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A Mix Of Styles - 100%

andrewarchav, August 13th, 2013

I have no words... Era is just perfect. It balances its folk influences and its power and melodic side so well. The fact that the violin is not just an instrument to build atmosphere or power (something like Sabaton and Powerwolf would do) amazes me in every way. Still, I am getting ahead of myself.

The album opens up with "The Loser", a hysterical song that feels as it is on cocaine or something. It is so wonderful to hear a 2012 album that does not start with a short overproduced intro (something that Sabaton and Powerwolf would do). The song also introduces to one of the greatest news ever. The new drummer, credited as Symohn (let's just forget the stupid nicknames the band members give themselves and call him Simone), is probably one of the best drummer I heard in a long time. I am dead serious. Coming from a drummer, I can say that his style and technique is impeccable. His drumming skills combined with the folk influences is just amazing. Listen to the pre-verse of The Loser, that shit is out of this world.

This album delivers everything it can give and a little more. I've stated before that there are folk influences (no shit, their style is a folk power hybrid), but there are so many other styles in this bag. Songs like I Am The Monster and Chronicles of a Frozen Era have a more symphonic feel to it, with a piano in the verse. The latter having a full choir. However, it never derails from its roots. A Song For The People is the obligatory folk interlude, Through Wolfs Eyes is a more folk rock, and even pop influences show up, in the song We, Animals.

Although many people say that it wants to be many styles in the same time that it gets too confused and convoluted, I am here to say that it is not. The solos, especially on songs like The Loser, Poor Little Baroness are true to the their roots and sounds good.

Oh, let's talk about the guitars. They are diverse. There are two guitarists, and unlike recent bands, they feel two separate entities. One plays the lead and the other rhythmic. That is apparent in We, Animals and Forget-Me-Not. Listen to the main riff of We, Animals, and they pretty much give all the instruments sharing the same room, and none feel left out.

Speaking of letting people out, Fabio, the fiddler, shines in this. While in red Silent Tides he played only solos (just to remind the listeners "Oh yeah, they have that guy"), here he plays whenever its needed. Like Amorphis used their keyboardist for playing the damn thing (instead of building atmosphere, something like Eluveitie did in Helvetios), Elvenking told Fabio to play the thing. A perfect example is the song Chronicles of a Frozen Era. The verse and pre-chorus both build atmosphere and power (using the violin), but they play smoothly and subtly, unlike bands that raises the sound so high I can not even hear the bass.

Speaking of the bass, let's get back to The Loser. After the solo, (and in the intro) it is possible to hear the bass. It is not any Powerslave bass, but it is also not Eluveitie Bass (where you just can not here it). Overall, I have no comments on the bass since it is just not as memorable as other instruments.

One factor that evolved since previous releases is the pacing. EK finally realized that, if a song is mid-paced or a fast-paced, there is no need to keep the whole song slow or fast. There could be a balance. One song that shows this is Midnight Skies, Winter Sighs. However, there is one song, Poor Little Baroness (seriously, I know they have this fairytale thing going on, but this name is stupid and childish, sounds like a story I would read for my daughter when she can not sleep). That song is mid-paced, and it plods and drones for a solid five minutes. I would have hated this song if not for the awesome intro and solo. Check that main riff, it is fucking brilliant. This song is between the two slowest songs (Forget-Me-Not and The Time of Your Life), making fifteen minutes of slow and mid-paced songs.

In the end, this is a masterpiece, all the way. If you can withstand the slow side of the album, I'd say buy it. It is packed with originality, and while it does seem childish, it never drifts away from itself. I sincerely recommend listening to the album seven times. One for listening to the vocals, another for one guitar, another for the other guitar, another for the bass, another for the fiddle, another for the drums, and one last for the instruments such as the piano and symphonic choirs and instruments.

This is but another great releases from the kings.

