Eluveitie – Spirit

Classic Wax is a recurring series covering exceptionally great sounding metal releases on vinyl. As all of these albums are classics, our usual music and sound scores are superfluous. Dynamic range measurements are still provided for reference.

Zurich, Switzerland’s Eluveitie was part of a fresh wave of new folk metal bands that formed post 2000, injecting some much needed lifeblood into a genre that had begun to stall. The band got its start as a studio project by Christian “Chrigel” Glanzmann, with session musicians contributing on his debut EP, Vên. The success of the EP led to the recruitment of a full band, which eventually settled on eight members.

Eluveitie’s style is firmly rooted in traditional folk, with Glanzmann alone contributing on whistles, gaita, uilleann pipe, and bodhrán in addition to vocal duties. You’ll also find fiddles, Irish flute, hurdy gurdy, accordion, and mandola among other traditional instruments. Three years after the first limited release of Vên, the full band was finally ready with their debut full-length Spirit.

Rather than the sounds of horse hooves, clattering armor, or horns and kettle drums that typically serve as opening tracks on most folk metal albums, the title track and opener of Spirit starts of completely nonsensically, with a seemingly random mix of sounds interspersed between bleeping electronic noises. At 0:38 all of that goes away, replaced with pounding drums, folk instruments, and vocal chants, leaving you to wonder why they didn’t just start there in the first place. After another 30 seconds thundering riffs and percussion join in, kicking things into high gear.

Distant bird calls at the end of “Spirit” serve as the bridge into “Uis Elveti,” the album’s first proper track. It draws you in with a lengthy build up of accordion before unleashing hell at the 30 second mark. “Your Gaulish War” is another highlight, with a chorus that guarantees furious headbanging. The deep, almost Gothic backing vocal chants on “Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom” are also brilliant, as is the mix of female vocal harmonies and guttural roars on “Siraxta.” “The Song Of Life” is an absolute fireball, and if not for the ample use of whistles, might pass for a Dark Tranquillity song.

Spirit was recorded at Klangschmiede Studio E and Ballhorn Studio in 2005. The album was co-produced and mixed by Markus Stock, and mastered by Martijn van Groeneveldt at Mailmen Studios. The CD release is a typical DR6, and suffers many of the consequences that you would expect: cymbals are obliterated, there’s next to nothing of the kick drum and bass guitar, and when the energy level really climbs and a multitude of instruments are playing at once, everything kind of melts together into a sonic blob. Fortunately the single LP vinyl edition released by Twilight Records in 2008 (300-180) is a huge improvement. Each instrument is able to stand out in its own space, and the headroom really allows the kick drum to pound with full force, and the highs are present and accounted for as well. The CD could definitely be a lot worse, but the vinyl really proves how important dynamics are to music this complex.

Spirit is an album that requires you to really enjoy folk metal to appreciate. There’s definitely not a lot of crossover appeal here for melodic death fans that aren’t normally into folk. If you’re a fan though, you need to own this. The release was not nearly as wide as Slania so it may be hard to find, but if you are able to track down a copy of Spirit on vinyl, grab it.

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