Eluveitie @ MacEwan Hall © J. Dirom
© J. Dirom

Live Review: Eluveitie + The Agonist @ MacEwan Hall – September 20th 2015

The show originally was billed as Epica and Eluveitie; however, due to tragic events Epica had cancelled the remainder of their North American tour, leaving Eluveitie as the headliner. Epica has been plagued with some misfortunes this past month, first we saw Coen Janssen, the keyboard player announce that not be taking part in the tour due to his wife being diagnosed cancer. That unfortunately was not the end of bad luck for Epica. After receiving news that Simone Simons had been in a serious car accident in Holland, Simone returned to Holland to be close to her family. This ultimately resulted in the cancellation of all remaining North American dates for Epica, as the band reported no major improvements in that situation so it was impossible for Simone to return to the tour.

We wish Simone Simons and Coen Janssen the best during these difficult times.

Fast paced, intense and full of energy is the best way to describe Montreal based metal rockers, The Agonist. The crowd fed off their energy in particular front woman Vicky Psarakis, who was constantly moving about the stage, throwing her head back as she belted out powerful guttural screams, then launching forward into the crowd as she continued to belt out lyrics. Often she would move forward off the stage onto the floor speaker stacks, further pumping up the crowd, who were singing along and bobbing in unison.

As a whole The Agonist was engaging with the audience, whether it was Bassist Chris Kells standing on the speakers leading chants from the crowd, professing that, “Times like these make me proud to be fucking Canadian,” or Psarakis running with microphone in hand along the barrier wanting to hear how loud the crowd could scream.

The Agonist played their hearts out, and the crowd responded in kind.

The North American Tour now featured Eluveitie at the helm with their brand of Swiss folk metal, a fusion death metal infused with ‘ancient folk melodies’. There is a great deal to take in at an Eluveitie show, with a total of eight members, and extensive range of instruments that aren’t common from hurdy-gurdy’s, to tin whistles, to uilleann Pipes, and madola’s. Vocalist Cringel Glanzmann takes center stage, between violinist Nicole Ansperger , and Anna Murphy (Hurdy-gurdy/Vocals), while the flanks are taken by bassist Kay Brem , and guitarist Rafael Salzmann. Upon the back pedestal atop sits drummer Merlin Sutter, who is flanked by guitarist Ivo Henzi, and tin whistler Pade Kistler, although throughout the show these positions changed often as the focus of the music was directed to a particular instrument the would take front position on the flank.

There is a contrast between the guttural singing and of Glanzmann, and the powerful vocals of Murphy. That balance between metal and folk melodies is always an interesting contrast. At times vocally very intense, but the edge is softened by the contrasting melodies’, and a times the opposite is true, but Eluveitie finds that balance. As Glazmann would belt out his growly lyrics, the ladies would fall back thrashing their hair in unison. Even the seamless transitions between vocals to pipes, to mandola by Glanzmann are an interesting to behold.

Before playing Omnos (Gaulish for Fear), Glanzmann addressed the crowd. “It has almost been a year since I was last here,” professed Glazmann, “but I am truly excited to be back in Canada!” The crowd cheered and danced along, throwing their hands into the air.

As the night progressed Anna Murphy stepped forward telling the crowd that they were going to play Call of the Mountains, but need the help of the audience. “We are going to sing the song in our mother tongue of Swiss-German,” explained Murphy, “ I want you to sing a short part. That part is ‘Hey Yo, Hey Yo.” Simple enough, and the crowd obliged.

“Very good that was easy!,” exclaimed and excited Murphy, “Now part two.” Now I am not up to speed on my Swiss-German, and what came next from Murphy I honestly have no idea, and the crowd went to sing it back and well it was jumbled. So they stuck simply with “Hey Yo, Hey Yo”, throughout the song. I was a fun playful moment between Murphy, and the crowd, and honestly kicked the spirits of the crowd even higher.

The crowd were throwing up ‘the horns” dancing, and a sizable number of people were crowd surfing, as much of the front row were thrashing their hair in unison with the music. Eluveitie took the helm as headliner and put on a fantastic musical performance, with a longer set, and a great light show. It was a great night for all folk-metal fans.

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