Originally written for my blog: http://darkwaveunderneath.blogspot.com.br/

Another Chapter In Elvenking's Fable - 70%

GuntherTheUndying, December 17th, 2012

Elvenking's material isn’t too shabby even though the band radically strays from my usual listening routine; I couldn't pinpoint the reason(s) if you paid me. Other than the abysmal disgrace of an album that is "The Scythe," Elvenking has pretty much mastered the unique folk-tinted power metal that's become a signature dish around the residence of these bards. It seems like Elvenking drew a line in the sand after "The Scythe" and decided to just start over, leaving the chains of the past behind them. We get much of what we saw on "Red Silent Tides" throughout "Era," which is thankfully another continuation of the pleasing textures that are found throughout its previous creation. While the overall dimensions are unilateral in what they preach, Elvenking seems to once again have captured that light-hearted, campfire feeling in their sonnets and tales of metallic lore and folk-inspired poetry. In other words, the quintessential Elvenking album.

Well, quintessential in the sense that it represents Elvenking alive and kicking in a post-disaster scenario. As I said, "Red Silent Tides" and "Era" are like auditory identical twins: inherited are the sugary choruses, the same folk attitudes, a familiar songwriting blueprint, and many more Elvenking-isms. I've always thought Elvenking's folk edge has been the band's main supplier of substance, because—let's face it—Elvenking's metal persona semi-frequently lacks visionary guitar work or songwriting antics that lift the group beyond a mainstreamed identity. While fun anthems like "The Loser" and "Poor Little Baroness" are uplifting and noteworthy, "A Song for the People" and "Walking Dead" shift the tempo away from Elvenking's average material, and with fresh results. "I am the Monster" sounds really bizarre yet somewhat charming, what with the juvenile lyrics and poppy structures giving life to this strange anthem that ends up sounding quite fun, even though Jon Oliva's guest vocals are totally anomalistic for an Elvenking tune; still a fine song overall.

"Chronicle of a Frozen Era" shows glimmers of Elvenking throwing out a handful of extra riffs and musical sections compared to the incredibly simple formula used throughout most of the album; it certainly summons a lot of progressive tweaks that Elvenking hasn't tapped in quite some time. Beyond these numbers, most of "Era" falls into an area where surprises aren't popping out of the walls. Still, a grand portion of "Era," barring a tune or two, spoon-feeds its audience the Elvenking essentials. There are fast songs. There are sad songs. There are heavy riffs, and songs that use the violin, too. Granted, the general postulate isn't going to shower your ears in a blissful variety of spices, but this is just fun stuff. Upbeat power metal doused in a folk color...not an earth-shattering revelation. Damnagoras sounds a little grittier here; it's a good tone for his place in the group.

To address the elephant—perhaps troll would better fit the context—in the room, yes, some of the choruses and songs slightly dip towards that weapon of death that almost destroyed the creative roots of this band's legacy, but those moments remain very minor, thankfully. "Era" is not the group's best album, but it has a noticeable stint of validity. Sure, there are times when I secretly wish they'd whip out a tune totally immersed in the sound of "Heathenreel," but we all can't get what we want. I'll take "Era" for what it is and enjoy it along with Elvenking's other substantial releases. I mean, even if you're feeling sketchy about it, at least they aren't trying to sound like My Chemical Romance anymore, and that has to count for something, right?

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Same era, different album cover. - 78%

hells_unicorn, December 12th, 2012

Elvenking's career can pretty well be summed up in 2 eras and, in the case of their bomb of a 4th album, one unfortunate interlude into modern emo drudgery. The first of these eras is largely scene as their stylistic zenith in "Heathenreel" and "Wyrd", typified by a fusion of power metal and folk influences that while not directly comparable to the likes of Suidakra or Ensiferum, at least were playing in a similar league. But the era that "Era" finds itself in (no pun intended), is what has ruled this band's woodland roost since the release of "The Winter Wake", namely a modern rock tinged approach that sounds a bit more catchy but not quite as intricate as the older form, and ultimately one that has far less of an overt folksy character.

To be fair, this album does have a bit more of a folksy side to it than its predecessor "Red Silent Tides", but its fleeting acoustic sections and occasional violin work seems more like window-dressing for what is otherwise a pretty straight-line approach to modern power metal. It's not the most dynamic or speed dominated approach to the style as typified by the Rhapsody Of Fire school, but it does share a pretty strong affinity with the recent output of bands like Secret Sphere, where the riffs are generally plain and, at times, slightly contrived, while the vocal work tends to dominate the mix. It succeeds at being quite catchy, but also has a tendency to run together from one song to the next, in no small part due to a fairly limited template for the rhythm section, which has generally been the band's weak point.

