REVIEW: Eleine – EP: Acoustic in Hell

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Swedish dark symphonic metal unit ELEINE have always been a hit-or-miss –type of band for me in the sense that, while I really enjoy Madeleine Liljestam’s absolutely gorgeous voice, for some reason I can’t really connect to their music or their lyrics. So, with the release of the EP “Acoustic in Hell” on October 14th, 2022, via Atomic Fire Records, I thought I’d give their music another try maybe it will appeal more to me, especially considering how much I love a good acoustic reinterpretation.

Over the course of 33 minutes, we hear stripped-down versions of eight tracks from their back catalog, specifically chosen to be re-arranged in an acoustic format. Unlike the effort that ELEINE’s touring companions for fall/winter 2022, SONATA ARCTICA, have put into their “Acoustic Adventures” albums, the Swedish band opted for a more direct and raw approach, using just an acoustic guitar, vocals, drums, and some percussive elements here and there to accent certain moments of the songs. Talking about this process, guitarist/vocalist Rikard Ekberg stated in the press release that the band, “wanted to keep it raw and authentic but still give the acoustic versions their own identity,” and I would say they managed this with flying colors.

Opening the proceedings is 2018 hit “Whisper My Child,” where the powerful bass line is relegated to the background as guitar strums and drum beats are brought to the forefront to accompany Madeleine Liljestam’s vocals. More or less the same can be said about “Enemies” from their breakthrough album, “Dancing in Hell,” (2020) where the driving rhythm is well kept by the interplay of drums and guitars, while the added growls make this rendition as menacing and bombastic as the original. The heavier songs like “Ava of Death” and “Death Incarnate” retain their edge thanks to the spirited drums that keep a tight rhythm, guiding the guitars along the way, while the back-and-forth between cleans and growls are the heartbeats of these songs. “Break Take Live” is the only cut that doesn’t fully convince me in this layout, because something doesn’t feel quite right and for me, that element is the growled vocals, as they feel out of place here.

On the other hand, emotionally-driven “Memoriam” is the type of song that would have always sounded fantastic in acoustic format and I am happy that they included it, as it truly is a highlight from the EP, wonderfully performed by Madeleine with subdued percussions giving it more texture and depth. The title track of their 2019 EP, “All Shall Burn,” again feels like it was always meant to be played acoustically, as the guitar and vocals melodies really shine through here, even more so than on its symphonic version. Closing track “Hell Moon” also sounds amazing in this acoustic setup thanks to the guitar melodies and the vocal deliveries. To reiterate a point that I made in my review of “Dancing in Hell,ELEINE “is at its best when she [Madeleine] is given free rein to take the song in whatever direction she wants with her vocals” and this is the main strength of this EP – her vocals come across both soft and angelic but also somber and aggressive, depending on the songs, thus breathing new life into them.

All things considered, this EP showcases a new and beautiful side of ELEINE’s music, as the trio have no problem displaying a more emotional and vulnerable side. At the same time, these songs work so well (apart from the odd one out) because of the excellent songwriting that went into creating them, this acoustic format just revealing all that craft and putting the strong melodies into a new light. If you’re a fan of unplugged music, then don’t miss “Acoustic in Hell,” it’s well worth it.   

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

01. Whisper my Child
02. Enemies
03. Memoriam
04. Ava of Death
05. All Shall Burn
06. Death Incarnate
07. Break Take Live
08. Hell Moon

Lineup

Madeleine Liljestam – Vocals
Rikard Ekberg – Guitar, vocals
Jesper Sunnhagen – Drums

Label

Atomic Fire Records

Links

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