Folk Metal / Power Metal / Non-Metal / Heavy Metal • Italy
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Elvenking is a folk metal band formed in Sacile, Italy in October 1997 by guitarists Aydan and Jarpen. In March 1998 singer Damnagoras joins the band and only in the following September the group finds a definite stability with the arrival of Zender on the drums.

Right from the beginning, Elvenking set themselves the objective of finding a formula which can combine power metal, folk music and extreme sounds in a unique mixture. The one and only demo To Oak Woods Bestowed that was recorded in 2000 led the band to sign directly a contract with German leading label AFM-Records.

Meanwhile Elvenking enriches their sound with the entry of new bass player Gorlan. He first appeared in the band as a session player, but soon he joined Elvenking permanently as a member at all effects.

The first official album Heathenreel was released on July 23rd 2001 and received flattering reviews
Thanks to micky, adg211288 for the updates

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ELVENKING Discography

ELVENKING albums / top albums

ELVENKING Heathenreel album cover 4.24 | 17 ratings
Folk Metal 2001
ELVENKING Wyrd album cover 4.15 | 16 ratings
Folk Metal 2004
ELVENKING The Winter Wake album cover 3.86 | 14 ratings
The Winter Wake
Folk Metal 2006
ELVENKING The Scythe album cover 3.44 | 14 ratings
The Scythe
Power Metal 2007
ELVENKING Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures) album cover 4.28 | 16 ratings
Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures)
Non-Metal 2008
ELVENKING Red Silent Tides album cover 3.69 | 14 ratings
Red Silent Tides
Power Metal 2010
ELVENKING Era album cover 4.18 | 11 ratings
Folk Metal 2012
ELVENKING The Pagan Manifesto album cover 4.54 | 11 ratings
The Pagan Manifesto
Folk Metal 2014
ELVENKING Secrets of the Magick Grimoire album cover 4.68 | 6 ratings
Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Folk Metal 2017
ELVENKING Reader of the Runes - Divination album cover 4.75 | 4 ratings
Reader of the Runes - Divination
Folk Metal 2019

ELVENKING EPs & splits

ELVENKING live albums

ELVENKING The Night of Nights - Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Night of Nights - Live
Folk Metal 2015

ELVENKING demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ELVENKING To Oak Woods Bestowed album cover 3.69 | 4 ratings
To Oak Woods Bestowed
Folk Metal 2000

ELVENKING re-issues & compilations

ELVENKING singles (6)

.. Album Cover
4.75 | 2 ratings
From Blood to Stone
Non-Metal 2008
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5.00 | 1 ratings
Folk Metal 2014
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0.00 | 0 ratings
Draugen’s Maelstrom
Folk Metal 2017
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0.00 | 0 ratings
The Horned Ghost and the Sorcerer
Folk Metal 2017
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0.00 | 0 ratings
Invoking the Woodland Spirit
Folk Metal 2017
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4.00 | 1 ratings
No Prayer for the Dying
Heavy Metal 2020

ELVENKING movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)


ELVENKING Reader of the Runes - Divination

Album · 2019 · Folk Metal
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While it is generally believed that most bands get worse over time, either through failed experimentation or because their music has gone stale, I find that to not be entirely accurate, as there are certainly many bands out there who have not only aged well, but have arguably put out some of their very best works to date, in recent years. One such band is Italian power/folk metal band Elvenking, who have never released a single album I would call less than great, and they have been on a particularly impressive run over the past seven years, with the trio of Era, The Pagan Manifesto and Secrets of the Magick Grimoire all being among my favorite releases by the band. Every time I hear they’re releasing a new album, I get excited, because I trust in them to always deliver something special, and so when I heard their tenth full length release, Reader of the Runes – Divination, would be coming this year and that it would be the start of a multi part concept, I was beyond excited, to say the least! Now that Reader of the Runes is here, I can safely say it continues the band’s ongoing winning streak, and manages to be possibly their best release to date!