The way that the generally fixed character of this music is compensated for is with a dense arrangement and a very pristine production approach. It gets to the point that it gets difficult to differentiate this from a number of recently released mainline rock albums, save the greater level of technical display during the few instrumental passages. Perhaps the one area where things get really involved and starts showing some signs of the older version of Elvenking in a newer production capacity would be "Chronicle Of A Frozen Era", where the acoustic passages are a bit more frequent, not to mention one of the wildest guitar solos heard out of this band (literally approaching Roland Grapow territory) makes its way into the mix. The closing ditty "Ophale" represents a further deviation from the band's current sound with a very involved set of flute lines and a serene acoustic overlay.

Be this as it may, most of this album is generally steeped in mid-pace rocking sameness, taking its cues directly from the safe and formulaic character of "The Winter Wake". Right from the onset of "Loser", things keep to a very familiar tone where the guitars and drums sound load and raucous, but don't really get terribly adventurous. To make matters a bit more mundane, vocalist Damna sees fit to showcase a slightly more gruff-tinged vocal style that doesn't really work well for him, especially when his vocal register has much more in common with Michael Kiske than that of Jari Mäenpää or James Hetfield. Nevertheless, the overall format does lend itself to being easily sung along to, with the likes of "I Am The Monster" and "We, Animals" being the most memorable, though also sadly indicative of this band's inability to come up with good titles to their songs.

This is not of the same caliber as what this band was clearly capable of back when Jarpen was still a part of the band, but it definitely has its moments. It's a pretty safe bet that any tag-alongs that joined this band's scene circa 2006 will like this, as they haven't really ventured too far out of their comfort zone since the unfortunate mistake that was "The Scythe". But it definitely has more punch to it than the weak offering that Ensiferum trodded out earlier this year, if nothing else.

Man I need a drink. - 15%

Empyreal, December 11th, 2012

It’s hard to really fathom how worthless Elvenking is these days. This band has always been pretty shit, and the fact that they had a fanbase at all was like the eighth wonder of the world to me. I guess their first two albums had some solid moments and at least had some authentic folk-metal-isms in the songwriting, but Winter’s Wake was total ass, and The Scythe to this date is among the top worst albums I’ve ever sat through. I didn’t bother with anything after that, but a cursory listen to the lead single from this album, “The Loser,” was just too much – THIS is acceptable for a big metal label to release nowadays?! Did anyone even listen to this without their fingers in their ears? This half-assed pop-punk nonsense with vocals that sound like a guy with a head cold and pointless violins and shit vomited out on top with no rhyme or reason? You’ve gotta be kidding me. Give me a fucking recording studio and full band, hell; I could do better! God. Oh well. Let’s sacrifice what’s left of my dignity and dig into Era, Elvenking’s latest insult to anyone with ears.

Let me tell you guys something about pop metal, which I do not mean in any derogatory sense. I like pop metal. It can be catchy and incredibly memorable, and is in no way inherently worse than other types of metal, despite what die-hards might tell you. The genius lies in two elements – one is the songwriting itself, and the other is the presentation – the vocals, production, et cetera. Both things together must function as one cohesive unit for a good poppy, accessible metal song to work…just like in the big mainstream world. Nobody would listen to a pop song on the radio if the vocals sounded like Kermit the Frog being castrated with a chainsaw, or if the drums sounded like trash cans being banged on in the next room over. And the songwriting has to be concise and catchy – short songs with memorable hooks that don’t get annoying. Good production and agreeable vocals are as important as good songwriting for this genre – both of them must work together. And it can be very enjoyable. It’s natural for people to enjoy simple, catchy songs and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Elvenking fails at both of those criteria. The vocals are just appalling. Damnagoras, or “Damna” as he apparently is now known, has to be the worst singer working in power metal today. Listen to his scratchy, irritating, range-less voice on any song on here and try to tell me otherwise…what the fuck is the appeal? Do people really have a hankering to hear a guy that sounds like he came down with a bad case of laryngitis the morning before recording, and then decided it would be an awesome idea to clamp his nostrils shut with a pair of iron tongs in the recording booth? I’m exaggerating a little, sure; I usually do – but the scary part is how little I am exaggerating. His powerless yammering is the worst part of this whole thing by far. I would go so far as to say maybe half of the problem with this album is his voice alone; that’s how bad it is.

