So this is a review of an album by a Swiss band being written by an Egyptian guy living in Egypt and published on a website run by a guy living in Sweden. Don’t you just love the Internet? Anyway, Eluveitie is indeed a very Swiss band that draws its influences from the roots of the land; medieval Helvetian and Celtic history. Since I did not study European history or Anthropology at any level, I can’t verify the accuracy, relevance or truthfulness of the stories being told on Helvetios. What I can verify, though, is that the music is quite interesting; especially if you haven’t heard Eluveitie before. They use the standard metal gear of distorted guitars, drums and bass and they’ve added a multitude of native folk instruments to complement and emphasize that snapshot of medieval Europe they’re creating with their music.
Helvetios is not the first Eluveitie album that presents this initially captivating amalgamation. This has been their standard operating procedure from the get go. The reason I said “initially” there is quite personal. When I first listened to their 2010 effort Everything Remains (as it Never Was), I was indeed captivated by the mere sounds of the instruments that were alien to my rusty ears. After a few listens, I got used to the Eluveitie setup and started to see past that first impression. The result wasn’t as surprising but still not bad at all. Song structure wasn’t very adventurous and the album felt more like it was a collection of songs cast in the same die than a fully coherent piece of work.
But all that is in the past. We have Helvetios now; a seventeen-track effort that stays true to its roots. Some might accuse Eluveitie of copying Dark Tranquillity while adding some weird instruments to make themselves stand out, but guess what? That’s not too far off from the truth. [In fact, that was the thrust of my entire review of their previous album. – AMG] The music is indeed standard Gothenburg-style melodic death metal but I wouldn’t label this as plagiarism because they do have their own sound. “Meet the Enemy”, “Helvetios” and “Havoc” are some of the straightforward bludgeoning tracks that don the folk melodeath cloak while cuts like “Scorched Earth,” “Hope,” intro “Prologue” and outro “Epilogue” create an atmosphere that supports the story. Yup, there’s a story. The reason why Helvetios tops Everything Remains (as it Never Was) in my book is that Helvetios is actually a concept album. The story behind it, of course, comes from medieval Helvetian and Celtic history and some parts of the lyrics are sung in the extinct Gaulish tongue [Nerds – AMG].
So there’s a lot to absorb from Eluveitie and labeling them as “just another folk metal band” would be quite unfair. However, I do feel the obligation to point out that there’s a high possibility that they won’t really please the tech-geeks. Individual showmanship is not what this Swiss bunch is about and that can make them sound a little stale after a few listens. Their song structures are pretty much straightforward all the time and their time signatures can hardly fool anyone. Then again, Helvetios is a pretty cool record and if you’re too pretentious too enjoy it because it’s not technical enough or whatever, then that’s your problem.