Eluveitie - New Wave Of Folk Metal
By: Ofir Messer
Interview With: Chrigel Glanzmann (Founder), Eluveitie
Switzerland is not only known for its chocolate and clocks, but it also produced some well known metal acts such as Samael and Celtic Frost, who both - in their own way - contributed to the evolution of the metal genre. Two years ago, another Swiss band did the same, but this time to the folk metal genre. Eluveitie brought a combination a few dared to do and stick to - they intertwined authentic folk music with melodic death metal, which is mainly influenced by the Swedish sound.
Based on the strength of their debut album "Spirit" and after countless successful shows, it's not surprising they were picked-up by uber-metal label Nuclear Blast - who have recently released Eluveitie's second album "Slania". To celebrate this release we caught up with Chrigel Glanzmann - Eluveitie's main-man and vocalist - who spoke to us about the new album, the upcoming Paganfest tour, and about how he deals with his other 7 band members - along some other folkish chitchat...
Hey man, first of all - how do you pronounce the band's name?
Eluveitie is a name in Gaulish language, which is an ancient Celtic language. Since it's not a living language anymore, nobody really knows how it's pronounced like. All we have today of this language is scientific reconstruction and in today's science it's pronounced as "El-Vey-Ti", but really, it's hard to know.
Well, congratulations on the upcoming release of "Slania"... Can you tell us in short about the new album and how does it differ than "Spirit" music-wise?
Thank you. Music-wise, it's just a natural progress that took place after the last album "Spirit". I think the biggest progress we had in "Slania" was with the production, which is much better then our previous releases. We recorded in a really great studio in Sweden and produced the album again with Jens Bogren (Amon Amarth, Soilwork, Katatonia, Opeth, Paradise Lost) which is a really great metal producer. So the production is one of the most important progresses we had.
What can you tell us about the name of the album, the concept behind it and/or behind the songs?
I wouldn't exactly call "Slania" a concept album, but nevertheless, there is a lyrical line to it. Regarding the title, it doesn't have much to do with the lyrics. There is no deeper meaning behind the album title, we were just looking for a nice title and one day, when I was doing some research on some ancient Celtic inscriptions, I stumbled across an old tombstone, of a girl that was buried 2500 years ago, and that girl was called Slania. Immediately I fell in love with that name, I really liked it, so we decided to call the new album after her. That's actually an old story and doesn't have anything to do with the lyrics.
The lyrical line I used is an important aspect of Celtic mythology, it is called "The Great Wheel" and that is actually about the cycle of the year, with the four seasons. It may sound a bit profane but in Celtic culture and mythology it's something very central and important - there are 4 main feasts during the year, each feast marks one season, and for each of these seasons there is one instrumental track on the album. So you can say the album is like running through the year of the Celtic calendar and most of the songs deal with that topic in one way or the other.
Was the recording session any different than when you did "Spirit"? How long does it take to record all the instruments in the studio, and mix them?
As I said, the production is much better than previous releases, as well, we took much more time for this whole process. I can't exactly remember but I think all in all it took us about 2 months. We recorded all the metal stuff (Guitars, Drums and Vocals) in Sweden, at Fascination Street Studios, and that took us solid 3 weeks. We were pretty much prepared but it was really intense work. After that we went back home and recorded the folk instruments in different studios around here. The fiddles were recorded at a studio in Liechtenstein which is very small country near Switzerland. Then, we took it to Jens who did mixing and mastering again in Sweden.
A bit more than a year ago, I have done an e-mail interview with you and you told me that you might do an MCD of pure folk music... I understand there's some development in this area with something named "Evocation". What can you tell us about this and when do you plan to release it?
First of all, this acoustic project and "Slania" doesn't have anything in common, it's just that the writing process for each of them started at the same time, but that was just a coincidence. But yeah, "Evocation" would be pure acoustic folk release and it will be out as whole 2 albums, not an MCD as originally planned. We will release it through Nuclear Blast although there is no release date so far, it would be late 2008 or early 2009, we don't know yet. Nevertheless, it's not just an acoustic folk music - it is clearly Eluveitie.
"Spirit" was a real breakthrough for the band, and brought you unto extensive tours over the year... When you released that album, did you hope it will bring you on constant touring and eventually, signing with such big label as Nuclear Blast?
Of course we hoped for it and worked hard for it. When we first started we just worked our asses of to get forward with the band as much as possible so we had to do an album and we played a lot of live shows.
Speaking of Nuclear Blast, how did your relationship with them started?
During last year, in autumn, we were in a situation that we received offers from many great labels so we could actually choose from, which is very good situation for a band. Nuclear Blast had the best deal to offer us, so we went for them. So far we're really happy to work with them, they are amazing partners.
During the summer I happened to see you on 2 occasions, during Graspop in Belgium, and then at Metalcamp in Slovenia. I remember that on Metalcamp you had some "technical problem" songs. What do you remember of that show? And how was it to stay there, with the hot weather and the cold river?