Not to say this would be any good if it had a singer that was in any way competent, because that’s not true either. The music here is bland as hell modern melodic rock/metal with weak guitar riffs and a dry production, and the inclusion of violins is arbitrary and unnecessary in the long run, as they do not do anything interesting on any song here – they’re just laid overtop like a blanket, and contribute zilch all to the rest of the music. I get that Elvenking’s style is based around the interplay between the melodies from the guitars and violins, but “interplay” is a strong word for what amounts to simply mashing them both together like a kid playing with his mommy’s baking ingredients in the kitchen while she tries not to strangle him with her own apron cords.

If you want some actual analysis of the songs themselves, well there’s no point as they are all unlistenable and incompetent to degrees I didn’t think were possible. “I Am the Monster” has a good chorus melody, but the way Elvenking does it, it just sounds weak as hell. Oh you got Jon Oliva to guest star for like one line of vocals? Did you just cry outside his window until he was so annoyed that he gave in to make you go away? “Chronicle of a Frozen Era” has a few glimpses of something a little more majestic than the rest of the album’s constant search for the lowest depths of mainstream pop trash, but if your standards are so low that a few glimpses of quality in a whole album of crap means anything, then you don’t deserve anything better than this anyway.

Lowest points include “Poor Little Baroness,” which is the most annoying song all year with multiple tracks of Damna’s awful squawking (AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!) and lots of fluttery, meaningless violins flying around like gnats on a summer evening, and balladic duo “Forget Me Not” and “The Time of Your Life”…tip, guys; if your singer sounds like a zombified cat in heat, don’t try to put his voice at the forefront of the music. My ears! The rest of the album is unmemorable, interchangeable crap with no real hooks or anything beyond the sea of fluffy violins and pop-punk riffs that this band equates with good music…blech.

Everything about this is artificial and plastic as hell, with no genuine emotion conveyed through at any point. They play around with a lot of fluttery melody that passes for “folk” to some misguided fans, I guess, but good folk for me isn’t about goofy polka tempos and silly violins playing at manic speed with a poppy chorus played over it…good folk has to be calm and soothing, with a real sense of heritage and stripped-down emotion. None of which are on Era. There is more folk influence on this than on The Scythe, and as a result, this at least doesn’t come off quite as pandering and puke-worthy as that album, but this is still REALLY lame. I’m not trying to say there isn’t more than one way to write folk music or mix it with metal, but I am saying that Elvenking’s music is entirely without substance. This is nothing but a bunch of froofy, spastic crap made for people who can’t sit still for more than a minute. “We can’t have a quiet moment with only one thing going on…that would bore our audience which has the attention span of a sugar-hyped 6 year old!”

This is pain. Pure pain. I can’t even begin to describe how much I hate this shit, and how little I understand any of the positive press for it in a world where we have…any other music that isn’t this. The melodies are weak, and even when they come up with a good one, the band’s limp-wristed execution renders it completely embarrassing. The vocals are horrible and the guitars do nothing interesting, and as for the folk influence, you’d get better cultural heritage from Dora the Explorer. Fuck Elvenking. Fuck anyone who would recommend this crap to anyone else – I am very much against those who are so sadistic that they would cause such pain. I cannot even imagine being the kind of person who would enjoy something like this. Just throw Era in the incinerator and let it burn, burn, burn!

