There’s eerie mood music emerging from the speakers and a familiar dour Scottish bloke is doing a narrative – there’s no doubting it, the new Eluveitie album has begun! It’s been a while – we were tantalized with “Evocation II”, but really, honestly, weren’t we desperate to hear what this Eluveitie line-up were going to come up with on a heavier release? Many see this as an important release for the band, but to be fair, Chigrel Glanzman is still there, as he will always be – it’s his band! First Eluveitie album proper “Spirit” was an excellent album (I still play it regularly) and who is the one person left from that line-up? That would be Mr Glanzman – Eluveitie is his vision, his idea, his band – personally, I was never concerned or worried about the band’s future as long as he is at the helm.

Eluveitie releases go through phases – darker, lighter, folkier, heavier – they keep the whole thing rolling on. Never a weak album…just a slightly different mindset. This is a slightly darker one, there is possibly anger buried in there, there is determination…and there is a sense of rebirth. Chigrel is forward centre, spitting the lyrics out in his own inimitable way, as his eight-strong musical army follows willingly. At this point I guess we should address the line-up changes since the last Eluveitie heavy release? Well vocalist Fabienne Erni is fabi-u-lous (!), with an adorable tone and a confidence that radiates through music (as it did on “Evocation II”) – everything she is called upon to do is excellent, before slipping back into the shadows to do some fabulous harp-work and mandola. Michalina Malisz wheels that hurdy-gurdy splendidly, possibly favouring the higher register, giving her contributions a lighter, more up-beat feel. Guitarist Jonas Wolf has some good moments of riffage, as well as displaying great lead-work which is nice addition to the bands repertoire – he really knows when to drive the rhythm forward! Matteo Sisti is a demon on the pipes and whistles (as he was on Krampus’ debut) and Drummer Alain Ackerman is a perfect replacement for Merlin Sutter, showing flashes of brilliance, great time changes and innovative rhythms. It’s all working pretty damn well!

What of the songs themselves? Well this is a varied album consisting of crushing Death Metal heaviness and sublime folk, as only Eluveitie blend the way they do. The contrasts and mood changes are as seem-less as ever – there are blisteringly heavy moments, there are gorgeous folk interludes…there is Eluveitie! This line-up is the future and the future looks very bright indeed. There’s Nine of them in the band! Take a turn eh? And that’s another of the great things about this album, those folk elements that are a staple of the Eluveitie sound are taken on by so many different traditional instruments (guitar included), and it keeps the whole sound so wonderfully fresh – you never really know what’s coming next.

I can’t fault the songs, they will delight Eluveitie fans of all eras – there’s the full-on Metal monsters with great rhythms and angst-ridden delivery, with the folk elements dancing elegantly on the top, and there’s the more melodic-based tracks that scatter heaviness here and there to intensify and give impact. This is a very complete sound which makes it wonderfully difficult to pick out anything on an album full of highlights because it seems wrong to miss out all the other bits. Nicole Ansperger does one of her stunning solos on the excellent ‘Deathwalker’ (more please!), ‘Cry In The Wilderness’ seems to cram an entire Eluveitie album into one song (great vocals by the way), and it’s all linked together with narratives and instrumental passages. It is utterly, utterly Eluveitie!

In the end, that attention to detail always shines through on an Eluveitie album – the link between the opening track to the penultimate track and then the closing track – this doesn’t happen by accident, it’s intelligent, but it’s just what they do. There’s even a nod back to the old days with tracks incorporating traditional folk re-workings like ‘Ambiramus’ and it’s “What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor” (as we know it over here) Celtic base that stops short of a Running Wild type frippery and carries itself perfectly with the other songs around it. Just another thing I love about Eluveitie…but then, it’s no secret that I love what Eluveitie do. They are unique – and they have managed to be just a little more unique with this release. I wasn’t worried, nope, no worries here…I trusted Chigrel to deliver and he and his band of warriors have done just that – again!

(9/10 Andy Barker)