A blatu blande bitos biuon!
A, m’ atriia, a, ma helvetia!
Oh dulcet blossom of the living world!
Oh my fatherland, oh my Helvetia!
— Eluveitie (“Slania’s Song”)
Celtic. Heavy. Metal. Mind blowing. Eluveitie unleashed a ninety minute infusion of Celtic heavy metal to enthusiastic fans at Salt Lake City’s Club Sound on Saturday night. Google top Folk metal bands, and you’ll always find Eluveitie near the top of the list. Their visit to Salt Lake City is but another notch on the band’s list of achievements: three full length albums, over 250 shows in 30 countries, all since their foundations in 2002.
Folk metal — folk songs layered with heavy or death metal — is relatively young as a genre: it was developed in the 1990s. And Celtic metal is younger still, but like folk metal, its roots reach to the distant past. Eluveitie means “I am Helvetian” and refers to a Gaulish inscription attributed to the Helvetii tribe of Switzerland, near Winterthur, where the eight member band is based. Many of the band’s lyrics are written in Gaul, an extinct language spoken by Celtic peoples of Europe who lived from the 6th to the 3rd century BC.
The band’s instruments and in fact, portions of their songs, had a medieval flavor. While most metal bands consist primarily of guitars and drums, Eluveitie layers in traditional instruments such as fiddles, flutes, whistles, bagpipes, and a hurdy gurdy. “What is that?” I pointed to the strange instrument and asked my friend, who didn’t know either. A hurdy gurdy, or wheel fiddle, produces sound by a wheel rubbing against strings as the musician turns a crank.
The band raced to the stage and put fists in the air for their entrance. The crowd went wild, but not just for first few numbers, “Otherword,” “Nil,” and “Bloodstained Ground.” For the entire 18 song set, fists pounded the air and long haired heads swung frantically. What a rush to be chanting and roaring with Eluveitie in the ancient language of Gaul! I could get lost in the morphology and syntax of the Gaulish language, given my lifelong love affair with words.
A few translations from the band’s lineup of their hits delivered on Saturday:
“Inis Mona” – a Welsh island now called the Isle of Anglesey
“Tegernako” – a folk of cheeriness and strength
“Uis Elveti” – so beautiful you are formed my beloved Helvetia, referring to a place or plot of land
Lyrics are based on Gaulish prayers, invocations of spirits and gods. The band’s song “Omnos” is sung in Gaul and translated into English on You Tube. The song is a synthesis between “Little Red Riding Hood” and a love story gone askew.
Club Sound is not a 21+ club so younger fans were interspersed with the usual mix of concert goers. “Are we the oldest ones here?” asked my friend. I just smiled. We met a mom who was there with her eight-year-old daughter. The two were huge fans and listened often to the band’s You Tube videos. The little girl zeroed in Eluveitie through their three song encore.
Midway through the show, the band’s lead singer, Chrigel Glanzmann, parted the crowd to make room for a mosh pit and those in the center were encouraged to participate. As the band Celtic metal melodies thundered through the building, the pit evolved into a dervish of spinning, running, and bumping.
Also called In the Venue, Club Sound offers no backstage or “green room” and the building itself is limited in space, but that didn’t impair anything on Saturday. I had an ideal spot from which to shoot photos and listen to the concert … just inside the “pit” where the band entered and exited the stage, so I saw the quiet anticipation before the concert and the sense of relief after their stellar performance.
Eluveitie has a worldwide following and in the past couple of months, the band has played at clubs in Chicago, Toronto, Sao Paulo, and Bologne. And Saturday, Salt Lake City made the list. Another notch in the band’s belt? Maybe. But Eluveitie’s fans who sang along with them Saturday were nothing short of exuberant to have made it on the band’s tour, including their newest fan, me.
Päde Kistler – Tin and Low Whistles, Bagpipes
Meri Tadic – Vocals, Violin, Electric Violin
Kay Brem – Bass, Strings
Chrigel Glanzmann – Vocals, Mandola, Mandolin, Tin and Low Whistles, Bagpipes, Acoustic Guitar, Bodhràn
Merlin Sutter – Drums, Cymbals
Sime Koch – Guitar
Anna Murphy – Hurdy Gurdy, Vocals, Flute
Ivo Henzi – Guitar
Disclosure: I received a photo pass to this concert. I did NOT receive compensation for this review.