Review Summary: Elvencrack strike again with an intoxicating and addictive brand of European folk rock.
In 2007, the Italian Folk Metalers released their most commercially successful and also most critically ambivalent album to date. While still keeping the folk instruments (by which I mean the violin) and passionate songwriting of previous albums, The Scythe was a drastic change from the magical and wondrous power folk of the band’s first three albums. Coupled with a terrifying emo photo-shoot, the single was drastically different than the band’s previous album The Winter Wake, sending power metal fans into a state of shock. The album actually turned out to be pretty good, but the band had changed. Gone was the magical metal of Heathenreel, Wyrd and The Winter Wake, replaced with a darker, heavier sound with a more evident role of growled vocals. Now only a year later, Elvenking have released their 5th full studio album and it would seem that constant change is the new norm.
Two Tragedy Poets is an acoustic album, but not in the sense that it is metal done acoustically. There are hints of metal style and occasional electric guitars throughout, but the album can more accurately be described as folk rock. But what we have here is not a metal album, is not a rock album, is not a folk album; this is most importantly an Elvenking album! Despite the lack of electric guitars, thunderous drumming and basic metal mannerisms, many of the songs are reminiscent of the band’s metal style. Pure, soaring vocals ring out above the fast and melodic rhythm section, coupled with equally prominent leads from the guitars, violin and keyboards. The band’s slight punk influence shines through on a few tracks that bare some resemblance to bands like Skyclad and Dropkick Murphy’s; stunning Celtic style violin, quick drums, crystal clarion acoustic guitars, and a mix of choir and shouted gang vocals make songs like Another Awful Hobs Tale, Ask A Silly Question and Not My Final Song excitingly catchy, and also original and alluring. The lead singer Damnagoras has seemingly shed the harsh vocals and has returned to on the soaring impassioned vocals of the band’s earlier works. This is most evident on the gorgeous and folksy mid-tempo songs From Blood To Stone and Miss Conception.
Elvenking have never been a one-dimensional band, though. Even amongst the early power metal anthems of Heathenreel and Wyrd were very person songs that were powerful and emotionally stirring. 2007’s The Scythe was predominantly dark and reflective of great internal tumult and depression and many of the songs on Tragedy Poets continue the trend. The band continues their tradition of writing a few slow, ethereal, highly emotional ballads such as Heathenreel’s Skywards or The Winter Wake’s On The Morning Dew. My Own Spider’s Web is a poetic and musical catharsis. The powerful and heart-wrenching vocals and are accompanied by soulful and melodious acoustic guitars and violins in the style of a European folk song. The band continues the trend with songs like The Blackest of My Hearts and She Lives At Dawn. These songs paint of lucid and honest picture of some of the band member’s deepest and darkest emotions.
Also deserving mention are the cover songs of the album. Elvenking does acoustic covers of their songs The Winter Wake and The Wanderer, changing the vocal melodies slightly, adding a beautiful piano accompaniment and also adding additional instrumental passages; both are worth listening too and The Winter Wake actually feels like it was meant to be an acoustic song, although you could never tell by listening to metallic, raging original. And of course, the only song on the album with electric guitars throughout, Elvenking’s rock cover of Belinda Carlisle’s 1980s pop hit, Heaven Is A Place On Earth. I had never even heard of the song before hearing the Elvenking version. After comparing the two I have come to the conclusion that: this cover version ***ing slays. Bravo, Elvenking.
For the wanderers, the stargazers, the lovers and poets, and of course the minstrels and storytellers. This is Elvenking. Magnificently catchy, heartfelt, and powerful, Two Tragedy Poets is another glorious chapter in the band’s saga.