Album: Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
With the long-awaited release of Eluveitie‘s sequel, Evocation II – Pantheon, soon upon us, we felt as though it would be prudent to take a step back in time to listen to the original Evocation album and see how it feels a whopping 8 years after its release (has it really been that long?). Evocation I was Eluveitie’s first fully acoustic album, and therefore marked a fairly sizable step away from their usual sound.
[Ed: this report has been backdated from 08.2017]
Feel free to listen along on Spotify:
The Arcane Dominion is an impressive 15 tracks long, but while that may seem like a lot, in actuality, only five of those clock in at over 4 minutes in length. Rather than having a focus on heaviness or guitars and bass, the album focuses more on creating a certain ambience and feels very Celtic and forest-like. It opens with a droning hurdy-gurdy intro with soft spoken words performed by A.A. Nemtheanga [Primordial] – and the only English language lyrics on the album. It then opens into the bright and catchy “Brictom” – a solid start to the album with a very Celtic feel that features Anna Murphy on lead vocals with Chrigel Glanzmann‘s growls as an added emphasis in the chorus. “A Girl’s Oath” again stars Murphy on vocals, speaking her Gaulish parts softly.
The partial title track, “The Arcane Dominion”, starts with a solid growl from Glanzmann and is perhaps one of the heavier-sounding songs on the album, though still remains entirely acoustic and mystical in ambience; this song also features guest Oli S. Tyr on the long-necked lute. “Within the Grove” and “The Cauldron of Renascence” are both instrumentals. The former is a very flute-centric song, with soft shamanistic drums in the back and a level hurdy-gurdy drone, featuring Fredy Schnyder on hammered dulcimer and Mina the Fiddler on 5-stringed viola. The latter picks up the energy into a livelier pace with a blending of many instruments and some backing growls.
“Nata” sees the return of Nemtheanga on additional vocals, which are sang mostly over a hurdy-gurdy drone, and this track opens with some bagpipes (either Scottish or uilleann, I’m not sure). More instruments join in after a long break toward the end, giving the song a nice overall feel. “Omnos” returns to the earlier feel of “Brictom” with its pleasant peppy energy, excellent blend of instruments, and Murphy’s lovely vocals.
“Carnutian Forest” has very little in the way of words, but focuses a lot on flutes/whistles, and I love the way it progresses, starting slowly and picking up. The violin shines through on this track a bit more as well, as it can sometimes be hard to separate from the hurdy-gurdy. “Dessumiis Luge” is a rather eerie and almost creepy song, with its whispers and the layering of vocals. Like “Carnutian Forest”, the song picks up, though does not lose its eerie quality, almost invoking the feelings of a ritual of some sort through movement and feeling. The female scream at the end is quite brutal.
“Gobanno” is so far unique in its emphasis on guitar in the beginning. Along with featuring Schnyder and Fiddler again, it also has Sarah Wauquiez on zugerörgeli, which appears to be some type of accordion. This track has a bit of a different vibe from the others, but it’s hard to explain the difference. It does highlight the different feelings on this album though and helps the concept feel more expansive than one might originally notice. In the same vein, “Voveso in Mori” also has an entirely new atmosphere, lacking the hurdy-gurdy drone that is in most songs and focusing more on traditional instruments like guitar.
“Memento” is the last upbeat instrumental, focusing again on more ‘regular’ instruments, and “Ne Regv Na” is a gentle, dynamic whistle/flute-oriented track that starts to wind things down. The hurdy-gurdy brings things full circle again with “Sacrapos – The Disparaging Last Gaze.” This is a very simple yet effective instrumental, and continuing from “Ne Regv Na”, slows the album down perfectly to its close.
This is a very atmospheric and mystical album, almost better listened to as a whole concept rather than individual tracks, as some of the simpler songs like “Nata” and “Dessumiis Luge” don’t work well on their own. However, the general feeling of the album is excellent across the board, and the blending of all the instruments is fantastic. I have no complaints about the vocals either, as they sound great no matter what. I applaud their continued use of traditional music in their concepts. Overall, I think this is an excellent album and it sets the bar quite high for its followup!
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars
1. Sacrapos – At First Glance
3. A Girl’s Oath
4. The Arcane Dominion
5. Within the Grove
6. The Cauldron of Renascence
9. Carnutian Forest
10. Dessumiis Luge
12. Voveso in Mori
14. Ne Regv Na
15. Sacrapos – The Disparaging Last Gaze