(2019) Eluveitie: Ategnatos

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Artist: Eluveitie
Album: Ategnatos
Release: 05.04.2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

When you’re listing the best metal music that is both historically accurate and just really damn good, Eluveitie is one of the first bands that come to mind. With the long-awaited release of Evocation II: Pantheon now behind them, they were able to focus on an entirely new heavy metal album, set to be released in early April 2019. We were lucky enough to get the change to give it a listen beforehand.

I’ve been a fan of Eluveitie since I found out about Slania and have had my ups and downs with the band ever since. Mostly, I love their music, but they’ve had a few misses over the years. The term “Thousandfolding” was coined after the release of Everything Remains (As it Never Was), which is when a band releases the best song on the album as the first single and then nothing else on the album is anywhere close to as good. Since Helvetios (2012) and Origins (2014), the band has been pretty consistently great, but has also been failing to stick in my mind (though I still gave Pantheon a near-perfect score). However, I’m always up for a new album by these guys, so of course I was enthusiastic when Ategnatos was announced.

 

The album opens strong with the title track, featuring who I believe is the same narrator voice they always use. I hope you’ve heard it because this is good solid metal. Immediately, Ategnatos feels like it could be Slania II simply by feel. The masterful blend of heavy metal and Celtic sounds is ever-present, but it’s not as rough around the edges as it was back in 2008.

Many bands with folk elements lose those over time as the pressure to become more accessible increases. However, songs like “Deathwalker” prove that the authentic instruments continue to be an essential element to Eluveitie’s music. Violinist Nicole Ansperger can play with the best of them, and I’d like to see how well she performs this complex material live.

Single “Black Water Dawn” is a great showcase for the album, as it is equal parts heavy growls by Chrigel Glanzmann and gorgeous choruses by Fabienne Erni and pure classic 90s heavy metal music. I do find myself a tad distracted by “The Raven Hill”, whose Irish-influenced music is the same tune as the classic sea shanty, “Drunken Sailor.” The tune they’ve referenced, incidentally, is “Óró sé do bheatha abhaile”; historically it’s uncertain which came first, the Irish tune or the sea shanty. Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that for me that I hear the sea shanty, which (due to my bias) doesn’t quite feel right with the Celtic feel of the rest of the album.

“Ambiramus” is another clear single track, with really catchy backing music and a great vocal blend between the two singers. “The Slumber” also fits into the catchy single-type song category, but for those anti-mainstream snobs, never fear – the album has plenty of pure folk and heavy songs as well. And even then, honestly, I’d say the catchy singles are heavy enough that the band can’t be scoffed at.

“Worship” has some spoken words against a somewhat eerie, noisy background, leading the album in a creepier direction, and after a minute passes and the song kicks off properly, it has some of the darkest growls on the album. It certainly invokes a vivid image of worship with the soundscape, and I appreciate its dark take on the subject.

The album is quite long with sixteen tracks, but it doesn’t drag on. Six of those are not even 4 minutes in length, so the pacing throughout the album is quite balanced. “Breathe” stands out as another great track with awesome female vocals and some very nice guitar riffs to boot. However, thereafter the album begins to wind down, even if the energy stays high right through the penultimate “Rebirth.” Ategnatos ends on a haunting note with “Eclipse”, which features Erni on vocals, some droning sounds (perhaps from the hurdy-gurdy), and waves and wind, resulting in a fitting finale.

 

On the whole, I had nothing negative to say about this album. If I’m nitpicking a bit, their singles aren’t quite as memorable as some of their earlier music, but frankly, the overall quality of this band’s music is so consistent lately that it’s almost not fun to review anymore. It’s starting to get to the point where it feels like, “Eluveitie crushed it again… to no one’s surprise.” Needless to say, if you’re a fan, I don’t think you’ll have any issue with this album. It may take a few spins to start sticking with you, but it’s nevertheless a fine album.

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Ategnatos
2. Ancus
3. Deathwalker
4. Black Water Dawn
5. A Cry in the Wilderness
6. The Raven Hill
7. The Silvern Glow
8. Ambiramus
9. Mine is the Fury
10. The Slumber
11. Worship
12. Trinoxtion
13. Threefold Death
14. Breathe
15. Rebirth

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