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[INTERVIEW] Eluveitie

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After revolutionising the music world with their stunning combination of melodic death metal and traditional Celtic music, Switzerland’s Eluveitie pulled things back a little with their acoustic album Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion in 2009 and now, eight years later, vocalist and founding member Chrigel Glanzmann is preparing to release the follow-up, Evocation II: Pantheon. “I have no idea why it took us eight years to record the follow-up,” Glanzmann laughed, “I don’t know. I would say just a gut feeling. The decision to release the second part now was made quite a while ago actually. Already when we were producing our last studio album Origins, we knew this would be next. When I started working on the Evocation concept back in 2008, it was always meant to be a two album concept because the whole idea was too deep and accomplished to just put in one album. After releasing the first one, we just let things grow and happen and take things day by day and see what happens with it and not put any pressure on ourselves and just do the second part whenever it felt right.”
The album expands upon the Celtic mythology which permeated through the first offering, but this time delves further into that mythology and the language of the time when it is set. It is an ambitious and elongated process that has as much to do with the past as it does the music.
“The main concept of Evocation is to capture pristine Celtic mythology in music and songs,” Glanzmann clarified. “That is also the reason these albums are kept fully in Gaulish language or early Celtic language. The second part took the original text in the song lyrics which is text that was written roughly 2000 years ago that have been found during scientific and archaeological excavations, and they are all magical and mythological text. The idea of the second album is to go back to where all of this comes from, at least in a Celtic understanding, which would be the other world; the Celtic world beyond. We have a Celtic understanding of where we all come from and where we all go to at some point and where the Gods live and so on. Evocation II is something like a stroll through the Celtic Pantheon; through the other world meeting all of the Gods and Goddesses, so each track on the album stands for one Celtic deity and expresses the character of that deity. There is no story to it or anything like that, just individual introductions to these deities. There’s one song that describes a certain deity, and then there are others where the deities talk to the listener, and then there are other songs that are more like prayers or invocations of their respective God.”
With the vocals sung entirely in the ancient language, Glanzmann concedes that while much effort was put into keeping this as accurate as possible, it wasn’t as difficult as you might think to reproduce a time and era that ceased to exist long ago.
“It’s a language that died out in the early middle ages,” he explained, “so I would have to answer that question with a yes and no. On the one hand, when it comes to dealing with the language and pronunciation it feels very natural to us because we have been doing this sort of thing for fifteen years now and we also come from Switzerland which is the same place as the language. All of our conceptual ideas are based on our roots and our history. The language is one that was spoken here 2000 years ago and there’s still
a lot of remains of the Gaulish language and the Celtic language is our Mother’s tongue, and we still have these weird sounds in the pronunciation, so the language feels very natural to us. On the other hand – and it’s not so much difficult – but there’s a lot of scientific work because it’s a dead language today and it’s a lot of work to reconstruct it, but that’s also a large part of what we do anyway. Eluveitie is a musical narration of history, and we believe that if you deal with history, you owe it to history itself and the people who wrote it back then.  to deal with it accurately in terms of historical correctness, and it’s extremely important to us and therefore we always work with diverse scientists from universities all over Europe when we do an album. It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t call it difficult; it feels pretty natural actually.”
In keeping with the content of the album, Eluveitie is also releasing a special booklet with the album printed in various formats that help explain what is going on.
“The album booklet comes with three things,” he revealed. “Just for reasons of authenticity we decided to display the Celtic lyrics in the original writing, but we understand those lyrics might be hard to understand for many people (laughs) and also would be difficult for people to read. The booklet contains the lyrics in the ancient letters, and it also contains a transcription of the Gaulish lyrics and letters that we can read today, and it also contains an English translation of the lyrics.”
When Glanzmann formed Eluveitie in 2002, there was little that matched the band’s music in the way of originality and scope, with the blending of melodic death metal and traditional folk music almost unheard of.
“Back then all I wanted for the band was to just follow our passion and do exactly what we have been doing for the last 15 years,” he enthused. “The original idea was the realisation of a long-held dream I had back then. At that time I had been playing metal music for quite some time. I formed my first death metal band in 1991, but I was also playing traditional Celtic folk music for quite a while. Both styles of music were my passion and love, and I always had a dream to bring the two together.  I didn’t want to just have a metal band with folk influences or a folk band with metal influences but to really have something like a musical marriage and create music that is both metal music and traditional Celtic music, and that was the reason Eluveitie came to be.”
While on paper the blending of styles and cultures in Eluveitie’s music is a mismatch, Glanzmann maintains he always had faith that the amalgamation would form a successful partnership.
“I always thought that both styles would go perfectly well together,” he said confidently. “I was quite active in the folk scene back in the day, and one of the customs of Celtic folk music is every day you come together in a pub, and everybody brings his/her instrument, and then you just play for a couple of hours, so there was a lot of sessions like that. If you look at the fret boards for a Mandola player in Celtic folk music, for instance, and compare it to a guitarist in a melodic death metal band it’s pretty similar, so in my head, both went well together, but it was an unknown back in the day. The main thing back then was it was hard to find musicians to form a band like that. I think the concerns and the fears were a bit stronger then, than they are today in both camps so if you walked around in the metal scene and looked for musicians to join a band and you told them there would also be whistles and violins they looked at you like you were a fucken psycho or something (laughs). That is the reason why it was originally only a studio project. It wasn’t that I wanted that I just couldn’t find permanent band members back in that time, so I just did this one man thing and asked a lot of session musicians which was easier at the time because they didn’t have any obligations. That was the main thing that made it difficult in the beginning but luckily changed pretty quickly.”
With music that was already unique and challenging, Glanzmann says Eluveitie hasn’t deviated from their original music path over their career, but instead is more focused on refining and improving upon their already strong points.
“Our production has changed, and that is one thing we are focussed on and something we want to do,” he finished. “Producing an Eluveitie album can be rather challenging with all of the shit going on at the same time in each song, so each production is an experience on its own. We want to learn from each production and put into action what we learned in the next production so that;s development. Our production has become more transparent from album to album and as musicians as we have grown. We play better today than we did fifteen years ago. That’s the main change – if you can even call it change. Other than that it still feels very much the same as it did fifteen years ago. The songs we write today could have easily have been on our demo and vice versa.”
written by Kris Peters

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