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Eluveitie is Helvetian for "I am Helvetian" and also the name of a pagan metal band from Switzerland that formed in around 2000.

To sum them up in a single sentence? Imagine if Medwyn Goodall joined At the Gates.

I think it was really Eluveitie that got me into pagan metal, which is also known as folk metal or viking metal - although the last name is a misnomer as there are bands which fuse death or black metal with Celtic, Middle Eastern, or Slavic folk sounds as well as merely Scandinavian. It was December of 2006. I was in my room in Paris and I'd just cracked a tinny of Grimbergen and I was looking up the bands on this photocopied A6 flier that this bloke outside the Elysée had given me. One of these was Eluveitie, whom I looked up and was hooked. Instantly.

The thing about this nonet (?) of Swiss folks is that by rights you shouldn't be able to combine melo-death in the vein of later At the Gates with a violinist, a hurdy-gurdyist, bagpipes, and a penny whistle. Especially not when half the lyrics are in Helvetian - not only a dead language, but an obscure dead language at that. Short of writing all the lyrics in the booklets in Linear B, that is. Which makes me wonder - how do we know that the translations of all the lyrics are accurate? The only Helvetian I know is "nata uimpi, curmi da" which translates to "beautiful girl, bring me beer." Which is pretty triumphant, I must admit, but all the same...

I have had the good fortune to see Eluveitie live, up at Bloodstock in August of 2008. Other than Destruction and possibly Dimmu Borgir they were easily the best band there. There is something so primal about their music - even if you're not of Celtic origin and have never been to anywhere Celtic in your life. Makes you want to strip naked apart from a pair of antlers and run through the forest in the dead of night. You know that bit in the film Highlander where Sean Connery the Egyptian Spaniard invites Christopher Lambert to "feel the stag" by any chance? It's like that. Sprinting across hill and dale, pausing to have a spot of a battle here and there (where would any self respecting pagan metal band be without a battle?) and swiving the maidens afterwards and drinking to excess. Yeah. Whether it's a number like "Bloodstained Ground" with Ivo Henschi's lethal melo-death riffs or the hurdy-gurdy-powered sweetness of "Of Fire, Wind and Wisdom" or the rather mellow, swaying, stomping, almost sensual "Slania's Song" with Anna Murphy putting in double bubble on female vox as well, the band always delivers. And then there's "The Song of Life" which is almost ridiculously fast - possibly even thrash speeds here, and "Elembivos" which has this chant in the background while all the band members go round and show off a bit on their instruments... I could go on, but I won't.

On CD they're no less ace, although you really need to see them live to truly appreciate the sheer majesty of their stuff. And to experience the pits. Definitely that. One word of warning though. If you're expecting the growling and gloom and epicness of Nordic pagan metal, or the careening through the forest with the oskorei carefree atmosphere of Finnish pagan metal, both of which are generally based on black metal, you'll find something rather different with Eluveitie. Not least because of their Celtic feel, but also because they're based on melo-death. Though thankfully good melo-death, and not the dead horse flogging of later In Flames or Soilwork. They're also not averse to deploying the acoustic guitar every now and then - indeed, their next two albums are tipped to be entirely acoustic, although retaining the screeching and folksy bits all over.

If you're interested, here follows a discography. Personally I recommend... well, everything:

  • Vén, EP, 2003
  • Spirit, full length, 2006
  • Slania, full length, 2008
  • Evocation I, full length, 2009
  • Everything Remains as it Never Was, full length, 2010
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