In mid 2016 news broke that 3 long time members of Switzerland’s Eluveitie had left under strained circumstances, leaving a host of questions in fans minds about what this might mean for the band’s future. Fast forward a year and the new and expanded band (now standing at nine members) is offering answers in the form of a new album, Evocation II – Pantheon.
Straight away, it’s vital to realise that the new release is a stylistic follow up to their 2009 release Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion. The electric guitars and male death vocals that have been a key of the past three albums are absent this time round – as with Evocation I, this is the band exploring the folk elements of their musical direction. If you’re looking for some of those classic crunching Eluveitie guitar riffs from recent albums like Helvetios or Origins then you need to look elsewhere.
The 54 minute album consists of 18 tracks, with a mix of instrumentals and female clean vocals. New female singer Fabienne Erni is superb throughout, handling the task of singing the Gaelic lyrics with a terrific combination of tone and range. Departed vocalist Anna Murphy was a unique talent, yet Erni steps into the role wonderfully with a vocal style that fits the new tracks perfectly.
With the focus on folk elements, it’s a credit to the band that they can still bring their usual intensity and attitude even without distortion. The first video from the album, ‘Epona’, is a great example. It feels like a classic Eluveitie track, even having death vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann’s roar layered deep in the mix for the pre-chorus. With so much vibe and energy happening, it must be a great candidate for adding to the Eluveitie live setlist.
The real strength of this album, what really sinks in after a few times through, is just how well it works as a whole. More than a collection of individual tracks, the pacing is simply perfect. Tracks blend into each other and the effect is almost like journey with each step a necessary one to bring you to the final destination. Sure, you can grab a favourite track or two and add them to a playlist … but it’s missing the point of an album like Evocation II if you don’t take the time to let it guide you. At different times each instrument in the band – flutes, pipes, violins, hurdy gurdy, harp, acoustic guitars – gets a chance to step forward and lead. It’s a story, an experience, not just a group of songs, and changes of pace and mood seem to flow so naturally that it feels ‘wrong’ to stop before letting it all play out.
The decision to do a folk album rather than a metal one was largely already made before the split in 2016, yet it has worked in the band’s favour now. Evocation II is almost like a reboot, and provides a break from the immediate past. It’s also an amazing piece of work, and makes the questions around the future of Eluveitie already seem like a distant memory.