Album Review: Origins by Eluveitie
Posted by RiffRaff
When it comes to metal bands, there are few that are as invested in their themes as Eluveitie are. Since their debut record, Spirit, they have been writing songs about the Gauls and Celtic lore non-stop with new music released unhindered, more or less bi-annually since 2006. Main lyricist and songwriter Chrigrel Glanzmann even goes as far as to recruit scientists and historians to study ancient texts, tomes, carvings, and lore of the Gualish kingdoms which he uses in each of Eluveitie’s songs. He even went as far as to learn the Gualish language (which has been long dead) and uses it, to great effect, in his songs. Lack of dedication, is a phrase that does not exist in Eluveitie’s mind. And that also goes double for the ethos when they create a new record; always looking to improve and expand their sound.
Origins follows that trend of dedication to look to ‘outdo’ their previous works. From front to back this album is a beast, and any complaint I had regarding their previous offering, 2012’s Helvetios (I liked it well, but it was the weakest offering in the bands catalog imo), has been addressed. Besides much all-round much tighter, more engaging songwriting, what I feel is the biggest success of Origins is that Eluveitie crafted an ‘album’ instead of a collection of songs. What I mean is each track, while standing well on their own, is heightened by the ones surround them and they all work together to create an hour-long flow. Each song is positioned perfectly and each interlude builds mood and atmosphere when needed.
One of the best examples of this is the ballad ‘The Call of the Mountains’. When I first listened to the single version during pre-release, I wasn’t very impressed; it felt pretty cookie cutter and a bit too cheesy. But now sandwiched in between the heavy hitting, melo-death tracks ‘Virunus’ and ‘Sucellos’ with a mayo interlude spread called ‘Nothing’ this seamless suite of songs create a wave that makes that cheesy center delicious. That little break from the folk metal assault really lets you appreciate the subtleties of something mellower and the surrounding intensities. This kind of attention to ordering and flow continues throughout the entire album; always knowing when to push the brutality and when to give a little breathing room. And that ethos carries down to the individual songs.
I really liked how vocalist and hurdy-gurdy-ist (yes, it’s an instrument) Anna Murphy plays a bigger role on this record. Her clean vocals are heavenly (she is one of, if not the only, Gothic style singers I tolerate, let alone enjoy) and have a slightly bluesy feel to them and her occasional screams layer in that perfect, angry punch whenever used. Her hurdy-gurdy playing is also a lot more varied this time around incorporating different drones and melodies that previous albums would have never thought of adding.
Not to forget to mention the rest of this 8-piece band, each other member has really stepped up their game. Guitarists Rafael Salzman and Ivo Henzi play some both melodic and crunchy riffs always with unrelenting energy and flautist/bagpiper Pade Kistler and fiddle player/cellist Nicole Asperger punches home the main melodies really enforcing the catchiness of the band. A huge shout out though really has to go to the rhythm section of drummer Merlin Sutter and bassist Kay Brem. The songs where they were put on the forefront were easily my favorite tracks on the record, namely the song ‘Celtos’. Of course vocalist/every other weird instrumentalist and band leader Chigral Glanzmann sounds good as ever, now with a much wider range in is iconic growling style.
And with so many instruments and sounds going on at any given moment, besides outstanding songwriting, you need one hell of a production team. And the team Eluveitie assembled on this one is crack. Each instrument has its own breathing room, nothing feels cluttered nor compressed, and the drums sound like fucking drums (one of my biggest pet peeves in bad production). The stellar production is just as clutch as the songs on the record and gives the record that larger than life sound one wants when listening to record of this magnitude.
All in all, I’m beyond satisfied with Origins and this pretty much solidifies Eluveitie not only as one of the premiere folk metal bands available, but one of the best current metal bands on the market. In a year when I’ve been heavily embracing smaller, more modest records, losing a lot of faith in the big ‘blockbusters’, this proves that big, showy, and explosive can be just as engaging and sincere as a Panopticon record. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy is the must see savior of blockbuster cinema for 2014, Origins is the must listen blockbuster of the year. Do not miss (and if you can spare the extra couple bucks for the special edition CD/DVD combo, do it. The liner notes come with a bonus booklet that has in depth explanations to the lyrical themes of all the songs and is super interesting. Also the packaging is well put together and great to look at). 5/5