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Eluveitie - "Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion" (CD)

Eluveitie - "Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion" CD cover image

"Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion" track listing:

1. Sacrapos - At First Glance (2:01)
2. Brictom (4:22)
3. A Girls Oath (1:17)
4. The Arcane Dominion (5:43)
5. Within The Grove (1:52)
6. The Cauldron of Renascence (2:04)
7. Nata (4:03)
8. Omnos (3:49)
9. Carnutian Forest (3:16)
10. Dessumiis Luge (3:29)
11. Gobanno (3:14)
12. Voveso In Mori (4:10)
13. Memento (3:20)
14. Ne Regv Na (5:07)
15. Scarapos - The Disparaging Last Gaze (2:43)

Reviewed by on June 12, 2009

"Unfortunately, 'Evocation I' ends up being an album that will probably only inspire certified Gaulish mythology academics."

Folk metal is a tough genre to sell to the general metal populace. But bands like Eluvieitie have succeeded in breaking that barrier because they add death grunts and very metal-ish tempos and guitars to traditional pagan and folk instruments. With only two albums under their belts, expectation was high for Eluvietie’s latest release, the first installment of a two-disc journey entitled "Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion." And particularly for a fan like myself, who genuinely enjoys folk metal and obscure historical references like the Gaulish mythology stories told in the album, I hoped for something great with the new album. Unfortunately, "Evocation I" ends up being an album that will probably only inspire certified Gaulish mythology academics.

Sure, the album is acoustic, which can turn off some customers, but the many reeds, bagpipes, hurdy gurdy and such really are beautiful instruments. Plus, there’s something soothing about traditional, Celtic-sounding music. But, the problem lies in the fact that Eluvietie doesn’t really focus on trying to make the music beautiful, but on telling their story. While the story may be worthy, doing it in a dead language and in a style that is too far from their norm ends up alienating their listeners.

Anna Murphy’s vocals are well done, as is the spoken intro on "Sacrapos – At First Glace" by guest A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial. But even I kept waiting for a death grunt from Chrigel to add some substance and weight. They finally appeared briefly on the sixth track, "The Cauldron of Renascence," but at barely over two minutes, you have to listen quick or you’d miss them. Both lead and backup vocals are very good on "Nata," which is hands down the best track on the album. It’s the only vocals-driven tune to be found, and the rough backup vocals sound almost barbaric, which is a nice change from the mellow on the brink of maudlin sound that permeates the rest of the album.

The only other track really worth mentioning is an instrumental piece called "Memento." This one has a nice, upbeat drum tempo mixed with traditional Celtic sounds. It’s really too bad this one is entirely instrumental, because it has great potential as a solid folk metal tune.

What Eluvieitie has attempted to accomplish with "Evocation I" is admirable. Their love of their country’s history is evident in every measure, but the album itself was pretty risky at this point in the game, and unless European audiences are much more impressed than what I expect, it may just become Eluvietie’s Achilles Heel. Fortunately, Chrigel has already said that another more typical metal album will come before the second installment, so that may help them save face.

But as for "Evocation I," unless you absolutely have to have every Eluvieitie album in your collection, you may as well wait around for their next metal album.

Highs: "Nata" is a good tune with elements to appeal to folk and metal fans.

Lows: Too much focus has been put on telling a story rather than making solid, enticing compositions.

Bottom line: A gargantuan effort worthy of respect, that unfortunately doesn’t translate well into a good listening experience.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)