All hail Elvenking! - 90%

Immortally_Insane, October 4th, 2012

There once was a kingdom, so beautiful and powerful, ruling over Europe and slowly working its control into other lands far, far away. This kingdom was known as power metal, and what a glorious kingdom indeed. The power metal realm housed a colossal armory, dragons and wolves to govern the landscape, stunning rainbows, and tales of fairies and elves galore. However, one fateful night, the kingdom was presented an offer that they just could not refuse. From distant lands came the massive boom of trampling hooves – it was none other than folk metal - looking to join forces upon the most epic of quests. Together they planned to dominate the heavy metal world as one. This creation became known as Elvenking.

So now that you all know the true history of this band, let’s discuss their latest album release, Era, released in September 2012. Elvenking is an Italian power/folk metal band that has always nailed the fusion of these genres in a way that no other band out there can manage to do. The elements are all there – fairies, travelers, weapons, wolves, love, and battle – all blended together perfectly in each and every release. Despite some recent line-up changes, they’ve managed to pull it all together yet again for a great release. Era is a true work of art, and should be appreciated by folk metallers and power metallers of the like, all around the world.

The first track “Loser” caught me off guard, as I’m sure it would to any fan of Elvenking familiar with their sound off of an earlier album such as “The Winter Wake”. Upon solely reading the lyrics I pictured a slow, sad song with some violin or keys supporting the words I was reading. However, the music hit hard, and Damna’s vocals are quite unique for the band’s original style, attempting a faster rhythm. I really love the lyrics, and the message behind the song (I’m fine with being myself & being alone, so fuck you) however the style is something I had to listen to multiple times for it to grow on me. I was a bit worried upon first impression that my beloved band had changed too much for my liking. Continuing on with the album though, I was shown that Elvenking is still the same, bad ass - and melodically delicious.

“Midnight Skies, Winter Sighs” is exactly the song that I want to hear this band singing. They’ve got such amazing songwriting skills to write a hook while remaining artistic, intelligent, and metal. This song is none other than their brilliant gold trophy of said ability. The chorus gave me chills, and still does after I’ve heard it about 20 times. “Through Wolf’s Eyes” is a song about the tale of Little Red Riding hood from a totally different point of view than what we’re used to. Not only is it a great song musically, but the lyrics tell an awesome story “Just with her beauty she was healing his scars” about the wolf falling in love with Red. Of course in the end, our wolf falls to his inevitable death in the name of love.

I was actually disappointed when the album ended, but extremely happy to find that my player was on repeat and the album began all over again. This truthfully had the power to transport me into another realm of fairy tales and fortune tellers, and yet, driving me to grab a beer and swing it along at the same time. The violin and keys really help drive the album home in the melodies, and the band wouldn’t be nearly the same without them. It’s not too often you find a band with a permanent violin player and I think that is what really gives Elvenking their signature sound. To top it off, take guitar melodies and prominent bass helping to bring the metal elements, mix in driving drums and an extremely original and talented vocalist of humble beginnings, and you have the recipe of a fantastic band.

[Originally written for MetalWani.com]

Masters in their own universe - 87%

kluseba, September 16th, 2012

Despite several line-up changes, Elvenking pick us up with "Era" where they have left us with with their last record "Red Silent Tides". The Italian band delivers a catchy mixture of power metal and their typical folk passages with a couple of contemporary tones in form of some electronic experiments or faster modern metal passages.

What we get are for example hard, fast and modern stuff as in the energizing opener "The Loser" that could come from their "The Scythe" record. Some peole might claim that this kind of music sounds too much like mallcore but I think that the Italians are definitely more diversified and also catchier than most of the bands of this genre and they even add their own trademarks to it and push the limits for this genre further than before.

The band also delivers some tracks with electronic experiments as in "We, Animals" tha could be from their international breakthrough release "The Winter Wake".

There are also some more laid back and minimalistic songs as the folk driven "The Time Of Your Life" where singer Damnagoras proves that his vocal skills have improved and sound more mature since the last release. This kind of music reminds a little bit of the band's first steps plus a more commercial potential. The band even includes a short folk driven ballad in form of "A Song For The People" or the closing instrumental bonus track "Ophale" on this release that fresh up the final result.

