For months, if not longer, we have been teased with posts on Facebook by Elvya, showing progress on her first album. Guest musician after guest musician, all entering the well known Orchus studio of Fieke van den Hurk, or the Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, made us very curious as to what this album would turn out to be like.
And now, shortly before the actual release of the album, we had the opportunity to review it. And what an opportunity it was!
But before I go rambling on, and give away everything I want to say about this album in the intro of the review, let’s just start with the track by track review you’ve grown accustomed to by now.
Elvya – Untold Stories (2015)
Track 1, Intro, sets a mystical atmosphere, and the listener gets invited into a new world by Arjen Lucassen, with a beautiful accent I might add. It opens up the mind of the listener to receive the Untold Stories.
Lavor Mi Gente starts of with a very warm feeling. It is a very emotional track where elements of love resonate through the song, leading towards “love lost” at the end. Key words would be powerful, moving, touching.
Next up is Gover Si Vena. With the addition of more electronic elements and the harmonies throughout this track it not only reminds me of Era, it actually gives me the same feeling. The grandeur in the music, the power, the energy. Checking the lyrics, the translated version, gave me a very mixed feeling, but in a good way. “Mothers are grieving, Praying to the heavens, Reunited in love, One last time.” So much beauty and pain combined in one track, it’s simply amazing. This is art!
The next song, Remember, is a fairytale in its own right. So much is told in this story, yet so much is still left Untold, left open to the interpretation of the listener. I think that this story can, and most likely will, be different for everyone listening to it, as we will all impose our own past and imagination on it. The melodies in this song, I freely admit, gave me goosebumps the first time I listened to it, and even after hearing it several times the song actually brought me to tears!
I don’t really know how to describe the music and vocals in Try to Listen other than as “full of self control”. It is as if the music really wants to break free, but it is held back to a perfect level, because it gives the whole song a bigger impact. The depth and the layers in this song are amazing!
Track 8, Kardizam, is another instrumental track, serving as a great interlude. Almost as if this marks the beginning of a new chapter.
Daddy is an emotional plead to a father, giving some information in the lyrics, but still, as with Remember, it leaves a lot to be filled in by the listener. As for the overall feel of the song, I would say it reminds me somewhat of the beautiful ballads by some of the greatest symphonic metal bands of the past few years, without actually sounding like metal very much. There is strength in symphony.
Ann’Vatu, in the language of Elvya, means “Celebrate”, and indeed this song is a celebration of nature, of everything around us that makes our world beautiful. Almost meditative, the lyrics are like a mantra, capturing the deep appreciation of nature. I am very certain I will be listening to this track a lot!
And then we come to the end of this album, unfortunately. The Outro has a clear warning by Arjen Lucassen that the listener has a choice to make. Head back to your own world, or stay in this world of Untold Stories forever. It’s a hard choice to make, but fortunately I still have the album, so I can always return to this enchanted land.
One of the things I usually do in a review is choose one favourite track. This way the reader can use that as a reference as to how I listened to the album and artists are often interested in it as well. Liesbeth (Elvya) actually asked me about my favourite track. But you know what? I really don’t know this time. I just can’t choose. Both Remember and Try to Listen have literally moved me to tears, and Ann’Vatu might just be a new mantra for me to repeat when I am out in nature. Those would then most likely be my top 3 tracks of the album, let’s keep it at that.
The artwork of the album, the cover and the CD, give a feel of a fairytale book, the old ones that my parents used to get from the library. The booklet is filled with pictures of beauty and mystery, and overall it all combines perfectly with the music. All lyrics are provided, and in the case of the songs that are sung in Elvyan there are also translations that read just as beautiful as the songs sound! The entire album is a complete package, from start to finish.
Owning and operating a radio-station in the Folk scene means that I get to hear some amazing music, I get to receive some amazing albums. In our scene the focus is on beauty and feeling in the music, not on making as much albums or selling as much music as possible, and that translates into the overall quality within the entire world of folk. There just aren’t many “bad” albums being released. That being said, sometimes we find a diamond in a field of pearls, and I would say that we found one today. Is it due to the musical mind of Elvya? Is it thanks to the engineering and production genius of Fieke? Could it be the star filled line-up of guest musicians that helped create this album? I don’t know, I think it’s most likely a combination of all of the above. But I do know that without Elvya this album would not exist and I am very thankful that it does! I’ve had a conversation with someone once who pointed out that being honest with reviews also meant pointing out flaws, and he was right. But tell me Mr. C, what do I do when I can’t find any? The only downside is that some of the tracks aren’t very suited to be played on CeltCast, as they don’t have the same Folk-feel as most of our music does. This is however because, in my opinion, these songs transcend the boundaries of folk, and I think that for instance fans of Era and Enya will also love this album. All I can say is: Everybody, go and buy this album as soon as it is released, and emerge yourself in these Untold Stories as I have. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
The music on this album was not only played by Elvya, but also by many guest musicians. Which musicians you may ask? Well, check out this awesome list:
Ward De Coninck: throat singing, backing vocals, percussion
Ben Auwerx: backing vocals
Ivar de Graaf: drums, acoustic guitar
Dominique Bentvelsen: double bass
Douwe de Wilde: bass guitar
Emilien Delcour: acoustic guitar
Baz Laarakkers: acoustic guitar
Sjoerd van Ravenzwaaij: tin whistle
Coca Román van Dongen: celtic harp
Fieke van den Hurk: hurdy gurdy, accordion, piano
Jan De Weer: recorder
Sophie Zaaijer: violin, viola, cello