Album Review: Eluveitie – Helvetios

Any album with a spoken-word, Scottish-accented introduction about war had better follow up that 90 seconds of sufficiently powerful and epic foreboding with some melodically musucular and battle-ready music. Thankfully, Helvetios has it all – from soundtracks of war, to auld chants, to melodic anthems.  For an album of 17 tracks, it requires variation to keep a listener interested for so long, and Eluveitie know that.

After the aforementioned Scottish Prologue, title track Helvetios sets the heavy tone, blistering and marching forward, ready to cause some havoc. Then along comes Luxtos to rally listeners into singing along with its catchy Gaulish folk chorus. Already, within three tracks, there is more variation on this metal album than any mainstream release in the last year.

For anyone unfamiliar with Eluveitie, they are very, very folk metal. This isn’t the case of a band being labelled symphonic simply because they happen to have a keyboEluveitie Helvetios Artworkardist; on Helvetios you will find everything from bagpipes to a hurdy gurdy. This is how, on Scorched Earth, they can have a foreign languaged lament and not have it feel out of place. Metal purists might have a problem with an unaccompanied (except by the sound of pouring rain) vocal track, but they would be missing out on a beautiful, haunting piece that fits right into the storyline of the album.

Undoubtedly the most accessible track here is A Rose For Epona. Straight-forward in its structure and unashamedly melodic, its female vocals provide a certain relief from the brutality, but just like Scorched Earth, it is not out of place. It adds variety, it is integral to the album and Helvetios would suffer without it. The other female-based track, Alesia, is no less catchy in places and is also strategicially placed for maximum effect, hitting you right after the heaviest track The Siege has left you a bloody mess.

For all its folk tendencies, this is a metal album. The Siege’s first minute or so could be from any melodic death metal album since the folk instrumentation does not appear until the first chorus. Just when you think the album has taken a beautiful turn, the galloping riffs return to remind you that this is war.

The album ends as it began, with a Scottish-led Epilogue about the outcome of battle and the prior songs. It is a quiet flute concerto, making you feel both proud and grief stricken at the same time.

Approach Helvetios with an open mind and you will find an almost perfect metal album, with so many twists and turns that you will be reaching for the repeat button. I have found a lot of metal albums lack replay value due to how similar they sound from start to finish – Eluveitie have created a 17-track masterpiece that will have you coming back for more.

Rating: 9/10


About Scott Wilson

Having spent the last twenty years of his life telling his friends his opinion of the latest release by every band he has ever heard of, Scott is an enthusiastic journalist and keen writer. A fan of every genre of music, though his heart firmly belongs to rock, he has been spending far too much money on gigs and not enough on digs. Reachable by either email or Twitter where copious amounts of commentating and general excitement can also be found.

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