MAY 22nd 2014

Review by Anka

Elvenking is one of the long-running names in European folk-metal. Somehow I always felt they never got the attention they deserved, as other bands were gaining more and more popularity, their name was always overshadowed.  Not sure if Elvenking actually lacked the ridiculous catchiness other bands had, but in all seriousness, their music had pretty much everything a folk/power metal fan could ever wish for: fast power metal riffing, catchy elements galore, well done folk parts and medieval themes. With every album, it seems they have consolidated their sound even more, so that the new release “The Pagan Manifesto” sounds evolved and more confident. There is still the basic duality folk-power metal à la Elvenking - so nothing essential is missing. And yet it’s different …

A 12-song long story, or as the band would say “a piece of life – our fans’ and ours”, the album offers the diversity one would expect from the band, all put together in a mix of power metal, symphonic and folk elements flirting with classic rock at times. But one of the very first songs takes it even farther - “King of the Elves” brings in the ample orchestrations to back up the power metal line, and with added choirs and musical dialogue this easily delves into rock-opera sounding territory. The song’s guest singer Amanda Somerville’s performance is mesmerizing as always.

What is fascinating to me is the way Elvenking plays with so many elements, be them styles or instruments, at the same time. From one acoustic passage, the song could seamlessly flows to power metal riffing then towards dark, almost cinematic sounding parts.  And then there’s the anthem-like “Elvenlegions”, a song dedicated to the band’s fans, that might just become one of the best sing-alongs of the year. One of my favorite tracks is “The Solitaire” which seems to add a bit more variation in the vocals and harmonies, to the point where it sounds like a folk conversion of a melodic metalcore piece.  And that’s gutsy - but well done.
There’s plenty of straight-up power metal to enjoy, a lot of catchiness and fist-pumping choruses that will resonate in your head long after the songs are over. Folk-dominated tunes like “The Druid Ritual of Oak” and “Pagan Revolution“ are maybe a bit more complex than your average folk-metal songs, but  they don’t lose the highly entertaining factor.  Maybe Elvenking simply do it at a larger scale – note that bombastic sound constructed in multiple layers of everything (guitars, keyboard, all sorts of orchestrations, choirs, and main vocals), so it makes this quite a big piece to swallow, but the experience certainly feels satisfying.  Simpler, ballad style tracks are as pleasant as they are comforting:  “Towards the Shores” is an acoustic piece worth adding to your best-of folk collection.

If I had to mention something I didn’t quite like, and it’s probably a personal preference, is the way orchestrations and keyboards are integrated in the mix, sometimes they do sound like they are simply attached to the rest of the mix and not well balanced within the whole.  I do imagine it’s no easy-peasy thing to put all these things together, so my tolerance is at an all-time kindest. 

Overall this is a very pleasant listen and a must-have for fans of power/folk metal that maybe want something a bit more evolved than your standard violin - pagan shouts – troll loving band.  It is ambitious and it sounds convincing, while offering a lot of varied “content” at a time when many similar bands are evidently losing their creative juices. Definitely worth a listen.