You know, sometimes a totally new outfit does surprise as from the very first moment. Well, that’s exactly what I experienced with Greek duo Eldingar, a very young outfit that wrote, recorded and released the debut-album Maenads in very early Summer 2021. Stavros Lontos (guitars) and Andreas Simitzis (vocals) joined forces to pay tribute to the majestic Greek scene ‘of Old’. Together with some session / studio musicians (drummer Nefeli Karra (known from Stoner / Doom outfit Bacchus Priest), bass-player Greg Lontos and Demetrios Zigras (cello, lyra, lute), Eldingar did create and produce an extensive work, which was eventually mixed and mastered in Athens by Markos Samaras (Wudsound Studio).
This stuff got released via the contemporary digital sources, as well as on compact disc. The latter seems to be a jewel-case version, which includes an eight-page booklet. That one comes with the English lyrics, yet also with totally frenzy, devastating and surprising cover-artwork by Anneta Gravvani. It refers to the title, focusing on the nymphs, also known as ‘Bacchants’, being (female) entities that did adore wine, physical passion and Dionysian pleasures in general. Yeah, my kind of witches, let’s say…
No, seriously, the album indeed pays tribute to the Greek scene at the one hand, and the legacy of Dionysus and the whole mythology behind / around. And for your information, this album was released via Transylvania-based Pest Records, somehow part of the great Loud Rage Music community.
Maenads clocks almost one hour; the extended edition includes two additional cover-tracks, adding another fifteen minutes of sonic satisfaction. The ‘Traditional Hellenic Black Metal’, as Eldingar label their stuff, is bounteous and fertile in essence and it does indeed extract inspiration in the Greek old-schooled majesty. It’s like a reflection of the spear of Zeus, which was lightning-formed. And hey, accidently ‘eldingar’ means ‘lightning’ (in Icelandic)…
The album is enormously varied, as it is melodious; every single track does differ from any other one, yet without losing a surprising cohesion. Each single piece is varying too, with quite some changes in tempo and structure. There surely is a hint of Necromantia or Varathron, but the band is not just a copycat. The album exceeds the limitations of that type of Black Metal by injecting the whole with elements from Heavy, Thrash, Death and Traditional Metal, as well as Folk, Post-Rock and more modern Black Metal details in general. Besides, Eldingar’s aural hybrid makes use of many acoustic fragments, also taken from different sources of inspiration: Pagan-wise, then again Sad Folk oriented, and everything in between. And the subtle use of cello or lute adds a semi-intelligent grandeur.
When it comes to the speed, well, as said this album differs quite impressively on this matter too. The better part is mid-paced with several faster fragments, organic accelerations (often intensified by the forceful drum-patterns) and effusive breaks. But it never blasts (despite some explosive moments), not does it fade away into desperate dimensions of doomed nihility either. Many chapters are vivid, energetic and intense (often spiced by well-crafted guitar-solo’s), despite not being tornado-like tempo, others calm down towards cinematic serenity, and quite some parts exhale a narrative and almost theatrical elegance. That too gets strengthened by, for example, the voices. Besides the main vocals, which are like raw, quite low-tuned screams, Andreas also sings, shouts, prevails, sighs, whispers, chants, growls, you know, using his vocal cords in many ways.
What strikes me is the massive sound-quality, done by the delicate and solid production by the project’s main members with the assistance of Markos Samaras. Okay, it surely sounds clean and bright, but it’s great to notice that it lacks exaggeration – no Pop Music arrangements or aggrandized fakeness. The refined mix comes with a nice balance, resulting in a professional interplay in between all members and all instruments. Both lead and rhythm section get canalized into an enjoyable play, colorizing the drama and adventure behind this album’s concept. Listen to those cool, groove-laden bass-lines, majestic percussion-work, fierce guitar-riffs, and so on, operating in glorious harmony.
Remarkable is the choice of the bonus songs, both being a cover. Okay, one of them is Darkthrone’s Quintessence, which is not extremely surprising (though I’d rather thought about a cover for Varathron, Rotting Christ, Thou Art Lord, Necromantia, you know). And it’s a pleasure to see, or better: to hear, that Eldingar make their very own interpretation of such classic. It’s not just another cover-version, yet an almost-eccentric, own-faced rework. The other piece – and that’s amazing – is So Afraid by Fleetwood Mac. Here too Eldingar succeed to make their very particular translation. …another prove of this act’s ability to create traditional yet peculiar Music.
Maenads is a very diverse and melodic album with a timeless attitude and an adventurous atmosphere. It’s not the blaspheme corpse-paint form of Black Metal, but open-minded misanthropists all over our stinking globe might appreciate this first effort by Eldingar.