Trackpacking: Eluveitie

by Keith Savage · 5 comments

Eluveitie on Stage

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

If there was ever a Trackpacking post to shed light on the farthest reaches of my curious musical interests, this is the one. According to my iTunes stats, less than 0.008% of my library is comprised of heavy metal music. Sarah can withstand somewhere south of three seconds of the stuff, and I just don’t often find myself alone and eager to headbang. Metal always strikes me as severe, sterile, and bereft of one particular musical characteristic I value above all others: melody. And then there’s all the shouting, horns, and severed heads.

I sound like a baby boomer, I know, but I’m bringing my point around. (I just turned 32. You be the judge of whether or not that’s old.) A few years back, while searching for good music to soundtrack various nerd-related endeavors, I stumbled across a few bands that enlightened me on the topic of metal music. I quickly learned that there was a lot more to metal than long, greasy hair and pentagrams. I would hazard a guess that metal has more variety than any other musical genre. There’s speed metal, doom metal, gloom metal, and folk metal alongside grindcore, black metal, and post-metal. The list goes on and on.

Folk metal intrigued me. After all, I listen to a lot of Scottish (and Celtic) folk music. The union of the two styles seemed like it could work.

Most of the time it fails horribly. See A: Alestorm, a Scottish band that sings like Captain Jack Sparrow’s personal choir, and B: Turisas, Teutonic Fins belting out viking battle-metal anthems. But sometimes the folk and metal genres fuse together in beautiful ways, such as in the case of today’s Trackpacking pick, Eluveitie.

Eluveitie (pronounced el-VEY-tee), which means “Helvetian” in the extinct Etruscan language, formed in Switzerland 10 years ago and their rise to fame in the folk metal world has gained a lot of momentum in the last few years. A lot of bands label themselves as folk metal and then just tack a brief violin snippet on top of monotonous electric guitars. Eluveitie’s different. Bagpipes, tin whistles, the hurdy-gurdy (the HURDY-GURDY), violins, the bodhrán, and other Celtic instruments weave in and out of their songs, among more typical drums and guitars. Eluveitie’s songwriting further distinguishes them from their folk metal brethren: the songs sound like they’re built on the beautiful melodies of these rare and unique instruments, with the traditional metal instrumentation serving to turn up the power.

Eluveitie are not an instrumental band, however. Front man Chrigel Glanzmann alternates between classic (and well done) metal screamo and chants while Anna Murphy’s vocals provide a softer, melodic counterpoint. Screamo is definitely not my cup of tea, but I withstood my initial revulsion in large part because Eluveitie’s instrumentation is incredible.

One of the neat things about Eluveitie is that their albums are concept albums based on western European Celtic history, which does happen to be my cup of tea. Many months after I started listening to Eluveitie, I realized that the primary reason I couldn’t understand Chrigel was because he mainly sings in the extinct Gaulish language, which, along with every other language besides English, I don’t understand. In some way not worrying about lyrics allowed me to enjoy the screaming more. Chrigel reminds me of some time-walking druid; you’ve never seen a man playing a flute look as hardcore as him, and that speaks volumes.

Not all folk music suits my tastes. Some of it is too saccharine and sounds a bit like singing leprechauns. I know so little about musical theory that I can’t say what, exactly, attracts me to Eluveitie’s brand of folk other than perhaps it’s the keys in which they play. The songs are a bit darker, more somber, more melancholy, and the metal component is certainly the recessive genre in the pair. Some of their songs are perfect companions to jaunting around Scotland, too.

This music isn’t for everyone. Give it an honest listen. You might despise it, and that’s alright, but you might be surprised at what you think.

Pack These Tracks

Create a Moment with Eluveitie

  • Ancient Highlander workout music – sprint across the hills!
  • Get creative and bring your creations into the light.
  • Traverse the wild spaces with wonder.

Photos by Bruno Bergamini and, respectively, via Flickr/Creative Commons

James @ Ghana ToursNo Gravatar August 24, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Regardless of the topic, your writing is always a pleasure read and your perspective always proves insightful.

AndiNo Gravatar July 25, 2012 at 3:18 PM

Never heard of them before but will youtube them!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM

Let me know what you think!

Just One Boomer (Suzanne)No Gravatar July 25, 2012 at 12:34 AM

Maybe I’ll ignore the snark about you sounding like a Baby Boomer because you enjoy some melody in your music and give Eluveitie a listen. I’m just back from a trip to Ireland and after educating myself some about Irish history, I can see how Celtic themes and heavy metal (or some kind of metal) might complement each other. There was that raping, pillaging and burning thing the Vikings did to the Celts that might be fodder for some screaming. I found a statue in a Copenhagen museum that could belong on stage with a Celtic themed metal band.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 25, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Hi Suzanne,

A little snark every now and then is all in good fun. The snark in question was actually directed at my description of metal music. You’re right, though, that the history of the Celts does lend itself well to some folky metal music. Hope you enjoy it!

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