Eluveitie - Spirit
Fear Dark Records
Folk Metal
11 songs (50:50)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Elias
Archive review

Folk Metal is a fickle beast. Having appeared to enjoy a burst of massive popularity a couple of years ago, mostly among the younger echelons of the Metal community, it seemed to sort of fizz away into the background with the drop in fame of bands like Alestorm, Korpiklaani, Turisas, etc. While Folk Metal was never really a valid contender for the title of “most popular subgenre”, it is a shame that a fair level of overrating in the genre had the side effect of sidelining some of the absolutely excellent bands that played the genre without sounding silly or gimmicky. Chief among these is Eluveitie. Whatever happened to them? I still remember being blown away the first time I heard Spirit when it came out in 2006, yet their recent outputs have been rather lukewarm. In a moment of nostalgia, I went and pulled out my old copy of Spirit again, and realizing that this website was in fact devoid of a review dedicated to the album, decided to rectify such a glaring omission.

Spirit is without a doubt one of the best Folk Metal albums ever made, combining excellent melodeath compositional techniques with melodic folk instrumentation. Unlike their later albums, which took a shift towards the Metal side of things, on Spirit the melodies and hooks are almost all carried be the flutes and pipes and hurdy-gurdy, while the guitars are used for the full effect of “less-is-more”, providing strong distorted background and punch. The effect is a successful presentation of what Eluveitie interpret as being the musical manifestation of (dare I say it?) Helvetian culture. The hesitation is not without its due. Being Swiss myself, I am aware of the precariousness in affirming a specific cultural identity for a country with 4 national languages and their respective cultures between less than 8 million people. While Eluveitie (which allegedly means “I am the Helvetian” in Gaulish) focus on Swiss culture in a pre-Christian context, establishing Swiss identity is no less difficult, as the traditions practiced by the people of the Helvetian area did to a certain extent share a level of homogeneity with those in what is currently France and western Germany. Yet Eluveitie still somehow manage to instil patriotic recognition in even the most jaded of listeners. The success depends on their understanding of atmosphere, and how to effectively create it without relying on ambient-style keyboard laden backgrounds or intermissions. The lyrics in Gaulish probably don’t hurt either.

The only tune on this record that could possibly be construed as filler by some of its audience (the ones with really short attention spans) is Aidu, a beautiful little melody sung by one of the band’s female members, interspersed with tin whistles and uillean pipes and the soothing sound of rushing water in the background. They should play this for the country’s tourism ads. Sure, it’s not a raging metal track, and it doesn’t make you want to go charging through the forest hacking at Roman soldiers (as Your Gaulish War does), but it’s a delightful moment of tranquillity among an album otherwise chock full of aggression and passion. The female vocals are a tad underused on this album, appearing prominently only on the aforementioned Aidu and then Siraxta. Eluveitie themselves probably noticed this, and rectified it on their later albums. Otherwise, this record is simply a succession of perfectly intuitive emotion, musical flawlessness, and enough single moments of sheer brilliance sprinkled throughout to not only keep the listener interested, but excited about what he’s hearing, despite the album’s relative length. My personal favourites are, in track listing order:

The word “Helvetia” screamed out at the beginning of Uis Elveti.

The moment the pipes break out with the melody during any part of Your Gaulish War.

That motherfucking drum roll played over the hurdy-gurdy line in …Of Fire, Wind and Wisdom, and the crescendos in the vocal line later in the song.

The way the pipes and whistles intertwine perfectly with a pure death metal blastbeat in The Song of Life.

That awesome jig bit towards the end of The Dance of Victory.

Finally, the fiddling on Andro- it fits perfectly, managing to sound both completely folk-y and completely naturally metal at the same time.

Eluveitie is probably the best current Swiss band, and probably the best folk metal band, and Spirit is still their magnum opus. Ignore this, and the ghost of William Tell will haunt for eternity, shooting arrows through your own favourite fruits.

Killing Songs :
Uis Elveti, Your Gaulish War, ...of Fire, Wind and Wisdom
Elias quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Eluveitie that we have reviewed:
Eluveitie - Helvetios reviewed by Leah and quoted 82 / 100
Eluveitie - Everything Remains As It Never Was reviewed by Khelek and quoted 85 / 100
Eluveitie - Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion reviewed by Khelek and quoted 83 / 100
Eluveitie - Slania reviewed by James and quoted 84 / 100
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