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Slania

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★★★★½
(23 Reviews)

Eluveitie Biography - Eluveitie Discography - All Heavy Metal Bands

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A full decade since their formation, Orange County, California’s Atreyu are just as subversive, unrelenting and unpredictable as they were when they first started. Congregation Of The Damned, their fifth album, is a testament to the inexhaustible power of heavy music and the unquenchable flame of five musicians determined to build a distinct sonic landscape entirely on their own terms. As vocalist Alex Varkatzas spits in ”Bleeding Is A Luxury:” `It’s taken 10 fucking years for them to see I don’t need their approval’. ”This album is us stepping forward to new territory but taking with us the best of where we’ve been,” explains drummer and vocalist Brandon Saller. ”It really is the culmination of a ten year career.” Often, artists will release their fastest, heaviest material at the beginning of their career and, as they mature, they become more melodic or commercial. That seemed to be the case when Atreyu recorded their Top 10 disc Lead Sails Paper Anchor in 2007 – but that perception was deceptive. The album was rife with sing-along choruses, radio-ready rhythms and pristine production, yet it was still undeniably heavy, as appealing to diehard headbangers and to anyone who appreciates solid, dynamic songwriting. But with their new album, Congregation of the Damned, Atreyu blows all preconceptions out of the water, commanding us yet again to expect the unexpected. Not only is the record more like a well-crafted continuation of the minefield-strewn path they were on when they recorded 2006’s A Death-Grip on Yesterday, it’s filled with some of the band’s darkest, most political material to date. Not only have Atreyu been fueled by their passion, they’ve been motivated by their determination to point out the ugliness they’ve witnessed all around them. Hence, the album title. ”Our leaders have screwed us,” explains Varkatzas. ”We’ve started wars, we’re in a recession and we’re trying to fistfuck other countries into oblivion. America’s getting by on doing a lot of things in the name of God. George Bush got away with a lot of shit by throwing Jesus into the mix: ’God wants me to do this’. So instead of being a beautiful church congregation, we’re a congregation of the damned. We’re in such a scary place right now, I’ve never felt this sense of tension before – and that’s in the music.” Atreyu started writing Congregation of the Damned in January 2009 and almost immediately the excitement of being back in a collaborative, unified mindset sparked the musician’s creativity. ”It felt like when you first start a band,” explains Saller. ”We were just so excited to hang out in a room and write songs just because we wanted to. And the writing process was more group oriented than previously.” Within months, Atreyu had composed 25 songs that ranged from plangent and heartbreaking to brutally fast and cathartic. Later that year, they entered the studio with producer Bob Marlette (Ozzy Osbourne, Seether). Since they were working near their homes in California they didn’t feel confined the way they sometimes had in the past, and they were able to enjoy the recording sessions like never before. Uninformed listeners could be forgiven for not realizing what a blast the guys had making Congregation of the Damned. Songs like ”Ravenous” and ”You Were the King Now You’re Unconscious” are furious and frightening, the sonic din of young adults coming to terms with the idea that they might have sold themselves short while their generation was foundering in a universal identity crisis. Whether or not that was the case, Atreyu are now determined to prove themselves more than ever. ”In the past I’d had my head up my ass,” Varkatzas admits. ”But with Congregation of the Damned I’ve focused myself and driven harder for what I want. We’ve brought back a bit of the old Atreyu: shredding, screaming and breakdowns.” Varkatzas is being modest. True, the trenchant elements of old are back, but they’re combined with stronger songwriting and flourishes that keep Atreyu sounding utterly captivating. ”The first single, Storm to Pass” builds from an acoustic intro into a steadily chug of buzzing guitars that climax in a triumphant chorus. ”Insatiable” is powered by a harmony-filled refrain that reflects guitarist Dan Jacobs’ penchant for powerhouse `80s metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crue. ”Black Days Begin” features a southern groove-chug informed by the guys’ love for Pantera, and ”Wait For You” is a piano and strings-laden love ballad that reveals an entirely new side of the band. ”On Lead Sails Paper Anchor we had a slide guitar ballad, and that’s not my favorite song in the world, so this was kind of our chance for rock ballad redemption,” Varkatzas says. ”Big Dan [Jacobs] had this idea kicking around forever and we had never written a full-on love song. So we went, ”Dude, we’re writing a ballad. We don’t give a shit. This is what we want to do. And if you don’t like this one, you don’t have a heart.” Lyrically, Congregation of the Damned pulls no punches from start to finish. Album opener, for example, ”Stop! Before It’s Too Late And We’ve Destroyed It All” is based on a Joe Rogan comedy sketch in which he sees humans as a plague on the earth. Varkatzas empathizes with Rogan’s plight. ”When you fly into LA it’s all green and beautiful but when you hit the city the air is putrid. It’s a big black spot and it doesn’t fit into the natural geography,” Varkatzas says. ”Lyrically, it’s as if we’re this predatory organism talking over and killing everything. Mother nature would be better off without humans walking the earth. The contagious first single from Congregation of the Damned ”Storm the Pass,” is simultaneously about Varkatzas’ psychological turmoil and the volatile state of the world on the brink of annihilation. ”I wrote it from two angles at once so it would impact different people in different ways,” the vocalist explains. ”I have a tendency to get either super depressed or super pissed off. I can see it coming and I can feel it building and it’s like watching clouds or thunder heads rolling off the beach onto an island and just destroying the island. And at the same time it’s about how you can see wars or conflicts forming, like Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, what’s going on in North Korea or what could be going on in Pakistan or Iran. You feel this tension building, this storm, this malice, and it’s like a never-ending cycle and it can destroy us all.” Some of the songs aren’t political at all. ”Gallows” — which features the line, ”Like the loser I am / I can’t help but to see / That success scares the living shit out of me” – is about personal insecurity and self-doubt, and having the tenacity to break through the fear. ”I’m honestly not sure what scares me more,” Varkatzas admits. ”That’s a lot for people to grasp. Am I not giving it my all? Have I pulled back in the past because I feared failing on my own? Or am I just not good enough? But we’re all human and that’s how we learn: it builds heart and character. Tenacity has got me where I am, not talent. Whether that alienates people or makes me look stupid… I can’t help it.”

