What is there not to love about this band? Elvenking takes the original, cookie-cutter mold of a European Power Metal band and warps it, changing its sound so much that it is nearly thrusted out of the genre. Elvenking combines a surreal, even hazy Power Metal sound and adds very present Folk influences to it, leaving the finished product a mixture of speedy, fantastic Power Metal with slow, romantic Folk music. The Winter Wake is arguably Elvenking's best representation of this style of music.
One thing you will probably notice is the strong, distinctive presence of a violin throughout the album. This violin accompaniment is probably what lends Elvenking its original sound, complimenting both lead guitar and vocals in its dynamic, backing role. Never before had I heard such loud and consistent violin playing in metal, and I have grown to love it immensely. Their violinist, Elyghen, is an essential component to Elvenking, and The Winter Wake probably wouldn't have been all that it is without him.
The Winter Wake is so perfect, so absolutely astounding in its crafting and original in its sound, that it does not deserve anything less than a 5/5. I cannot name one low point on this album - it is supremely infused with emotional vocals, catchy rhythm riffs and an astounding role on the part of the violinist. It may be a little hard to get used to for big fans of growled out death metal, because of the vocals, but once you listen to a few songs off the album, you will realize how much they compliment the sound. I know for a fact when I first heard the albums vocals I immediately thought "Skater Punk!", but, I took a few moments to think about it, and could not imagine Elvenking's sound any other way. There are a few screamed portions on The Winter Wake, but none last for more than thirty seconds apiece and are very understandable at that.
However, none of what I have mentioned before is what makes this album "A Classic". What makes Elvenking's The Winter Wake truly timeless is its listenability. Ever since I got this album, I have used it to introduce my friends to Power Metal, Folk Metal, and metal as a whole. People that were once listening to Radiohead are now rocking out to Elvenking, as are people who were once headbanging to Behemoth. Although I'd like to think that this is a little piece of magic thrown into the album by the frequently mentioned sprites and witches mentioned in the lyrics, I know that The Winter Wake's unique trait to please everyone is in its fine musicianship. There is not one other album I can think of that is so superbly crafted.
Before I listened to The Winter Wake, the only album that I ever had the patience to listen to all the way through was Wintersun's Self-Titled album, but no more. There is no low point on this album, just jovial points, depressing points, mysterious points...the list goes on and on. Elvenking's unique talent to convey emotion and atmosphere never ceases to amaze me, and I aspire to have the foresight and musical ability to craft such work myself one day.
I will not do a song-by-song review on this album, because I will probably be far too tempted to give every song a 5, and sound like a raving fanboy. I will, however, point out a few memorable moments of The Winter Wake
1) Swallowtail. At first, I thought this song would be the low point of the album. However, my ears acclamated to the Italian accent in the vocals, and I was able to decipher what it is the lyrics were about, and I was astonished. Swallowtail tells the story of the narrator as a young adolescent telling the listener about a story he had heard from his mother. She had told him not to go near a certain section of the forest, for it was rumored that an ancient, evil witch lived there. Curiosity overwhelmed the narrator, and he went to see the witch, who turned out to be a beautiful recluse hiding away. He was infuriated with his mother and his friends for telling him lies about the "witch", but knew he couldn't go back to see her again, for, if he did, he would be so mesmerized by her appearance that he would never return to his home. An absolutely outstanding song.
2) On The Morning Dew / Devil's Carriage. On The Morning Dew is a soft and happy-sounding acoustic ballad, one of two on the album. The lyrics, half male and half female, are sung in an extremely sad tone of voice, creating deep contrast between the carefree sound of the piece and joyful lyrics that tell of two lovers who both think that the other is a magical creature of some kind. As the song fades out, Devil's Carriage comes in with a screaming guitar line and p;ounding double bass, shattering the surreal happiness that was On The Morning Dew. This transition is, in my opinion, the most powerful point of the album.
3) Rouse Your Dream. It begins with a piano line that plays throughout the song, and builds from there. Arguably the most poetic song on the album, the vocalist sings a combination of soft, tender vocals and loud, clean singing, allowing for both intensity and serenity in one song. The presence of both violin and grand piano in this song give it a mysterious sound that simply make you feel like running away from everything and hiding out in an enchanted forest. Another simply amazing track.
I do not want to give away the magic of this album, and I strongly encourage listening to it the entire way through, instead of just hitting the high points mentioned. Elvenking's The Winter Wake will take you places you have never seen before, and when the final track ends, your finger will be itching to repeat the album.
"This time I don't know if I'll ever return, say good-bye for me to my home..."
From The Wanderer