One of my esteemed fellows, when I picked it from the promo-bin, dismissed Weltenwanderer as Eluveitie-core. Even as one of the few people around here with a soft spot for Eluveitie, that criticism is spot-on. Abinchova are three albums into their career and are settled into a style of folk-infused melodeath strongly reminiscent of their countrymen. Leaving the merits and flaws of the style itself behind, is Abinchova any good at it?
Skipping the prelude for now, the title track serves as a useful microcosm for the album as a whole: crunchy but not necessarily compelling or memorable riff-work, hooky interplay between those riffs, Nora Lang’s violin, and a bog-standard beauty/beast dynamic, albeit one with substantially less melisma than most. The album is at its strongest when leaning on the band’s keen sense of melody, as on “Lichtfänger,” “Gewässerdieb,” or album highlight “Liedermacher.” These tracks rely heavily on Lang for both her excellent violin work and her more workmanlike vocal contributions, using the former to guide the melodic counterpoint in the guitar lines, while the latter performances are competently performed at worst, and offer the songs beautiful airiness without overwhelming their meatiness, a common problem with the aforementioned dynamic.
Unfortunately, despite a number of high points, the album is littered with issues. These problems can be found in the composition, such as the spoken word in the otherwise-pointless prelude which is rasped to a monumentally silly degree; the ending of “Lichtfänger” seriously lacking punch, and the final three tracks being blatant filler, but there are legion on the production side of things. While the biggest compositional issue is the lack of engaging riffs, the songwriting overall lacks cohesion, leading to uneven songs like the title track; both issues are likely symptomatic of the guitarists being the newest arrivals to the group. Additionally, every song here runs a bit too long; conveniently, so does the album, so trimming every track by a minute or so would solve the pacing issue.
The guitarists are, despite the prior complaints, highly skilled in weaving in and out of the violin and vocal melodies, and lead (harsh) vocalist Arnaud Hilfiker is no slouch, either, offering a rabid but intelligible snarling that plays well with the rest of the instrumentation. Despite playing death metal, though, the band’s best asset is undoubtedly Nora Lang, and as said, they lean heavily on her but still avoid overexposure. Lang’s vocal timbre and style specifically call to mind the late Sabine Dunser of Elis, offering a softness and vulnerability that should have heightened the crunch of the guitar and lead vocals. Unfortunately, the mix is a minor disaster, with the bass buried by, not the guitar like one would expect, but rather the kick drum, despite the rest of Mischa Blaser’s kitwork resting comfortably in the middle of things. Further, Lang’s vocals sit right at the top, overpowering… basically everything else, brutally defenestrating any chance of subtlety. Finally, the master is uneven, with different tracks coming in at DR5 or DR7, but ultimately still squashed overall, exacerbating the mix issues.
Overall, Weltenwanderer is a decent album that’s hamstrung from its first moment by shoddy production, so even if you also like Eluveitie’s stronger material, this is probably not worth the headache. It’s certainly not going on my regular rotation.