Primordial Breaths

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Switzerland’s Eluveitie (‘The Helvetian’ in Gaulish for those interested) , have been around for a while now but it seem like only yesterday that they burst onto the folk metal scene with 2008s ‘Slania’. Despite having released their debut Spirit two years before it was ‘Slania’, released by Nuclear Blast that put them on the map, mixing melodic death metal and folk elements such as the hurdy gurdy, Mandola, Tin whistle, Low whistle, Gaita, Uilleann pipes and Bodhrán as well as a Celtic theme. And while the rap on the band was that they were simply Swedecore with folk elements the band has powered on to be one of the more consistent and recognizable (and still difficult to spell/type!) names in folk metal.

Slania was also the album that saw Hurdy Gurdy player Ana Murphy join the band’s ranks, and here we are 6 albums and almost 10 years later and the band is stilling going strong and has released arguably the band’s best effort, Origins. I had the pleasure of catching up with Anna to ask a few questions about the great new album, the difficulties of playing the hurdy gurdy live and her numerous other projects. 

The new album is called Origins– is there any significance behind the album name after 6 albums and a 10 year existence?  

Too call the album “Origins” for me means that we’re digging deeper this time. We have always had Celtic history and mythology as our main lyrical concept. As you may know our last album “Helvetios” was a concept album, basically a chronological  account of the Gaulish war in the viewpoint of the Helvetians.

Now, we want to know more about the origin myths and tales of the Celts, which is pretty difficult since they didn’t really write anything down. But Chrigel again worked really hard on getting some accurate accounts with the help of scientists.

For me, after 6 albums, Origins and Eluveitie  has finally clicked for me. It seems to be the bands most complete effort- has anything changed since thebands ealry albums to warrant this?

I think quite a lot has changed, especially musically! The songwriting has become more complex and elaborate. We used to be satisfied with one main tune accompanied by one or two other instruments, at the most some additional lead guitars and self-made choirs, you can especially hear this on albums like “Slania“. But now on Origins, we decided to go epic full blow! There’s real choirs, orchestration, lots of instrument tracks playing different melodies at the same time. Like I said, more complex and elaborate. We’re not a band that always just sticks to the same formula, we want to progress and try out different things.

The early knock on Eluveitie  was that is was swedecore or simple melodic death metal with a few folk elements. But now the band really has really developed. Any thoughts on the criticism of the band then and how the band is now?

I was never really that interested in the criticism to be honest. The main idea of Eluveitie was exactly the same in the past as it is now. It’s obvious that when you start out, you will not be able to do as much in the studio with a tight budget than when you have a bigger one, more time and also more experience. And there will always be different tastes on top of that! I have already heard fans, that still like the “simplicity” of older albums better than the more complex and heavy-layered songwriting we’re doing now. We’ll just always do what we want, no matter what people say ;-)

You play the Hurdy gurdy- can you give out reader a quick lesson on what the instruments is, its history and how it is played?

The hurdy-gurdy has existed for quite a long time, since sometime in the middle ages. It’s origin was either in the middle east or western Europe. I like to call it a kind of “mechanical violin” when explaining it to people. It’s a stringed instrument that you play with keys (assorted like piano keys). The melody strings run accross a wheel which functions like the bow of a violin. There are also drone strings (one very low bass tone that vibrates along, kind of like the one on a bagpipe) and trumpet strings (also single-noted strings that function as a rhythm, if you move the crank a certain way).

What are the challenges of playing the hurdy gurdy live? Heck, what are the challenges with all of the other folks instruments (bagpipes, violins etc) in a live environment?

It gets out of tune really easily, especially in a humid and hot environment. This goes for all folk instruments actually, I mean basically everything made out of wood is sensitive to changes in temperature, even drums ;-) This is why I have gotten an electric hurdy-gurdy recently, built by Sebastian Hilsmann. It’s much more stable and has really improved my live situation! 

Does Chrigel write parts for your instrument or does he write riffs and other parts and allow you to develop the parts for the hurdy gurdy?

On the new album he pretty much wrote all the hurdy-gurdy parts except for some melodies I added here and there. I used to write much more on older albums.

It seems like your vocals are used much more on Origins, I have to say “Call of the mountains” especially is an amazing song. What was it like being more more of a front woman?

Thanks! Um, it’s pretty ok I guess! I just like singing, I don’t really think about the rest. I prefer being a instrumentalist, because not all attention is on you and you’re not in the center. I prefer being kind of on the side. But if the price for singing, is standing in the center, then so be it! :-)

Is folk metal getting bigger in Switzerland and is there anything this that you would consider “swiss’ it its ethnicity within ‘folk’ metal? such as instruments or lore?

Folk metal seems to be getting bigger and more popular in many countries,including Switzerland. And yes, since Celts lived in certain areas of Switzerland, it’s got a lot to do with the folk metal we play. There’s even some traditional tunes we use that have it’s origin in Switzerland.

The Swiss music scene is really coming up big in 2014 – are there other Swiss bands we should be aware of or you like?

I’ve always liked our guitarist Ivo’s solo project “Forest of Fog“.And of course, “Blutmond” is a really great Swiss metal band, I have also done some guest vocals for them.

Are there any other folk band you or the other band members enjoy or use asinspiration?

I’m sure the others like and seek inspiration in other folk bands, but I personally don’t really. The only band I like who plays something kind of like folk is “Faun“, though I haven’t listened to them for a long time.

You are also in Nucleus Torn– actually reviewed 2006s Nihil for this site-is that project still active? What other projects are you in?

Yes, we will actually release a new album soon! I’m also in: Lethe, Fräkmündt, Godnr.universe!, and I have my own solo project.

What tour plans are there for Origins?

So far a North American tour and a European tour. But there will be more to come!


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