After a major line-up change and releasing their second acoustic album ‘Evocation II – Pantheon’, the Swiss Folk Death Metallers Eluveitie are soon releasing their long awaited record ‘Ategnatos’. Five years have passed since their last Metal release ‘Origins’, and four years have gone by since the nine-piece band has last set foot on Australian soil – so there is plenty to catch up with with frontman and multi-instrumentalist Chrigel Glanzmann. We talk about spirituality, band relationships, creativity and touring – and what’s in store for the Australian fans in May.
The first single of the upcoming album, Rebirth, was released as early as at the end of 2017, making Eluveitie fans hungry for more. The second single Ategnatos was released only a month ago, and I ask Chrigel about the connection between the two songs and why they were chosen to represent the record. “You can basically say that the album is dealing with Celtic mythology but the approach was rather different this time. I mean, we had albums on celtic mythology before but ‘Antegnatos’ s not just like retelling ancient myths or something like that,” Chrigel says. “Of course, the lyrics are all scientifically founded and historically correct but the album basically contemplates ancient parables, allegories and archetypes of Celtic mythology from the viewpoint of our modern everyday lives.” So Eluveitie is trying to appeal to us as modern listeners even more directly this time? Chrigel goes on to explain: “We actually contemplated these ancient images as individuals, for ourselves, you know. This turned out to be a pretty intense experience actually, almost a spritual one. It was very intense to realise that these ancient words haven’t lost any of their significance or weight for our societies today.”
So what about the two singles then? “The two songs Rebirth and Ategnatos are basically dealing with the same thing, just from different perspectives, which also makes sense because ‘Ategnatos’ is just a Gaulish word for ‘reborn’. What bugged us most was that in all those ancient parables there is at some point, in some core, the thought of rebirth or getting reborn. Not in a Hinduistic way in the sense of speaking about an afterlife but rather in an allegorical way, representing things that we experience during our lives. There always must be death before there is a rebirth obviously. This was kind of striking because these stories kind of make you realise that you often get a choice actually, you know: Life brings you to some place, often some pretty dark place where you actually get to choose if you wan to jump off the cliffs so to say. You get the chance to choose if you actually wanna die. If you do this opens you this gate to become someone new. We also noticed that it’s mostly a question of fear. If you get the choice many people actually do not choose to die due to fear of losing. I mean if you die then for sure a part of you will die or part of the life you established will die or fall apart. You have the choice. You can also remain where you are. It’s a question of fear: If you’re brave enough, if you dare to go and jump off the cliff or not. That’s basically what both songs deal with.”
After this intense and in-depth introduction to the record I decide to ask Chrigel more about the composition and recording process of ‘Ategnatos’. “The approach of writing the album was somewhat different his time. We had a rather big lineup change three years ago or something like that and, with the new lineup, the way we developed as a band was pretty intense; in a very good and an extremely familiar way,” Chrigel remembers. “With the production of our previous album ‘Evocation II’ there was this development of really working together, so we left a lot of things of that album for spontaneous creativity. Many things were still open when we entered the studio. The whole band was basically working together. It has been different in the past when we recorded an album: The musician that was recording at the time was at the studio and maybe myself or so. But when we recorded ‘Evocation II’, nearly the full band was in the studio for almost the whole production time. Just to be there, to be part of it and just to support the others while recording. Or to cook for everybody else and just to eat together. Some members were just sitting together discussing some details in corners of the studio all day long; and like that a lot of things actually arose and developed in the studio. This development just grew stronger over the last three years.”
So it has become apparent that Eluveitie strongly value community – I cannot help but wonder whether this development, including the lineup change, has to do something with the album motto, a rebirth of Eluveitie so to speak? Chrigel seems amused about my question, and says: “I wouldn’t put it like that. During your lifetime you go through different chapters and you meet different people. And as a band it’s pretty much the same actually.”
The band created the album at the Zurich University of Arts, which seemed like an unusual approach to me. Chrigel explains to me how the band ended up at a higher education faculty: “When we started working on the upcoming album, we just really wanted to be together, also geographically, not with everybody working at home and just exchanging files. We ended up in the Zurich University of Arts because Jonas, our guitar player, is working there and if he is not on tour with us. He teaches music and guitar and has access to all the rooms. At the time we started working on the album he just said he could get some rooms for us, so that’s basically the whole story behind why we ended up in the Zurich University of Arts.”
