have been used a couple thousand years ago. And if that didn't already put enough on his plate, the band’s main man, Christian “Chrigel” Glanzmann essentially created all this while replacing five of the band’s nine members over the past year. It’s probably best Evocation II is an acoustic offering as it sounds like electricity would just be another thing to worry about and something with the potential to in the way of its release.
"All that down home Celtic imagery and presentation is well and good, but does it rock", I hear you asking. Well, parts of it do. Evocation II throws up 18 tracks, but in terms of proper songs with beginnings, middles, choruses, and other elements we normally associate with songs, there are maybe nine of those. A good portion of this album consists of amorphous chanting, instrumental interludes or vocalist Fabienne Erni singing over soundscapes and/or the sounds of nature. It’s during many of these less defined sequences, like “Aventia” and “Dvressu” that it might even be surprising to discover that you’re not listening to a Nicky Ryan-produced Enya album as opposed to a Swiss metal band. This is the exact ruse I pulled on my significant other when I had “Artio” spinning in the background, though a track like “Grannos” had us both scrambling and tearing apart the pantry in the hunt for S’mores makings before the campfire extinguished (i.e. the song ended).
Put it this way, if you threw this album on, skipped “Epona,” “Lvgvs,” “Nantosvelta” or “Taranis” you might not even think you were listening to a band that knows anything about metal, let alone as band that is usually a metal band. “Epona” is actually a pulverising and emotional piece with effective layers of instrumentation (the tribal drum patterns are especially poignant) and an amazing chorus, whilst “Taranis” is like a piece of Shrapnel Records shred transformed by tin and low whistles. This, I guess, is a good thing in that it demonstrates both the versatility of this band, but also the authenticity, talent, know-how and capabilities when it comes to their incorporation and use of folk music. The use of various acoustic instruments like tin whistles (they’re actually endorsed by a whistle company!), hurdy gurdy, mandolins and various types of pipes and harps is done properly and in a manner which won’t offend the old-timers beating their livers into submission down at the pub. So, you know that when they either pull the plug, like they have for Evocation II, or when it’s time to get back to the metal and incorporate everything into thrashing guitars and pounding drums, you know it’s being done by people who actually know the score. And it makes it for a much more credible listen than the number of folk metal bands calling Mediterranean countries and the U.S. west coast home.