Article By: Kira Schlechter ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
As a big fan of traditional Celtic music, it was a major revelation to discover that there were bands out there who were combining it with my main love, metal (yeah, I’m a little behind on the curve sometimes).
Few accomplish this more effectively and more intelligently than the Swiss folk metal band ELUVEITIE, and their eighth album ‘Ategnatos‘ not only brings together both genres but embeds deep philosophical and metaphysical themes amid all that beautiful noise.
Band mastermind, singer (and whistle and mandola player) Chrigel Glanzmann, leads the ELUVEITIE pack. This is the second album with guitarist Jonas Wolf, singer and harpist Fabienne Erni, and drummer Alain Ackermann (who replaced Ivo Henzi, Anna Murphy, and Merlin Sutter, now of Cellar Darling, respectively).
Fiddle player Nicole Ansperger, hurdy-gurdy player Michalina Malisz, multi-instrumentalist Matteo Sisti (whistles, bagpipes, uilleann pipes, and bodhran), guitarist Rafael Salzmann, and bassist Kay Brem round out the massive lineup.
The album’s title is Gaulish for “reborn” (some lyrics are also in a reconstructed version of that extinct language; the ancient region of Gaul included most of Switzerland), and indeed almost every track is centered around that theme of rebirth in various permutations, as is also stated in the “manifesto” provided in the liner notes.
The title track, and nearly all of them, showcase the compelling combination of Glanzmann’s roars and Erni’s soaring soprano. Their usual pattern is singing together or alternating verses and choruses, and that mix of light and dark vocals, like the lilting traditional instruments and Celtic rhythms paired with the crushing violence of guitar and drums, is what makes ELUVEITIE speak with a singular, unique voice.
The title track seems a commentary on poverty and how those in power grind down the poor beneath them (“and the swine crowed ’round/ the shining lot of pearls”), while “Deathwalker,” with lyrics filled with mysticism and myth, speaks of transcending ordinary life for something more divine, perhaps a metaphor for how we mesh with nature in the end.
Glanzmann’s lyrics might seem inscrutable at first glance, but they bear distinct pearls of wisdom within them, like in “Ategnatos” when he notes, “A fool is the slave/ Who fears not his fetters/ But watches over them/ With jealousy.”
Tracks like “Black Water Dawn,” which switches into a wicked metal groove that has nothing to do with folk before it goes smoothly back into a Celtic tempo, are filled with his impressive vocabulary. He frequently uses words that make you reach for a dictionary (and that’s a good thing), but he never sacrifices vivid imagery and storytelling for erudition. This song seems to reference a trip to the land of the dead (“to the foul land, athwart the venomous sea”), perhaps to return, perhaps not.
“A Cry in the Wilderness” mentions the Gaulish god Lugus (the god of travelers), the idea of Antumnos (the underworld), and the omphalos (or navel of the world). These references are like a puzzle to be deciphered, which, again, is not a bad thing – it’s just part of the appreciation for the depth of this material. And of course, you can just like the sound of the words and how they’re delivered and be fine too.
And again, the meaning of that song is contained in a phrase: “In the bliss of true love/ There is foreboding/ And in suffering/ Oneiric revealing,” that is to say, in good things, there are always bad things and vice versa.
The swinging Gaelic groove of “The Raven Hill” begins with a haunting Gaulish chant at the beginning that becomes a sing-along in the chorus. The use of the word ”awen,” meaning “poetic inspiration” in Gaulish, late in the song might signal it’s the retelling of a myth – that of the arrival to the world of that inspiration, since the god Ogmios, the deity of eloquence, is also mentioned. See how much fun this is to decipher!
“Ambiramus” is led by Glanzmann’s soulful, percussive whistle playing and stars Erni on lead vocals. It’s very reminiscent of “The Call of the Mountains” from ‘Origins‘ – it has that same soaring, catchy, larger-than-life quality.
“Mine is the Fury,” Glanzmann bellows, and yes it is. It’s a thundering, brutal tale of divine cleansing by fire and flood to create a new beginning – “In my hands is justice/ I bring atonement/ And herald a new dawn.” It’s as crushing as any metalhead could desire.
