ELVENKING — The Scythe (review)

ELVENKING — The Scythe album cover Album · 2007 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
The Scythe (2007) is the fourth full-length album from Italian Folk/Power Metal act Elvenking. It is the band’s first concept album and is darker in tone than any of their previous efforts, being themed around death. Writing this review so long after the album's original release I’m fortunate enough to benefit from a bit of hindsight in regard to the album; I know for example that this is the most controversial album in the Elvenking catalogue - it received positive reviews from the metal press upon its release and became the band’s most successful album, but it received a largely negative backlash from the band’s fans. A backlash which included yours truly. You see, what you're reading here is in fact a heavily altered review for The Scythe. The reason for needing to edit this review in 2014 (the band have just released their eighth album The Pagan Manifesto (2014)) is simple: I changed my mind.

Back in the time when The Scythe was their current album, which wasn't long after I first discovered Elvenking through their debut Heathenreel (2001), I have something of a love/hate relationship with it, which gradually descended more and more towards hate and when I took it upon myself to review all of the Elvenking discography, I ended up giving The Scythe an admittedly harsh 1 star range rating. It's 2014 now though, and seven years is a long time. Tastes and people change. With The Pagan Manifesto recently out and frankly kicking my arse in a way the band has never done since Heathenreel I decided to revisit the whole back catalogue again, including The Scythe. I had done almost the same when Era (2012) was released, but skipped this one over. Maybe if I hadn't this story review would have been told a couple of years earlier. But the point is time has done a number on my opinion of The Scythe, and I find that I now quite enjoy the album.

But first, a theory as to why this album got such a backlash in 2007; on this album Elvenking, who despite also being a power metal have always been more known as a folk metal act, decided to withdraw their use of folk elements a little, and although they are still present quite often, I don't quite feel comfortable calling The Scythe a folk metal album. It's a power metal album with strong folk influences. But there are also some more modern sounding touches, such as the inclusion of random grunts and screams which is still a feature I don't like about The Scythe. Elvenking had many more growls on Heathenreel in particular, and a few on Wyrd (2004) too, but there were utilised much more tastefully on both those albums and feel necessary by this point, as band frontman Damna has evolved into a much more capable vocalist than he was in the early days. I've always enjoyed his performance on Heathenreel, but he did come over as an aquired taste in those days and I know that many others have always criticized his vocals and were happy when he did not appear on Wyrd. Some songs on the album even feel quite commercially orientated even by power metal standards, and that's always a problem with a certain type of metal fan.

One aspect of The Scythe that I have always been positive about is its use of narration, which is done quite poetically. I usually dislike so much narration in music, but Elvenking really made it work here. With the album having finally opened up to me the music is also pretty strong too, with tracks like Lost Hill of Memories and A Riddle of Stars being two of the most praiseworthy to my ears. It some ways the music actually feels superior to its direct predecessor The Winter Wake (2006), as parts of that album have always sounded a bit rough around the edges to my ears, but well, I really do not enjoy those random grunts I mentioned.

It remains true in my mind that since Heathenreel Elvenking were an act on diminishing returns and that The Scythe is their weakest release to date, as of 2014, but it's actually far from a bad album, in hindsight, and I regret previously writing it off with such venom and suggesting that people use it as a spare beer mat (really, I said that). What is the moral of this story? I don't know. It could be never write an album off too fast, or never ever write negative reviews and listen to that release again years later or something else entirely. Point is, it seems to me that a 4 star range rating is much more appropriate than the 1 star that I originally gave The Scythe, so this new review is me rectifying a past mistake.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/elvenking-the-scythe-t1929.html)
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adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I have actually reviewed this album before, but I changed my mind about it so much that I just deleted the old one and reposted.

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