ELUVEITIE – Slania (2008)

Eluveitie - Slania Folk-metal is one of my favorite metal sub-genres because its major flaw is, in a way, a blessing: having too much of a good thing. Moonsorrow’s latest album, Viides Luku – Hävitetty, is a prime example. It’s a fantastic album, but it’s monstrous in scope. It’s not an album you can just pop in at any time; Viides Luku – Hävitetty is a commitment. If you’ve got an hour to devote to these two tracks (yes, two), it will reward you well, but if you don’t, you’re not likely to think much of it.

There are no such “problems” on Slania, the second album by the Swiss-born-but-Celtic-influenced Eluveitie. While there’s much to say about the music here, let’s instead examine something else for a minute here: the band’s label. Slania is the first album for Eluveitie on Nuclear Blast, and after a few listens, I’m lead to believe that this label change is largely responsible for the band’s change in sound. You see, Spirit, the band’s first album, was a blend of folk and black metal: the tempos were fast, the screams were intense and unrelenting, and folk instruments like tin whistle had a prominent position right alongside the guitars. On Slania, the black metal aspect of the band’s sound is either diminished severely or absent entirely, depending on the song one listens to; it’s been replaced by a more mid-tempo, melodic death metal approach, something akin modern Soilwork, mixed with Celtic folk instruments.

Actually, the Soilwork comparison is more valid than one might think. For one thing, both bands now share the same label. The speak/scream vocal style favored on the album calls to mind Speed Strid, and the song structures are similar, too. Slania is aactually a lot like Soilwork’s Natural Born Chaos; you just have to replace the groovy keyboard with bagpipes and hurdy gurdy (as these are the elements that propel each album forward). Another change to the band’s style is their lyrics (or more accurately, language). Previous albums were sung almost entirely in Gaulish, a long-defunct language of the Celtic region. On Slania, the band incorporate English into many of their songs.

Does any of this make Slania bad? Of course not. When the band are running on all cylinders, like in Gray Sublime Archon, they’re creating folk-metal of the highest caliber, like a locally-minded In Extremo. And when the band concentrate on just the folk aspect of their music, as they do on Anagantios and Giamonios (as well as the acoustic version of Samon which closes the album), they play with such conviction that it puts folk-metal bands like Cruachan to shame.

In general, the band seems to work best with their new sound when they’re tackling songs that are more energetic in nature. Slower tracks, like Slanias Song and Elembivos don’t really work well; they’re too drawn out, too stagnant. The solos at the end of Elembivos feel particularly out of place. They lock the song into a stasis that it never gets out of. A song like Primordial Breath is more the band’s fare; it opens amidst a chorus of hushed, layered vocals before exploding with metallic Celtic fury. There’s actually some black metal elements here, even though the song is anything but (listen to the blastbeats in the beginning if you don’t believe me). Bloodstained Ground is another great track; the tempo moves around a lot in it, but it’s anchored at a fairly quick speed, and the flute here really gets a chance to shine.

The band save some of its best material for last. Tarvos and Calling The Rain are total showstoppers, and both appear at the end of the album. These songs transcend the limitations inherent in mid-tempo compositions. The band here know just when to switch to a folk section, when to switch back, when the right time for a drum fill is, when to change the tempo and when to change it back.

While I don’t think that Slania is poor album, I think it needs to be said that I enjoy the band’s previous approach more. What made Spirit a great album is that it’s a black metal album at it’s core. Now, I love Finntroll and Cruachan, but I can’t say the same for any of their recent releases. As for Slania, well, it might be a step in a different direction for Eluveitie, but it’s still a step forward.



One Response to “ELUVEITIE – Slania (2008)”

  1. […] I: The Arcane Dominion (2009) While my initial review of Eluveitie’s last album was mildly positive, as the year wore on, it grew on me (especially after seeing their blistering live show at […]

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