At this point in their career, Elvenking has settled into their signature blend of speedy, aggressive power metal and epic folk metal, and while some releases towards the middle of their career were a bit experimental, their past couple of releases have felt like a seamless blend of all aspects of their music, with everything coming together perfectly. This trend continues with Reader of the Runes, as it feels like the band has figured their sound out completely, and they know exactly what they want to do, so fans of any of their previous releases, are definitely in for a treat! The album explores their sound to every extreme, with some very aggressive speedy passages, some more relaxing, uplifting folk passages, some more epic mid paced passages, and plenty of tracks that bring everything together, for one awesome package. The songs are generally straight-forward, with very catchy choruses, but between the excellent guitar work, symphonic arrangements and all kinds of different folk instruments, there is a lot going on at times, and many of the tracks alternate between different movements, with frequent tempo changes throughout. Instrumentally, the release is equal parts hard hitting, epic and very melodic, as always, and performances are fantastic across the board, while vocalist Damna sounds as distinct, intense and memorable as always, singing very powerfully at times, while also being able to rein in it and carry some epic melodies. He remains one of the most unique features of the band, with his very distinct voice, and while everything about the album is amazing, his vocals are my favorite part of it, as usual.

Songwriting has always been a strength for Elvenking, so it’s no surprise Reader of the Runes is yet another triumph, with nothing but greatness from start to finish. While I found the previous release, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, to be book-ended with excellent tracks, and let down a tiny bit in the middle, this album is balanced all around, with my enjoyment never slipping off at all, throughout the entire release, across several listens: Just like The Pagan Manifesto, this album has a perfect a start, a perfect middle, and a perfect end.

The album opens with a brief intro, “Perthro”, which has various folk instrumentation and some epic chanting, as well as slight symphonic arrangements, and it’s a very relaxing, beautiful piece, which sets the tone wonderfully for what’s to come. Opening up the album in full force is “Heathen Divine”, which begins with more nice folk instrumentation before the guitars kick in and the pace picks up, never looking back. Verses are fairly fast paced, with some hard hitting riffs and fun vocal melodies, while the chorus goes full throttle and is the kind of epic, triumphant sounding chorus the band specializes in, except here it’s dialed up to the max, to somehow be even more awesome than usual. It’s certainly a wonderful way to kick off the album, and is one of the best choruses the band has ever written. The second half of the track mixes in some slightly slower passages, more epic vocal melodies and a great guitar solo, as well as an extra epic final run through the chorus. Overall, it’s an amazing song, and possibly my favorite on the entire album. The momentum doesn’t let up, though, as the first of two title tracks, “Divination” (also the third and most recent single,) is a fast paced, hard hitting track with some excellent riffs, furious verses, and a very fun, catchy choruses, which is a bit on the repetitive side, but in a way the band pulls off perfectly, so it ends up being energizing instead of annoying. There’s some nice folk melodies throughout, especially in the middle, to help make the track a wonderful blend of power and folk metal, like the band is capable of.

The first slower track on the album is second single “Silverseal”, a more relaxing, heavily folk infused track with some wonderful melodies. It moves along at a fairly slow but nice pace, with some relaxing, enjoyable verses, and the chorus is very melodic and warm, with some excellent vocals from Damna, but the highlight of the track is the wonderful folk instrumentation, especially in the middle, with some very nice melodies to accompany an epic guitar solo. Despite being on the slow side, it’s a very catchy track, and showcases the softer side of the band perfectly. Back on the heavier side of things, “The Misfortune of Virtue” starts off with more nice folk melodies, before turning into one of the heavier tracks on the album, with some pretty extreme sounding guitar work, and furious blast beats, at points. It’s mostly a fast paced track, with very heavy verses and instrumental sections, though the chorus is actually very soft and has some beautiful folk melodies, so it’s yet another case of the band blending the different aspects of their sound together perfectly. Once again on the softer side, “Eternal Eleanor” has some very soft, melodic guitar work, as well as a ton of folk instrumentation. It’s the calmest, most relaxing and most beautiful track on the album, with Damna singing very smoothly, and yet with a ton of emotion, giving a stunning performance. It feels like a classic folk tale set to music, with minor metal elements throughout, as well as slight symphonic arrangements. It has very nice verses and a huge, epic chorus, which only gets better towards the end, as it the sound gets bigger in scope and scale. Overall, it’s an incredible track, and one of my personal favorites. Following that is the brief interlude “Diamonds in the Night”, a largely acoustic folk infused ballad, which teases the chorus of the album ending second title track. It’s a brief, but very nice track, and serves as a nice interlude.

