Review Summary: Elvenking release their debut album.... And the forest rejoices!
So ya love them folk music, ya say? Ya spend yer days a-singin’ and a-swingin’ in trees of the Elven woods; lute in your hands, bow on yer back? Well, I have an album for ya! An album that shakes the trees with its roarin’, ragin’ power-folk anthems, and could move the angriest of trolls to tears with its acoustic ballads! This is the Heathenreel.
The debut album of famed Power-Folk metal band Elvenking was recorded and released in 2001. At the dawn of a new millennium, the spirit and melody of European folk music a millennia old was as alive as ever, but it had assumed a new form. Fusing the fast, soaring melodic metal style pioneered by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the ancient sounds of the minstrels and bards of Europe, as well as a modern folk metal twist that shows influence from fellow metal bands Skyclad, and Blind Guardian, Elvenking have forged a unique and alluring style of their own.
The band on this album consists of 5 members. 2 Guitarists, Aydan and Jarpen who play a fast power metal style of technical guitar riffing and melodic folksy harmonies, and also contribute their vocal talents. Zender, a skilled and creative drummer, Gorlan a bass magician. And of course, the king of them Elves himself, Damnagoras whose beautiful, jovial vocal style soars high above the instrumentation sending the spirit of the Elves through the listener’s ears and into their heart. There are many guest musicians on the album; most importantly Elyghen, a violinist and keyboardist who joined the band later on as their sixth member.
The album starts with To Oak Woods Bestowed, an acoustic instrumental that lures the listener into the vast woods of the Elvenking. Its enchanting melodies paint a picture of Elven minstrels playing as the others dance cheerfully around a fire. The tranquil, serene jig is short-lived and is soon replaced by the loud drums, booming bass and memorable guitar lead of the intro of Pagan Purity. Beautiful lead guitar, stunning vocal harmonies, crisp acoustic switches, and some mean fiddle playing make this song a winner. Using many instruments, and many voices in harmony with a dynamic, always changing song structure seems to be the Elvenking formula on songs like Hobs an’ Feathers, White Willow, The Dweller of Rhymes, and A Dreadful Strain. They’ll make a one–legged goblin dance until that leg falls off.
The band also seems to like to experiment. To compose songs of a more progressive nature. While still keeping the their folk style, the band ventures down below their forest into the caves of the unknown with songs like Conjuring of the 14th, Under the Tree of Us’dum Seasonspeech, and Oakenshield. The songs are longer and are very well thought out melodically and structurally. While many folk bands will ride the same 3 tonal riffs throughout a whole song, Elvenking choose a more dynamic and creative style. Making use of choir vocals, pan flutes, keyboards, Violins and other folk instrumentals simultaneously. One can sense a little Jethro Tull influence. While Elvenking don’t have the lightning-quick guitar shredding of other power metal bands on this album, they more than make up for it with innovation.
Out of the caves and into the sky! Skywards is my personal favorite on the album. It’s an acoustic ballad about a lonely wanderer searching for his place in the world and shows us that Elvenking are great lyricists as well:
"Skywards again, I search for my dimension
People don't know how I am alive
Experience has taught to count every single move
Now I know I'm standing alone
Stone after stone I'm moulding my shelter
I watch it grow with endless delight
Carry me, carry me all your devotion
Deep in my heart to see my haven fall once again”
Multiple acoustic guitars, violin, a soprano vocalist in the background, and wonderful vocal performance by Damnagoras will capture the heart of any being, Troll, Elf, or Man.
This is a stunning debut from a wonderous band of musicians. May the spirit of the Elves live on in all of our hearts. And may it be heard through your speakers with Heathenreal.