I had very high hopes for this album. After releasing what I considered to be one of the best albums of 2008 (in fact it was #2 on my ranking of albums that year), my expectations were very high for this follow-up. The band teased us when they released a completely folk album in 2009, an album I did not check out. This was their return to their normal sound. Unfortunately, I came away disappointed upon hearing this. The band did not take a step back, let me make that clear. This is still an enjoyable album. It's just that they didn't take a step forward either.
Bands who release the same album time after time after time, often are difficult to have very strong feelings about one way or the other. Slayer and Six Feet Under are two such bands, and while I consider Slayer to be a great band, their material after Seasons in the Abyss is not nearly as high-quality. Essentially, Eluveitie released Slania again this year. And that's a disappointment because I already love Slania. Having another Slania diminishes my love of the first Slania and I do not want that to be the case. I wanted something more, or at the worst something worse so that I can say "Eluveitie may not be a good band, but that Slania was amazing". I just did not want something exactly like Slania.
Despite all that, this is still a very solid release. It is still a combination of Gothenburg-styled melodic death metal mixed with Celtic folk elements, including some very traditional Celtic instruments. Eluveitie members play the fiddle, bagpipes, tin and low whistles, mandola, flute, and hurdy-gurdy. These traditional instruments are often played along with the melodic death guitar riffs, adding a full Celtic feel to the entire song. There are still moments when the metal is the only sound heard, but the other instruments occupy a larger role overall this time around.
There are two vocalists in the band. One male providing mostly rough vocals which are not full-on death metal growls, but are definitely not clean either. There is also a female vocalist who shines through every once in awhile. She has a very pretty voice which lightens things up when she sings.
The riffs draw a lot of inspiration from the Gothenburg scene as mentioned earlier. Mostly, they sound a lot like Dark Tranquillity. Unfortunately, if the band were to strip away the folk elements, this band would just be a Gothenburg copycat, on this album anyway. It is the folk elements that help this band stand out. That's what makes this band different. Unfortunately, if they do not improve, the folk elements will not be enough to ensure them of a long career.
All of this sounds like I am very down on the album. It's true that I'm disappointed that it's virtually the same album. Hell the lead-in "Isara" to "Kingdom Come Undone" sounds exactly like "Anagantios" leading into "Bloodstained Ground". However, this is a decent release. It just will not make my Top 10 again this year. And that's disappointing.