The lead single is “Under the Sign of a Black Star”, another softer, more folk infused track, though it has a bit more bite to it, thanks to some slightly heavy guitar work. Verses are fairly laid back, but still engaging, while the chorus is the kind of upbeat, epic and heartwarming material the band excels at, with some excellent vocal melodies, as always. The track has some heavy instrumental work in the second half, but it’s still a very nice, melodic folk metal track, overall. Getting back on the speedier side, “Malefica Doctrine” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and it does a nice job of alternating between speedy verses, with some very flashy guitar work, and a slower, epic chorus, with more wonderful vocals and folk melodies. The track varies in tempo a lot throughout, as well as alternating between heavy power metal passages, and lighter folk passages, to help make it another excellent blend of the band’s two styles. Next is “Sic Temper Tyrannis”, a more straight-forward track, which stays at a more moderate pace throughout. It has some epic symphonic arrangements, and is another heavier track, with a very epic, catchy chorus. The folk melodies are a bit more downplayed, compared to normal, but they’re still in there, though the track leans more towards symphonic power metal, overall, and does an excellent job of it.

Back on the more complicated side of things is “Warden of the Bane”, another track which alternates between some heavier passages, and some more melodic, epic folk passages. It gets a bit dark during the verses, before the uplifting melodies kick in for the chorus, and it alternates nicely between fast and slow passages, while being pretty heavy in spots, and beautiful in other sections. It’s another excellent track, overall. Closing out the album is the second title track “Reader of the Runes – Book I”, a near 11 minute epic, which takes everything the rest of the album has going, and dials it up to the absolute max! It has some fast, heavy passages, more amazing folk melodies, epic symphonic arrangements, and one of the biggest, catchiest and best choruses on the entire album. It alternates nicely between soft and heavy, as usual, and has some great extended instrumental work, while still having plenty of excellent vocal melodies. It’s an epic track, overall, and an amazing way to close out the album!

Elvenking are one of those bands that always deliver an excellent album, every time, and Reader of the Runes – Divination is no exception. It contains the same seamless blend of speedy, hard hitting power metal, and epic, uplifting folk metal as usual, while having some epic symphonic arrangements, and plenty of memorable huge, epic choruses, as always. This band has only gotten better with age, and while I initially thought The Pagan Manifesto could be unbeatable, this album may have just proven me wrong! Either way, it’s an absolute must buy for fans of the band,a s well as anyone looking for some truly special power/folk metal, as there really aren’t any other bands in the world who can pull this sound off nearly as well as Elvenking can. And with the promise of a direct follow up, I can’t wait to hear what comes next!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/31/elvenking-reader-of-the-runes-divination-review/

ELVENKING Secrets of the Magick Grimoire

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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Italy's Elvenking are pretty much a staple band of the folk metal and power metal genres by this point. While for a long time I've considered their peak to actually be their first album Heathenreel (2001), they've remained an incredible consistent band for me. Their fourth record The Scythe (2007) was one that took a while to appreciate, but most of their work has been easy to enjoy, with the primarily acoustic record Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures) (2008) also ending up a surprise highlight of their discography. They had a brief period where their releases tended to focus on either the folk or power metal aspect of their music more, but with their last album The Pagan Manifesto (2014) they returned to the fused folk-power metal sound that they started with. This reunification of their elements continues on Secrets of the Magick Grimoire (2017), Elvenking's ninth album.

The Pagan Manifesto was a great album. Certainly the best metal album that Elvenking had done since Heathenreel (though for my money I retain a great deal of affection for Two Tragedy Poets). The band have lost none of the momentum that made it so great in the three years since it's release, a recording gap that saw them release their first live album The Night of Nights (2015). It is fair to say that in terms of the elements used that Secrets of the Magick Grimoire is a more of the same kind of release. It's folk-power metal with a dash of symphonic elements, the latter being one of the elements that distinguishes this period of the band from the actual Heathenreel days, as well as it's follow-up Wyrd (2004). While some listeners may prefer a band who are more unpredictable with every release, which could be said of Elvenking for their 2006 – 2012 releases where everything from The Winter Wake (2006) to Era (2012) showcased something a bit different each time, on Secrets of the Magick Grimoire it's actually exactly what the doctor ordered. This album isn't so much a rehash of the previous but a refinement of its sound.

