18 May 2019 at Croxton Bandroom
It’s a very rare occasion to see a band that you love and adore come to the brink of dissolution, to then not only recover, but to return so much stronger than before. Like an ancestral scream from beyond, this is exactly how it felt to see the great Eluveitie forged anew.
We arrived at the hallowed halls of the Croxton Bandroom early before the usual VIP meet & greets, and already the excitement was palpable with those we spoke with. For some of these folks, it was their very first time seeing Eluveitie on stage. For others, including ourselves, it was a fortunate third chance to see the great folk-metal mainstays.
Making our way into the venue and taking up position stage-side, it was not long until things were under way. Opening the show with a welcome akin to an arcane, ritualistic gesture, the bewitching sounds of Suldusk began to wash over the audience. The melancholic draw of Aphasia beckoned the crowd closer as they began their set. It is infrequent that you see an audience so quickly entranced; aptly speechless and simply basking in the glow of their debut release Lunar Falls.
We’ve been fortunate to see Suldusk a few times now, and each instance has been a chance to witness their unique sound honed exponentially; a true dark horse of the Australian metal underground. Emily Highfield’s sincere and emotive style of stagecraft, coupled with her warm, down to Earth interactions with the crowd tell of a deeply appreciative artist. The heightened interplay and communication between each member is an edge only earned through experience and struggle. From the cohesive underpinnings of Glenn James’ rhythm accompaniment; the very backbone itself, to the classical expertise of Rachelle Harvey and Josh Taylor. This amalgam of folk, doom, black and shoegaze is rapidly going from strength to strength, and it is this humble writers belief that it will not be long until this is even more widely recognised.
Second on the bill was young upcomer Viktoria K, a big sound that shows a lot of promise. Gaining attention for her symphonic style, reminiscent of the earlier works of such bands as Epica, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil & Kamelot; especially circa 2000. In all sincerity, whilst there was genuinely a lot of promise shown – a testament to how much work Viktoria has put into her craft, her performance and stagecraft came across very green on this occasion. An unforgiving mix played havoc with the abrupt dynamics in most of the compositions, and the banter in between songs felt somewhat insincere and confused. This might read as a harsh criticism to some folk, but as someone who works full time in this side of the industry, I can say it is something we all go through as performers – and Viktoria will become an even stronger performer as a result.
Despite any difficulties, Viktoria and her band played cohesively and warmed the crowd, with a few stoics barracking for ‘one more song’. Whilst it is poor form for a support band to expect, let alone play an encore ahead of a headliner, I’d like to think the call was a sign of great things to come from this camp.
After a brief calm, Eluveitie arrived like the oncoming storm. The familiar intoning of the ‘wise mans words’ melded into the thunderous bass frequencies; clashing headlong with a crowd barely able to contain itself. The great gyre of sound spiralled upward as they launched into the titular track Ategnatos from the so-titled new album. Immediately, any concerns held for Eluveities signature sound were utterly banished. Reforged and sounding even more powerfully resolute than before, any newcomer would be forgiven for thinking that the new lineup was the very same they began with.
Chrigel Glanzmann, the great Captain of the ship himself, took a few opportunities during the show to express his sincere gratitude. Coming across genuinely heartfelt and humbled, his sentiments to the Australian fans were perfectly summed up with “It’s been way too fucking long!”. The crowd responded in-kind with a mighty roar that stirred the Celtic fire in more than a few folk. Tearing through fan favourites such as Alesia, Tegernako and King – the new members of Eluveitie came together as a single well-seasoned and powerful entity. Then, Quoth the Raven began, needless to say, much shite was lost. The expected sing along ensued, but when it came to the spoken section, the menacing tone of Murphy was replaced with the witch-like rapture of Fabienne Erni – giving the song a magically keen edge that was not expected.
Sheer skill and expertise was ever present in Jonas Wolf’s guitar work, as it was in Nicole Ansperger’s high-flying fiddle playing. Likewise, Michalina introduced a refreshed take on the gurdy playing that we’ve come to know so well. A key moment for me personally was during Eclipse – the sheer power of Fabienne’s voice was overwhelming. To me, it felt like hearing my ancestors speaking, and looking around the crowd, it looked like I wasn’t the only one feeling this. A truly special evening with Eluveitie that will be cherished along with the others, whilst waiting until the next time with bated breath.
Line-up: Eluveitie, Viktoria K, Suldusk
Reviewer: Nat Harmer
Photocredits: Ellie Hayden