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Live: Eluveitie

Eluveitie / Fenrir / Lycanthia
The Metro Theatre, Sydney 25/05/2013
Review and Photos: Peter Zaluzny

Few bands embrace the folk elements of folk metal as heavily as Eluveitie, but across the globe their unique music attracts a dedicated fan base, one which has extended itself all the way to Sydney. The band were gracing Australian shores for the first time and the Eluveitiens had arrived at the Metro Theatre in full force, determined to mosh, dance and sing in languages they didn’t understand. With local acts Fenrir and Lycanthia leading the charge, punters were ready to immerse themselves in an onslaught of death, folk and goth-doom metal.
Before coming onstage, Fenrir had busied themselves by sacrificing a beast in the green room. Their bodies were dripping with blood and dotted with Nordic symbols, while their frontman and flautist Duncan Therkildsen bore the fur of the beast across his shoulders. This was their biggest show to date and the boys couldn’t contain their excitement, resulting in an incredibly passionate performance loaded with thank-yous and fuck yeahs. But their set was crippled by massive technical difficulties, inaudible vocals and constant feedback. The muddy, lifeless mix held back what could’ve been an epic folk metal adventure, but they admirably pushed on and forced out a few moments that showcased their musical talent. Instead of a heroic epilogue, the set awkwardly petered out and everyone, including Fenrir, seemed confused by the abrupt end to their performance. Something was clearly amiss, but people seemed to give the band the benefit of the doubt.

 Goth-doom veterans Lycanthia focused less on the spectacle and more on the atmosphere, guiding the audience through a dark, soothing, spiritual dimension. Their roaring operatic vocals and unrelenting death growls perfectly complemented each other, to create an almost haunting ambience, while maintaining a sense of ferocity that grew organically from the music. Most eyes were on clean vocalist/violinist Vanessa Black for the better part of the set, although her eight-inch heels limited her movements, much like the rest of the band who generally remained rooted to a single spot. But the audience remained captivated by the goth-clad musicians, even with the ongoing technical issues, although these were less severe than during Fenrir’s performance. Lycanthia unleashed a masterful set that distracted from the still less-than-stellar mix and occasional feedback, leaving an awe-inspired audience in their wake.

The remaining Eluveitie fans filed in amongst an air of reserved excitement. An Eluveitie chant began but ended quickly when no one could agree on how to pronounce the name. When the musical prologue began, the roar of the crowd was loud enough to wake the fallen that had inspired Helvetios. Eluveitie erupted with the full force of an ancient battalion, demanding the audience jump and sing, and they happily obliged. Frontman Chrigel Glanzmann seemed just as enthusiastic, running back and forth across the stage and growling in the faces of those in the front few rows. When he addressed the audience he almost seemed shy. When it was time for a song, he greeted the room with the real Glanzmann, unleashing his inner beast to control the stage with a powerful presence.

The mix had finally been sorted out and remained well balanced throughout the show. Each instrument from the hurdy gurdy right down to the tiny tin whistle was audible, impressive given the number of musicians on stage. Even more impressive was that the entire performance was live, with no sign of backing tracks aside from the violin, as Meri Tadić was unable to perform (she later confirmed on her Facebook page that she had to pull out due to a fear of flying). Some of their instruments had been decked out with traditional Celtic decorations including animal skulls and in the case of the bagpipes (or gaita), the Australian flag. No one instrument dominated the mix, instead, they complemented one another to create an inescapable wall of sound, and Eluveitie made it all look like child’s play.

But the choice of songs seemed rather lazy, as Helvetios was played in full (minus “Tullianum”) followed by a handful of classics. The set lacked variation which, for their debut tour of Australia, was disappointing. Nevertheless, Helvetios offered enough content for the band to put on an energetic and musically perfect performance, especially Anna Murphy, whose vocal solos caused the rowdy audience to slip into a state of stunned silence. Roses gifted to the front row during “A Rose For Epona” was one of a few nice touches that placed a cherry on top of the entertaining show.

A good concert is nothing without a great audience though, and the fans had no reservations about expressing their excitement. The floor was a constant hub of activity, whether it was synchronised clapping, jumping or a gigantic circle pit. Eluveitie refused to give the audience a chance to take a break, even during their so called “slow songs” and everyone was willing to play along. Nothing was quite as endearing as when the crowd, mostly filled with English speakers from across Sydney, broke into ancient Celtic verse, singing along word for word, not knowing what they were saying but knowing that it made them feel good. It was an expression of hardcore fandom and one that the band genuinely appreciated. Eluveitie didn’t need props, they didn’t need special effects, they didn’t try to take the audience on a special emotional journey. They simply put on a show and managed to elevate what was a relatively small gig to the same heights as an arena spectacular.

Photos: Peter Zaluzny

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