It's difficult to explain in words exactly why that is. The best way to realise it is to listen to the two releases back to back. While nothing can diminish how excellent The Pagan Manifesto was or that it had more than a few of its own nods to the early days, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire just feels even more like a throwback to their roots. Naturally it's better produced and polished being their ninth rather than their first album, but otherwise it would actually be easy to mistake this as an older release of the band, it sits so comfortably with their earlier material, while also being a natural follow-up to The Pagan Manifesto. While not necessarily untrue of the previous as well, the song-writing here really seems tailored to appeal to the old school fan.

The energy of the power metal genre is fully evident, while the folk melodies are very tastefully integrated. Yet the album is no less excellent during those parts where the band do dial things back a bit, such as during The Wolves Will be Howling Your Name. Vocalist Damn is on fine form throughout, his distinctive voice as always acting like the icing on the cake within the band's sound. He's joined here by a few guest vocalists, such as female vocalist Elisabetta Furlanetto. Elvenking have regularly had guest female singers on their albums and some of their best material has come out of those collaborations, which is true here as well. There are also growls, maybe a few less than on The Pagan Manifesto overall, this time performed by Angus Norder of the bands Nekrokraft and Witchery, rather than former band member Jarpen. The most high profile guest though has to be Snowy Shaw, known for acts such as Notre Dame and Mad Architect as well as several guest appearances with Therion, who appears on At the Court of the Wild Hunt.

There's nothing here that won't be able to convince you that Secrets of the Magick Grimoire isn't another excellent album from Elvenking. There are no dull moments, with every track on a par with the rest. There's a couple that stand out early on, for me being A Grain of Truth and 3 Ways to Magick, but repeat listens will assert everything to be on the same level. I'll always admit whenever I review an Elvenking record that my favouritism for Heathenreel has a bit to do with nostalgia – it was through that record that I discovered this wonderful thing called folk metal – but there's a good chance that with continuing exposure I'll come to regard this one even higher. For now though, it's absolutely in the top three albums from the band.

Additionally if you don't mind spending a few extra quid, it's well worth picking up a special edition of Secrets of the Magick Grimoire. This will net you an additional four tracks. The first two of these are Petalstorm and The Open Breach, both of which were previously Japanese bonus tracks on prior albums. The real draw of the bonus material though is the 2010 version Jigsaw Puzzle. This song originally appeared on Wyrd, the only album in Elvenking's back catalogue not to feature the voice of Damna, so it's a window into what might have been had he not had a couple of years out of the band. Finally there's the 2008 version of Skywards, which is an acoustic version of the song originally from Heathenreel, undoubtedly from the Two Tragedy Poets sessions, though it doesn't appear to have been released before as far as I can tell. All are very much worth having.

ELVENKING Secrets of the Magick Grimoire

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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Being a huge power metal fan, and someone who likes it equally when in its purest form and when mixed with other genres, one of my absolute favorite genre combinations is power/folk metal, a style which has sadly not been done a lot in recent years, but the best band in the style continues to go strong. Of course, I’m talking about Italian band Elvenking, who stormed onto the scene with their incredible debut Heathenreel in 2001, and they haven’t let up ever since. The band has managed to come up with a very diverse sound while sticking with their two main genres, and they’ve certainly surprised folks throughout their career, sometimes going for a more aggressive, almost metalcore sound, sometimes completely toning down the power metal in favor of pure folk, and sometimes striking a near perfect balance between the two. Their previous release, The Pagan Manifesto felt like their best and most perfectly balanced release to date, serving as a perfect summary of everything the band is capable of, so I had high expectations for their next release. Three and a half years later, they’re back with their ninth full-length album Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, and if its predecessor felt like a mission statement, this release feels like the band continuing to execute that mission to near perfection.

Compared to past releases, Secret of the Magick Grimoire doesn’t feel like a big departure from previous albums. Many times in their career, just when it seemed like their fans had them figured out, Elvenking would manage to surprise them, with no release sounding very similar to the previous release. However, after The Pagan Manifesto managed to be such a perfect blend of everything the band had done before, it really felt like they didn’t have much room to develop their sound further, and so it’s no surprise this album feels like a direct continuation. What this means is, anyone who loved the previous album is almost certainly going to love this album as well, as the band has once again struck the perfect balance between speedy power metal, epic folk melodies, huge choruses, heavy riffs, occasional sections with harsh vocals and huge symphonic arrangements at times. Basically, everything the band has done on previous albums is here in full force and executed just as brilliant as always. I thought the songwriting on The Pagan Manifesto was both extremely varied yet consistently perfect, and aside from a couple tracks in the middle that don’t quite seem up to par with the rest, Secrets of the Magic Grimoire follows suit. There’s a nice mix of more straight-forward power metal, more relaxing tracks that put extra emphasis on the folk elements, tracks that strike a perfect blend between the two, alternating between heavy, fast-paced sections and calmer, more folk-infused sections, and even a couple full symphonic power metal epics where the band dials everything up to 11. As with the previous album, the band has struck a nice balance between having a polished sound, and some excellent musicianship, including some excellent solos, while also having a raw energy to the music, with very high energy performances all around.

