Eluveitie, live in London

Support: Arkona, Skálmöld

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You love a bit of folk metal. You do. No matter how hard you cling to your Spiritual Healing first-pressing vinyl, you can't help but tap your foot and muster a grin upon the sight of heavily-bearded men having it large to the sound of a hurdy gurdy. Eluveitie are putting cynics to shame tonight – here's the cold, hard facts.

Epic Viking Metal Is Suitably Epic

Iceland’s Skálmöld get the party started in truly inimitable style – their Ensiferum-on-steroids approach to Viking metal coupled with each musician having a pop at vocals (just like The Beatles, mate. Just like The Beatles…) makes for a compelling outing. While all their music is of vast substance, it’s the rollicking Að Hausti and the sprawling, marvellously heavy Með Fuglum – both from new album Með Vættum – that really spark interest. The crowd goes bananas and drummer Jón Geir Jóhannsson wears a grin that could block out the sun. Job done.

Arch Enemy Ain’t The Only Band Packing A Formidable Female

Arkona’s Maria Arkhipova is just a beast. We don’t mean this in a bad way – we just mean that as soon as she scuttles on stage, clad in wolfskin and flailing her limbs about like a spasmodic octopus, we want to hide in a corner and cry until she leaves. Seriously, she could beat Joey DeMaio in a wrestling match just by staring him down. Arkhipova’s screeches are genuinely blood-curdling, but it’s when the band ramp up the polka elements of their sound and she slips into a folky drawl where Arkona hit their stride – less fun than Skálmöld, but on the whole a gruesomely lovely experience.

Eluveitie Deserve This Crowd

Two years on from supporting Sabaton on their Carolus Rex UK jaunt, Eluveitie have returned to London and sold the place out. It’s a quiet victory for one of folk metal’s première acts; as the lights dim and hundreds of metalheads clamber over one another for a decent view, nearly two hours dissipate in a flurry of folk metal thunder.

Airing a huge portion of latest album Origins tonight, the band constantly push the boundaries between folk music and all-out, Gothenburg style death metal. Frontman Chrigel Glanzmann is living evidence of this; screaming his head off one minute and gently blowing through a tiny wind instrument a second later, it seems hilarious in theory but is just pulled off with such conviction that, well, it works. Newies like_ The Call Of The Mountains_ and The Silver Sister go down just as well as older stuff – when Kingdom Come Undone drops, though, collective shit is lost by everyone in the venue. Tied together in a lovely little bow courtesy of Anna Murphy’s gorgeous vocals, this is the sound of a band on the absolute top of their game.

We All Love A Hurdy Gurdy. We Do

It just never gets old.

They’re One Of The Best Folk Metal Bands To Ever Do It

By the time A Rose For Epona inevitably crawls into the tail-end of the set, you can see why Eluveitie are packing out the O2 Academy. This song is a bona-fide anthem, something seldom seen (or sought, mind you) within the realms of folk metal. They may be a bagpipe player down at the moment (to be fair, they still have the hurdy gurdy and violin…), but this seismic eight-piece from Switzerland has never sounded so monstrous. Stereo Kicks, eat your little hearts out.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.