“The Slumber” is a tragic tale of trudging through life, having no joy, just going on toward whatever end (“And I long to wake/ Come up for air”). We are “Dreaming of the promised land/ And mocked by the death knell at hand,” hoping for something better, but the end is always nigh and we might not reach fulfillment in time.
“Worship,” with surprise narration and singing by Randy Blythe of Lamb of God (what does this guy NOT do??), is a fantastical tale of perhaps the tyranny of belief as personified by the two “beasts” depicted.
“Threefold Death” refers to the ancient sacrifice of a king or a god by three means – hanging, drowning, and wounding – done if that person has committed a great offense against the gods. It’s at once furious (“What once was believed to be glory paled/ Into a scorn, left to derision,” Glanzmann howls) and full of regret, as provided by Erni’s delicate musing.
“Breathe,” then, could be a continuation of the previous track, maybe the hero’s reincarnation. Erni sings with hope and optimism, echoed by a blazing, crystalline guitar solo. And “Rebirth” is exactly that, that which comes when nothing is left, as they say when one surrenders completely to the void. And how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, aren’t we? – “I am not here, I do not last/ I am the grain in the earth/ I am the wave in the deep sea/ I am the softly whispered word/ In the murmuring autumn breeze.”
The final track, “Eclipse,” is the chorus of “Rebirth” sung by Erni, a reprise of the theme of sacrifice and release, repeated without end as a chant would be.
ELUVEITIE is co-headlining with Finnish folk metal veterans Korpiklaani for a rare U.S. tour this fall. Live, this would be a whole new revelation for late-to-the-party folk-metallers. All tour dates are listed below.
Order ‘Ategnatos‘ on Nuclear Blast Records.
Alain Ackermann – Drums
Chrigel Glanzmann – Vocals, Mandola & Mandolin, Tin & Low Whistles, Bagpipes, Bodhràn
Michalina Malisz – Session Hurdygurdy
Jonas Wolf – Guitars
Rafael Salzmann – Guitars
Matteo Sisti – Tin & Low Whistles, Bagpipe, Mandola
Kay Brem – Bass
Nicole Anspenger – Fiddle
Fabienne Erni – Vocals, Harp, Mandola
– ELUVEITIE Tour Dates 2019 –
Australia Tour Dates
May 15 – The Gov – Hindmarsh, AUS
May 16 – Manning Bar – Camperdown, AUS
May 17 – The Zoo – Fortitude Valley, AUS
May 18 – The Croxton Bandroom – Melbourne, AUS
May 19 – Rosemount Hotel – North Perth, AUS
European Summer Tour Dates & Festivals
Jun. 13 – Greenfield Festival AG – Zürich, CHE
Jun. 20 – Metal Frenzy – Gardelegen, DEU
Jun. 22 – Refshaleøen – København K, DNK
Jun. 23 – Graspop Metal Meeting – Dessel, BEL
Jun. 24 – Beatpol-Dresden e.V. – Dresden, DEU
Jun. 25 – Mystic Festival – Kraków, POL
Jun. 27 – Sonic Park – Bologna, ITA
Jun. 28 – Feuertanz – Abenberg, DEU
Jun. 29 – KOMMA Veranstaltungszentrum – Wörgl, AUT
Jul. 10 – Dunaújváros – Dunaújváros, HUN
Jul. 11 – Masters of Rock – Vizovice, CZE
Jul. 12 – Eventhall Airport – Obertraubling, DEU
Jul. 13 – Area 53 – Leoben, AUT
Jul. 19 – Dynamo Metalfest – Eindhoven, NLD
Jul. 20 – Gefle Metal Festival – Gävle, SWE
Jul. 28 – Faine Misto – Ternopil, UKR
Aug. 01 – Wacken Open Air – Wacken, DEU
Aug. 04 – Sylak – Monestier-de-clermont, FRA
Aug. 09 – Leyendas Del Rock – Villena, ESP
Aug. 11 – Bloodstock Open Air – Derby, U.K.