Another area where the band has always excelled is the vocals, and of course, Damna is as great here as he’s ever been. As always, he has a unique delivery that sounds a bit rawer and a bit more wild compared to a typical power metal vocalist, and he brings a certain kind of passion and intensity to the songs that fit the music perfectly. He uses some surprisingly deep and creepy sounding vocals on this album at times, as well as the occasional softer vocals, as usual. There’s also the occasional use of harsh vocals. These are very good and are used quite a few times, though they’re often kept in the background, adding extra flavor to the songs without getting in the way of Damna’s always stellar lead vocals.

In the songwriting department, while I wouldn’t quite put this album on the same level as its predecessor, it’s still a consistently satisfying release, with several songs that do reach the masterpiece status of the band’s career high point, while even the couple exceptions are still excellent tracks in their own right, which simply don’t quite blow me away as much as the others. The album gets off to an amazing start with “Invoking the Woodland Spirit”, a track which only clocks in at a little over 6 minutes, but it definitely feels like an epic, as orchestral elements are in full effect, and it’s a very fast-paced, super epic symphonic power metal track with slight folk leanings. It’s definitely on par with some of the band’s absolute best work to date, with the verses being fast-paced and very engaging, while the chorus is absolutely phenomenal, and the guitar solo in the second half is very melodic and very impressive as well. Overall, it’s the kind of track where it feels like the band went all out and delivered one of their absolute best songs to date. Following that incredible opener is the lead single “Draugen’s Maelstrom”, another fairly speedy track, which has an excellent lead guitar melody and again has fun, energetic verses to go along with an insanely catchy chorus, where some death growls are used nicely in support of Damna’s lead vocals, and it makes for a pretty cool effect. The instrumental section gets really speedy and intense and is a definite high point of the album. Overall, another instant winner, and of the band’s best singles, for sure.

Following such an impressive opening, the remainder of the album mostly follows suit, with other early highlights including “The One We Shall Follow”, a slower track with some excellent melodies, more symphonic elements, epic choir vocals and another fantastic chorus, as well as the second single “The Horned Ghost and the Sorcerer”, a mid-paced, folk-infused track which again has some incredible melodies, fun verses and perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album. It definitely brings to mind “Pagan Revolution” from the previous album and is almost as fun and catchy as that song, with the folk melodies perhaps being even better than on that track, and it’s definitely another excellent choice for a single. It has an excellent softer section in the middle where the band uses some tribal drums as well as some epic acoustic folk instrumentation for a bit, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of the album. After those two, we have “A Grain of Truth” a track which has some slower paced, heavier verses, mixes with a speedy chorus where the harsh vocals lead the way. I think the excellent, melodic pre-chorus section is my favorite part of this track, though the chorus is nice as well, and overall it’s one of those tracks that doesn’t quite impress me as much as some of the best on the album, but it’s still very good overall. Rounding out the first half is “The Wolves Will Be Howling Your Name”, a track which blends power and folk metal elements seamlessly and is a fantastic track. It starts off with some epic folk elements and has a nice use of violins throughout. The verses alternate between slow and speedy passages, while the chorus is slow and calm, with some of Damna’s best vocals on the album. The track has some amazing folk melodies throughout and is definitely another highlight.

The second half begins with two very good, but not quite outstanding tracks in “3 Ways to Magick” and “Straight Inside Your Winter”. The former again has a nice blend of power and folk elements and the chorus is amazing, but it feels like it loses focus at times, trying to fit a bit too much into it’s 4 and a half minute runtime, so it ends up not being as memorable as some of the other tracks on the album, while the latter is the slowest full-length song on the album and it has some nice folk melodies and a nice chorus, but it simply doesn’t quite reach the heights many of the other songs reach.

