Coming out of a shadow-draped, magical forest near you, Switzerland's Eluveitie follow in the boot-steps of genre-bending ensembles like Skyclad, Finntroll and Turisas, among others, who armed themselves with pagan themes and folk instrumentation in an attempt to push heavy metal toward unexpected new directions. 2008's Slania is only Eluveitie second full album (and first for Nuclear Blast), but its unlikely mixture of melodic death metal and authentic Celtic folk music already sounds remarkably accomplished, despite the seemingly vast stylistic gulf that separates their two chief sources of inspiration. Then again, Eluveitie rarely stick out their collective songwriting neck so recklessly as to tempt the falling axe of artificial inter-genre crossbreeding. Rather, the octet roots typical songs like "Primordial Breath," "Bloodstained Ground," and "Calling the Rain" in the reliable Gothenburg brand of frenetic, melodic death metal (think In Flames, At the Gates, and especially Dark Tranquillity), before infusing them with folk-flavored melodies performed on fiddles, flutes, pipes, and other such period instruments, instead of with lead guitars. Female vocals are brought into the picture for the memorable, mid-paced head-banger "Slanias Song," and the band does without metal entirely for evocative Celtic instrumentals like "Samon," "Anagantios," and "Giamonios"; but more adventurous listeners will likely still feel like Eluveitie play their cards a little too safely, compared to other proponents of folk metal. Be that as it may, though, it's also worth noting that the group never falls prey to the embarrassingly silly, sometimes awkward results that plague some of those more audacious bands. And, in the end, knowing when to say when is one of the qualities that makes Slania such a thoroughly consistent folk-metal album that may appeal to a broader cross-section of heavy metal fans.
by Eduardo Rivadavia