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  • I cannot say enough good things about this album. This is the perfect blending of Melodic Death Metal and Celtic Folk. I look at it this way: If you took out the folk elements from Eluveitie’s sound, you would have a classic Melodic Death album that would sound a lot like circa 90’s Dark Tranquility mixed with Whoracle by In Flames. But with the Celtic folk mixed in, you have a sound that is truly unique to this band and this band alone. Out of a scene that is finally getting its due, they are at the forefront of this Celtic folk movement along with Primordial, Suidakra, and Waylander.

    However, what makes this band truly special in the fact that they mix a reconstructed Gaulish language. While for some this may turn away, it adds an atmosphere to the music that I have not heard since Primordial’s “Imrama” all the way back in 1995.

    There is only one thing that I can fault it on: The guitar solo on the final track is tremendous, and I think that there could have been a better show in the guitar work. Flute solos are great, so are mandolin and violin solos. But their two guitarist obviously have talent enough to write great solos, so they should highlight that.

    Beyond that, this is a perfect follow up to “Spirit”. It is their Whoracle.

    Posted on December 5, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Eluveitie have created the most immediately listenable and enjoyable metal cd I have ever heard. Am I heaping too much praise on this band? No! I can’t begin to explain how incredible this cd actually is. People, The 30 second samples don’t do this justice. I played this cd in the music store where my wife works and the customers were drawn over to the speakers that we were standing beside (we had it playing very low at first) and by the end of the song customers were asking us to turn it up! I guarantee you will enjoy this if you buy it! Spread the word!

    Posted on December 5, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • It has been exactly 48:42 minutes since I bought the album (plus the time taken to write this review). I found the band on Amazon, saw the six 5-star reviews, and decided to take the plunge and buy the album.

    Now let me say that although I’m into melodeath bigtime, I’ve never been a huge fan of folk metal. I however do occassionally listen to soft folk rock like The Corrs. So I was stunned, no, OVERWHELMED, when I heard Eluveitie blend folk elements so seamlessly with melodic death metal.

    There are flutes, oh yes. Violins? Think so. Plus a bunch of other funny (albeit pleasant) noises too. All together with melodious guitar lines and great vocals (there’s even one with female vocals). The net output is a whole new level of awesomeness, which is quite surprising from a relatively unknown band.

    So, while my review is clearly not what might be considered well-thought out, I wanted to “weigh in” here on how cool this album is. If you like melodic death metal, you’re going to LOVE this. In fact, the track ‘Bloodstained Ground’ would have almost been indistinguishable from a Dark Tranquillity track (but then the incredible folk stuff kicked in :P ).

    Recommended tracks: Inis Mona, Bloodstained Ground, hell… all of them :) .

    PS: It’s the not-yet-popular bands like these that need your support (and money) the most! Please please buy the album if you like it after listening to a few of the songs.

    Posted on December 5, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I caught these guys live a week or so ago, they were one of the bands opening for Kataklysm and Dying Fetus. I had never heard of them before and WOW did they put o a hell of a show, I bought the CD immediately after their set was over and have not stopped listening to it since. I have been a fan of Korpiklani for a while now but I think I like their style of folk metal better. Great mix of metal guitars and old style instruments (bagpipes, flutes, violin, hurdygurdy). It works so well give them a shot, the CD sounds great but they sound even better in person!

    Posted on December 5, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Take two very epic sounding types of genres: Folk metal and real Gothenburg (At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity) and give all of their musicians excellent musicianship, and you will get the sound presented on this album.

    A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Music Choice when all of a sudden this song entitled “Grey Sublime Archon” came on and was blown away. It’s an excellent blend of folk insturments, growls and clean vocals, and the Gothenburg-ish guitar riffs. The growl/sung chorus comes in with “Gray Sublime Archon I’ve been called. . .” gave me goosebumps and is an example of when combining growls and clean vocals is a good idea. (a bad example of when it goes wrong being In Flames)

    So I bought this album and all I have to say is that it is just as epic as that track. “Inis Mona” with its deep sung chorus and beautiful flute playing the melody, the many wonderfully put together insturmentals, and the song “Slania’s Song” with female vocals really stick out to me.

    Even the weakest track imo is amazing. “The Somber Lay” is an extremely strong track like the others, but the folk insturments in the chorus of the song sometimes sound like they’re going all over the place and like there is too much going on. It was sort of an awkward listen, but still an excellent track.

    Overall, if you like Dark Tranquillity, Finntroll, Moonsorrow, any other folk metal bands, get this album. You won’t be disappointed.

    Posted on December 5, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now