The remainder of the second half, though is perfect and very much represents some of the best music found on the album. First up is “The Voynich Manuscript”, a near 6 and a half minute track, which has a perfect blend between speedy power metal passages and calm folk passages, as well as one of the best choruses on the album, some of the most energetic and exciting verses, and a ton of memorable moments. The music gets darker and more epic in the second half, and from there the song just gets insanely good, with the ending sequence having some of the best harsh vocals on the entire album. Next is “Summon the Dawnlight”, the shortest and most relaxed of the final three full songs, though it’s still fairly fast paced and has some excellent lead guitar melodies and some verses which, while not overly speedy, move along at a nice enough pace and are very fun, while the chorus is simply fantastic as always, and the instrumental section is perhaps the best on the album. The last full song is “At the Courst of the Wild Hunt”, which starts off with a very folk-infused section, featuring some dark and kinda creepy vocals, performed by guest Snowy Shaw, before the track speeds up and turns into another very epic, symphonic power metal track, with another excellent chorus, extremely energetic verses, an amazing middle section where the folk elements appear again, and some nice surprises in the second half. It definitely feels like the band packed a lot into this track, but everything works perfectly and it’s up there with “Invoking the Woodland Spirit” as one of my two favorite songs on the album. Lastly, we have “A Cloak of Dusk”, an acoustic outro which features some nice violin melodies, as well as some of the softest vocals ever performed by Damna. It’s a nice little track which ends the album effectively.

Overall, Secrets of the Magic Grimoire is another outstanding album from Elvenking, which builds off the momentum they gained from their career high point The Pagan Manifesto, and at times even reaches the same level of perfection. I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as that release on the whole, but it has its moments for sure, and overall it’s another fantastic blend of power and folk metal, with occasional symphonic elements and harsh vocals, as usual. Fans of past Elvenking albums are sure to enjoy this one, especially those who loved the previous release, while anyone looking for a nice blend of power, folk and symphonic metal is highly recommended to give this album a try.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/11/01/elvenking-secrets-magic-grimoire-review/

ELVENKING The Pagan Manifesto

Album · 2014 · Folk Metal
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Primeval Scum
Elvenking blasts back into the forefront of the power and folk metal scenes with The Pagan Manifesto, a triumphant return to form for the Italian veterans. Their debut Heathenreel is a magnificent album with a special place in my heart, but none of their subsequent albums capture the same magic. Sure, they are all competent and have a few good songs each, but none of them left me with the jubilant, fulfilled feeling that Heathenreel always delivered.

The Pagan Manifesto has changed that. It's not going to dethrone Heathenreel, but it's their first album that truly lives up to the legacy of the debut. The band sounds fresher and more exciting than they have in a long, long time. There is not a single weak track to be found here, as each one is overflowing with that vibrant pagan spirit we all love and is filled with countless infectious melodies (including a cameo of the guitar melody from Heathenreel's "White Willow" on track 2). Indeed, after only two full listens, I can already recite the chorus to almost every track at the top of my lungs.

The Pagan Manifesto not for everyone - the cheese factor is quite high and it's a fun-oriented album that doesn't take itself too seriously. But if you have ever enjoyed anything by Elvenking, do yourself a favor and get this album. From the epicness "King of the Elves" and "Witches Gather" to the unbridled energy of "Elvenlegions" and "Pagan Revolution" to the heartfelt emotion of "Towards the Shores" and "Twilight of Magic", this is as consistent and memorable of a folk/power metal album I've heard in a while. I will rate it at 4.0 for now, though it may rise to 4.5 with further listens.

ELVENKING The Pagan Manifesto

Album · 2014 · Folk Metal
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The Pagan Manifesto (2014) is the eighth full-length album by Italian folk/power metal act Elvenking. It's the first album for some time that has feature the same line-up as the previous one, Era (2012) and features some guest vocals by Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Aina et al) and growls by former Elvenking member Jarpen.