So the band seems very at ease spending a lot of time together – but what is touring like with a staggering amount of nine band members? Is it even harder to maintain a sense of privacy, travelling with so many people? Chrigel says: “Working together on a professional level and functioning well together is something you have to work on and do as a band anyway, no matter if you’re three people or nine people. In that sense, I don’t think it’s more difficult. The only thing is that it’s more expensive you know,” Chrigel says with a chuckle. “You need to book more hotel rooms and more flight tickets, so that’s the main difference, I would say.”
Speaking of collaboration, Eluveitie invited Randy Blythe, the singer of Lamb of God, to contribute to the track Worship. “This was one of the many spontaneous developments that happened. We were just recording the album and I remember this late night or early morning when I was sitting in the kitchen of the studio with Jonas, our guitar player. We were just talking about this intro of the song Worship because that song has this very long pretty cinematic like almost end-time-ish apocalyptic intro with this long narration,” Chrigel recalls. He goes on to explain: “We do have a voice-over and narration artist that we’ve been working with on many albums. He also recorded for our upcoming album. It’s a Scottish actor, Alexander Morton. I absolutely love that guy, he is an amazing artist and also a very cool dude.” So what prompted the band to get Randy Blythe into the boat? “Jonas and I both both felt that his voice and his thick Scottish highlander accent just simply would not fit the intro of that song. For some reason, maybe because it has this cinematic flair to it we thought that actually an American accent would maybe fit best. Jonas then came up with Randy – we actually thought he would actually have the perfect voice for that intro so I just dropped him a message. We have been friends with Lamb of God for many years.” And things fell into place very quickly as Chrigel remembers: “I had no idea what they were doing at this very moment but he messaged me back they were on tour in Europe at that very moment, also playing in Zurich. That was a very practical coincidence; a few days later we just went to pick him up and quickly drove to the studio, fifteen minutes away from the venue they played. So that’s how this came to be. He was just supposed to do that narration but he really liked the song, so we spontaneously recorded some additional vocals for the chorus.”
Chrigel speaks very seriously of creating an album that he loves in its entirety. This is why he cannot or does not want to choose a favourite track on ‘Ategnatos’: “I think that if you’re writing music you can’t decide; it’s a little bit like having children. You don’t go to your children and pick one of them as your favourite – you just love all of them and you care about all of them. To me, it’s the same with all our songs and our albums.”
The band are embarking to Australian shores only a month after the release of ‘Ategnatos’. Instead of only visiting East Coast cities, Eluveitie in fact bring their unique brand of Celtic-inspired Folk Metal to five cities: Starting in Adelaide (The Gov, May 15th), they travel up the East Coast to play Sydney (Manning Bar, May 16th) and Brisbane (The Zoo, May 17th) and stop in Melbourne (Croxton, May 18th) before visiting Perth (Rosemount Hotel, May 19th).
In any case, it is safe to say that the lucky 70,000 Tons of Metal audience has already thoroughly enjoyed Eluveitie’s surprise set presenting the entire new album, so the Australians have yet another reason to be excited about the live return of the Folk Death Metal legends. Chrigel happily remembers the show on-board the legendary Metal cruise ship: “It was kind of an experiment to play songs people have never heard before. I mean, normally it’s the other way around: The album is released and then you start playing the songs live, after the people have heard the songs and know the songs. But yes, the reception was actually very very good, and there were a few songs that gave us the impression that they are crowd favourites already.”
Regarding the five Australian shows, Chrigel promises special treats for the loyal fans who have waited for the band’s return for four years: “It’s always been great when we toured Australia. Of course we’re looking forward to it. It’s definitely about time, even more so because since the last time we’ve been to your country we’ve actually released two new albums. We can’t wait to come back and present to you some new music and play two-hour sets because there is quite a lot to catch up.”
After this enchanting announcement, I ask Chrigel if he has any specific memory of the Australian fanbase and how he perceives playing gigs all over the world. “Honestly, I really have to say that from the experiences we made in the last 15 years that a Metal audience is more or less a Metal audience everywhere in the world. I mean, there have been a few places where everything was really different – two of these places would be India and Bangladesh,” Chrigel contemplates. “But in general we had the impression that Metalheads are always just Metalheads, no matter what part of the world they live in. It shows the power of music and how much music is actually able to unite people, no matter what culture they’re from and which country they’re from. And to me, that’s a really beautiful thing.”
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