Aug. 15 – Motocultor Festival – Saint-nolff, FRA
Aug. 17 – Summer Breeze Open Air – Dinkelsbühl, DEU
Aug. 31 – Metalacker – Tennenbronn, DEU
Sep. 08 – Festival-Mediaval GmbH – Dietersburg, DEU
U.S. Dates w/Korpiklaani
Sep. 19 – The Orpheum – Tampa, FL
Sep. 20 – The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Sep. 21 – House of Blues NOLA – New Orleans, LA
Sep. 22 – White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
Sep. 23 – Come and Take It Live – Austin, TX
Sep. 24 – Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill – Dallas, TX
Sep. 26 – Club Red – Mesa, AZ
Sep. 27 – Regent Theater DTLA – Los Angeles, CA
Sep. 28 – Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA
Sep. 29 – The Bossanova Ballroom – Portland, OR
Sep. 30 – Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, CAN
Oct. 01 – El Corazon – Seattle, WA
Oct. 03 – Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
Oct. 04 – The Royal Grove – Lincoln, NE
Oct. 05 – Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
Oct. 06 – Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
Oct. 07 – The Opera House – Toronto, CAN
Oct. 08 – Brass Monkey – Ottawa, CAN
Oct. 09 – Théâtre Corona – Montréal, CAN
Oct. 10 – Impérial Bell – Québec, CAN
Oct. 11 – Palladium – Worcester, MA
Oct. 12 – Nightclub Reverb – Reading, PA
Oct. 13 – Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Oct. 14 – PlayStation Theater – New York, NY
European Fall Tour Dates
Nov. 02 – Demodé Club – Bari, ITA
Nov. 03 – Orion Live Club – Rome, ITA
Nov. 05 – Estragon Club – Bologna, ITA
Nov. 06 – Live Club – Trezzo Sull’adda, ITA
Nov. 08 – LKA Longhorn – Stuttgart, DEU
Nov. 09 – Turbinenhalle – Oberhausen, DEU
Nov. 10 – Trix – Antwerpen, BEL
Nov. 12 – O2 Ritz – Manchester, U.K.
Nov. 13 – The Garage – Glasgow, U.K.
Nov. 14 – The Academy – Dublin, IRL
Nov. 15 – SWX – Bristol, U.K.
Nov. 16 – O2 Forum Kentish Town – London, U.K.
Nov. 17 – TivoliVredenburg – Utrecht, NLD
Nov. 19 – Batschkapp – Frankfurt Am Main, DEU
Nov. 20 – Capitol Hannover – Hannover, DEU
Nov. 21 – Huxley’s Neue Welt – Berlin, DEU
Nov. 22 – Felsenkeller Leipzig – Leipzig, DEU
Nov. 23 – TonHalle München – München, DEU
Nov. 24 – Conrad Sohm – Dornbirn, AUT
Nov. 26 – Le Rocher de Palmer de cenon – Cenon, FRA
Nov. 27 – Razzmatazz salas 2 & 3 – Barcelona, ESP
Nov. 28 – Sala MON Live Madrid – Madrid, ESP
Nov. 29 – Le Bikini – Ramonville-Saint-Agne, FRA
Nov. 30 – L’Étage – Rennes, FRA
Dec. 01 – Elysée Montmartre – Paris, FRA
Dec. 03 – Garage GmbH u. Co. KG – Saarbrücken, DEU
Dec. 04 – Hirsch – Nord, DEU
Dec. 05 – Kino Šiška Centre – Ljubljana, SVN
Dec. 08 – Arena Wien/Verein Forum – Wien, AUT
Dec. 12 – Melna Piektdiena – Rīga, LVA
Dec. 13 – Tavastia – Helsinki, FIN
Dec. 14 – Tullikamari – Tampere, FIN
Dec. 15 – Rock Cafe – Tallinn, EST
Dec. 17 – Fryshuset Klubben – Södermalm, SWE
Dec. 18 – Vulkan Arena – Grünerløkka, NOR
Dec. 19 – Trädgår’n – Heden, SWE
Dec. 20 – Amager Bio – København, DNK
Dec. 21 – Docks – Hamburg, DEU