I count Elvenking among my favourite bands, but despite that I've always felt that they were an act whose career has had its ups and downs, starting with a couple of really strong folk-power metal albums, namely Heathenreel (2001) and Wyrd (2004), the former of which has remained a special release to me to this day, being the first folk metal album I ever owned. I've also always considered it to be their best work despite their music becoming more professional sounding in the years that have followed. In fact I think that with each of the next three Elvenking albums the band put out releases of a declining quality. Wyrd to my ears was excellent, but as the only album in the band's catalogue without usual frontman Damna it can certainly be considered the odd one out. He came back for The Winter Wake (2006), but although that album was catchy and had many great songs, it never moved me the same way as Heathenreel did. The band then hit their all time low with The Scythe (2007), an album that it has taken me many years to find an appreciation for, although I do enjoy it much more now than I used to. The Scythe was the album where Elvenking toned down their folk elements a bit, bringing their music closer to pure power metal.

It was this point in their career that Elvenking did a shocker, ditching metal and producing the mostly acoustic folk album Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures) (2008). The fact that they made such an album wasn't the shocking thing in itself, although the timing was surprising considering the sound of The Scythe, but the energy the album had was. It was the closest thing the band had come to replicating the magic of Heathenreel and considering at the time I really did not enjoy The Scythe I actually wanted Elvenking to keep playing the style heard on Two Tragedy Poets, which quickly asserted itself as my second favourite by the group. That was not to be, as they returned to playing power metal on Red Silent Tides (2010), and again lessened their folk elements compared to their first three albums. Red Silent Tides did however break some new ground for Elvenking, as it had both traditional metal and hard rock leanings. It was also a solid album in my mind, but quite the major step down again after Two Tragedy Poets.

It was Era, their most recent album prior to the release of The Pagan Manifesto, that became their first release since The Winter Wake that could be called a folk metal album, but the power metal elements felt more restrained on it, making it a very different sounding release to the early work, although I ended up considering it their third best album after Heathenreel and Two Tragedy Poets. A trend had emerged by this point; Elvenking's unfortunate habit of alternating between a lesser album and an excellent one. With The Pagan Manifesto it is again the turn of the lesser album.

Only this is not only the album where Elvenking have bucked that trend, but also the first time that they've matched that special energy that Heathenreel had in a metal context. The power metal elements are again focussed and are actually quite aggressive at times. In fact this album is the most focussed power metal sounding album they've released since The Scythe. Unlike The Scythe and Red Silent Tides they haven't lessened their folk elements though. The sound is direct and powerful. Calling it a back to the roots release wouldn't be wrong. There are differences, there are less growls used on The Pagan Manifesto than on the early albums, although because they are performed by Jarpen it certainly adds to the Heathenreel/Wyrd throwbacks. There are also traces of more recent Elvenking, as the symphonic elements that were also heard on Era make a return, especially in the final song Witches Gather which is like a perfect cross between Heathenreel and Era style Elvenking.

Era was the best metal album that Elvenking had released since their debut at the time, but The Pagan Manifesto easily usurps it. The real difference that sets this album above that one is how much more commanding it sounds. As a fan of the band since the time that The Winter Wake was their current album, my jaw is literally on the floor at how strong The Pagan Manifesto is. Heathenreel will always be a special album to me on a personal level, but sitting back and being objective it's pretty clear to me that Elvenking as an act have come a long way since 2001, maturing as songwriters and producing their most accomplished work to date in The Pagan Manifesto. It's taken them a long time and many line-up changes to do this (Damna and guitarist Aydan are the only original members at this point), but it's most certainly proved worth the wait.

An early highlight of The Pagan Manifesto is the most surprising track on the album, King of the Elves, which is the longest Elvenking track to date at almost thirteen minutes. Most artists tend to stick epic length tracks like this at the very end of an album, as Elvenking themselves did with their previous record holder from Wyrd, A Poem for the Firmament, but this time Elvenking have made the unusual choice to put it second, after a short intro, The Manifesto. It may just be the best song the band has ever done, featuring great folk melodies (including a throwback to White Willow, a song from Heathenreel), those quite aggressive power metal riffs, guest female vocals by Somerville, a symphonic section and more. It's a real statement about the direction of the album and nothing else is really needed to hook the listener in and placing it second is surprisingly effective.

After the epic is over The Pagan Manifesto is an album that keeps on delivering the goods with catchy power metal dominate tracks like the directly following lead single Elvenlegions, less power metal based stuff like Pagan Revolution and a fully folk song in the form of Towards the Shores. As a long-time follower of the band I can say with a certainly that the album embodies all the best sounds of the band's career and also that we're dealing with top quality Elvenking work here. There's absolutely no reason for a 5 star rating is not deserved for this one.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/elvenking-the-pagan-manifesto-t3515.html)

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