Crime Records

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Elvenking - The Pagan Manifesto Review

Band: Elvenking
Album: The Pagan Manifesto
Label: AFM Records
Genre: Power Metal / Folk Metal
Country: Italy
Release Date: May 9th, 2014

I always get a little excited at the prospect of a new pagan, folk metal album.  I'm not strictly pagan myself but I enjoy the sentiment.  After all if you're going to worship anything at all then it may as well be something that's physical such as the sun, moon, water, trees etc.  After all, we know they're there and we know they exude life giving properties.  But, Elvenking aren't a band I've previously known.  They don't fit the "normal" folksy pagan metal mold that I usually gravitate toward.  To begin with they're not Finnish or Swedish or hail from some Germanic land oft associated with such music and they don't confine themselves to the "lets all drink copious amounts of alcohol and slay our enemies until we meet in Valhalla, thank you very much" kind of mish-mash. Secondly, if you're used to pagan metal being raw or rough around the edges, such as Korpiklaani or Finntroll, you're in for a surprise.  Elvenking fit more into the ilk of Stratovarious but with folk instruments thrown in. Due to this I feel a little dubious about it because pagan metal, to me, means dirty and raw.  Will I want to don a pair of buck antlers and head to the local sacred grove, or will I want to hex this album from the face of the earth?
     Elvenlegions is the first single off the album and it's a corker.  It has all the old Elvenking magic here and more.  Not only do we have the famous EK melodies but also a much more mature heaviness, something this album seems to show case.
     King Of The Elves is one of the stand out tracks, and may be the longest track EK have made to date and it's truly epic.  It's also incredibly uplifting which is something pagan or folk metal seems to possess in juxtaposition to most other metal styles.  That said, it works well if only for the reason that it's ambitious and technical.  Not that it's the only reason, the fact that it's long and doesn't seem to grow tedious is another.
     There is loads to be getting on with in this album as a whole, and it's a long one but what really shines are the performances of the band.  Im not going to suggest that they are the best at their game but Damna, Aydan, Rafahel, Jakob, Symohn and Lethien all work so well together that you'd be forgiven for thinking so. The only real criticism I could have for The Pagan Manifesto, apart from the lack of any real originality (nobody was expecting ground breaking stuff anymore than they'd expect the Spanish Inquisition), is its high level of polish.  That said, it gives the band an incredibly professional sound.
     But all good things must come to an end and the whole story is nicely finished with my personal favourite, Witches Gather, with its well crafted guitar hooks and "Ye Olde Inn"  folk dance moment.
     Elvenking, in short, seem to be making leaps and bounds toward a more mature, heavier and streamlined sound.  Get me not wrong, the melodies and the catchiness are still here aplenty and on probably every track, but there's a new chunkiness, for want of a better word. Another point worth mentioning, and it would be a negative point for some, is that it still retains the fromage, the cheesiness of previous EK offerings.  Personally I love this, it brings to mind Blind Guardian at their cheesiest moments and is what folk is all about. In my opinion the genre of which EK are purveyors has become stagnant but they have definitely brought a little freshness with The Pagan Manifesto, due to it's beautiful song-writing, great solos and general catchiness.  So, I think it's safe to say that I can now don my buck antlers and jauntily make my way to the local sacred yew.

1. The Manifesto
2. King of the Elves
3. Elvenlegions
4. The Druid Ritual of Oak
5. Moonbean Stone Circle
6. The Solitaire
7. Towards the Shores
8. Pagan Revolution
9. Grandier's Funeral Pyre
10. Twilight of Magic
11. Black Roses for the Wicked One
12. Witches Gather

Total Playing Time: 63:57