My main memory from Metalcamp is that it was extremely hot. All of us almost broke down on stage, because it was already hot anyway, but on stage the temperature were about 60 degrees, totally crazy. We really enjoyed playing there, it was really cool, besides the fact we had technical problems which are always bad, but its something that can always happen so what can you do? I hope people really enjoyed it.
On Metalcamp, I'm not sure if you have seen something from the stage... But just so you know, there was a group of Israeli people (me included) who brought a dining table in front of the stage, and started to dance around it and do jigs during your show...
[Laughs]... Fuck... Ok, I haven't seen that, it's cool though.
Well anyway, from experience, I can say that your live show is very energetic, for the fans, and mainly to you guys... How do you keep up with all the shows, the dancing and everything? Don't you get tired?
[Laughs]... It's always great to play. Of course if you play 50 shows on tour for, everyday, you get tired, but nevertheless, the reason why we play in this band is because we really love music and love to play, so it can never be enough. We just always like to play no matter where it is or when it is.
After the European leg of Paganfest, you are about to invade USA with that tour... are you excited about getting to America?
Yes of course, we are very curios because over the last one and half years we have been getting a lot of great reaction from the states. Also, the sales so far in there are surprisingly well, so we are extremely excited and very curios to go over there and play live on stage.
What do you expect of the American crowd?
I really don't have any idea. I haven't been to America so far, all I know from bands who already played there is that usually the American crowd is a bit wilder than the European, but we'll see.
Do you think that Folk Metal could succeed over there?
Well, time will tell. Basically I could imagine something like this could happen - so far it seems that it became kind of a trend at the American metal scene. But nobody really knows.
What do you think of your comrades in battle on this tour - Ensiferum, Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow and Turisas, and how is it to be, along with Tyr, the only non-Finnish act in this line-up?
[Laughs hard]... I can imagine it will be a little bit boring, to be the only non-Finnish around there... [Laughs]... but no, as you mentioned there is also Tyr, and during some shows in Germany there will be Suidarka, but nevertheless, we actually looking forward to it. It also really cool that Korpiklaani are coming with us, because we're really good friends with them, we played quite often together, so we always have good times. It will be cool to share the same stage with them again.
With 8 musicians on board I was wondering how you keep up with each other, especially on tours?
Really great actually... [Laughs]... When we came together as a band we didn't know each other very well, we really came together only for the music, but during the last 3 years we spent an extremely lot of time together - being in the rehearsal room, in studio or on constant touring - so during all this time, we really grew together, of course musically, but also personally. Today we're like a little family, so it's always great to be together.
Do the other band members contribute for the song writing process or is it all part of your job? If so, how do you work on a new song?
Basically it was my job. It's just the way of working we developed over the last couple of years. We do it like this: I write a song and when I complete it with all the instruments lines, I roughly record it at home, and then I hand it over to the band. After that, each band member works his melody lines for his own instrument and we arrange the song all together.
When hearing your vocals, there are definitely influences of the early Swedish death metal sound, but I also find some modern influences of Metalcore... What is your take on this popular genre?
There are a couple of bands that we like on this genre, but personally I'm a big fan of Dark Tranquility, besides that I don't know many bands actually. Its true what you said about our combination, and this is actually the idea behind Eluveitie from the very beginning - When I started the band it was a dream of mine to combine these two kinds of music that I really liked the most which was good old Swedish death metal (melodic death metal) and traditional Celtic folk music. I think it's different than most of the folk / pagan metal bands, because if you take away all those folk themes from our music, what remains is pretty much a modern melodic death metal.
In the Folk Metal genre, while there's happy bands like Korpiklaani, fighting bands like Turisas and dark acts like Finntroll... Where does Eluveitie stand?
Maybe somewhere completely else... [Laughs]... I don't know, it's always hard to compare and I'm really not god with that. I really think that we are not one of those bands who do happy, dancing, party music - I think we do something more earnest. Also our lyrical concept is not just about party or drinking mead - it's about stuff you can think about.
You mean more intelligent music?
Those are your words... I'm not the one to judge.
Have you heard our local folk metal act Orphaned Land, or even Mesopotamian black metallers Melechesh who combines some eastern tunes?
I don't know Orphaned Land very good. But for sure I know Melechesh, we played a couple of shows with them and we're actually good friends. So it's a really great band and most of us really like their music.
What do you think if this type of eastern folk?
I really like it. I don't know much about it but from the few things I heard, it's good.
A strange question but I was wondering if any band member has a connection to Israel? I'm asking because Rafi [Bass] is a known Israeli name.
[Laughs]... I don't know about everybody, but I think that the grand-grandma of Anna [Hurdy Gurdy / Vocals] is Jewish, but that is far away, she is actually Irish. Regarding Rafi and Sevan, they are both brothers, and they originally came from Armenia.
Last but not least, I know you have many fans in Israel... So do you have any last words to those crazy people who danced on tables for you, and for all the rest?
Well the only thing that remains to say is thank you, really. Thanks for the interview of course, and thank you all for the interest in our work. We really appreciate that. And of course it would be definitely be great to play in your country. Take care!