One of this album's highlights are though the new rock opera hints as in the highly diversified "Forget-me-not" featuring piano passages, radio rock riffs, choir and canon parts, passionate female vocals and the unique guest vocals delivered by Jon Oliva who also appears in the faster banger "I Am The Monster". This kind of music as well as the epic masterpiece "Chronicle Of A Frozen Era" could also directly come from a new Avantasia record. In the latter track, the band proves that they are truly skilled and actually underestimated musicians. This track contains many slightly changes and never gets boring but more and more energizing instead in almost seven minutes of running time. This song is easily among the best if not the best track the band has ever written. I actually even prefer the way how Elvenking approach this rock opera style as it sounds more elaborated, fresh and passionate than the latest Avantasia releases for example.

The band simply delivers a resumee of everything they stand for and even more on this release. Even though this record brings no big innovations and lacks of a truly catchy hit such as "The Cabal", "The Divided Heart" or "Trows Kind", especially as the track "Poor Little Baroness" that promoted this record is this definitely one of the few bad songs on here, this record is still creative enough in Elvenking's own universe to convince and even turns out to be among their best records. Fans of the band and those who would like to finally discover them should quickly pick up this very well done album.

Folk Infused Power Metal - 90%

TheStormIRide, September 15th, 2012

Italy's premier power metal slash folk metal act, Elvenking, has had its share of ups and downs over the past fifteen years. From the critically acclaimed, folk infused melodic power metal fest that was “Heathenreel” in 2001 to, what many call an abomination, the melodic death metal inspired “The Scythe” in 2007, Elvenking has had a bit of an identity crisis over the years. The only element that seems to remain constant is the persistent meddling with folk instrumentation, and 2012's “Era” is no exception.

No doubt, those who enjoyed Elvenking's “Heathenreel” and “The Winter Wake” will enjoy the tunes here, as “Era” bounces back into the realms of what they are best known for, folk infused power metal. The core duo of Damna (vocals) and Aydan (guitars) return to the fold bringing four members who entered the band in 2009 or later (yes, two thirds of the band has been here for less than three years). Sometimes it just takes new blood to get a band back in line.

The base style on “Era” is a very melodic power metal sound. There's enough spunk and pop to make any Helloween or Freedom Call fan happy. Despite the relatively depressing lyrical themes, the mood is kept light and airy throughout the entirety of the album. Damna's vocals, for the most part, remind me of Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe) or a more Metal version of Bon Jovi, both which are huge compliments. The melodic mid-range vocals fit the light atmosphere perfectly, and Damna truly shines with his energetic delivery. Female vocals are thrown in a little, and seem to perfectly accent Damna's voice. Even more spectacular is the pairing of Damna with legendary Savatage vocalist Jon Oliva on two tracks. Oliva's powerful, gruff delivery is the polar opposite of Damna's approach, and adds an element of darkness to the otherwise sappy atmosphere.

The guitars range from standard, middle of the road power metal riffs to acoustic segues. The guitar lines and riffs aren't earth shattering, but they get the job done. The drums blast away, replete with running on the double bass and a speedy double kick rock beat. The bass is pretty much follow the leader with the guitars for the entire album, as no bass lines really stick out as spectacular. The core instrumentation is nothing groundbreaking, but there are some exceptionally catchy moments, with huge hooks on just about every chorus and crunchy bridges with scaled riffs and groove laden drumming.

The true standouts on “Era”, aside from Damna's vocals, are the folk instruments. The violin lines rarely cease throughout the entire album, but that's one of the reasons that “Era” works so well. Rather than the more traditional approach of “Red Silent Tides”, Elvenking go straight for the sound of their more folk oriented works. The violin work ranges from uptempo and Celtic inspired to a more somber sound, similar to chamber music. Guest flutes and pipes are provided by Maurizio Cardullo, who has been around the block when it comes to folk instrumentation. Elvenking shines the brightest during the uptempo sections with the violin blazing, creating a more power metal-esque version of Skyclad.

“Era” is Elvenking at their best, folk infused power metal. This is one of the better examples in a seemingly ever-growing genre. The over saturation of folk metal bands in recent years has led to a stagnation of sorts. The melodic power metal base of Elvenking with the folk elements invokes memories of the poppier sounds of Skyclad's mid-era. Catchy choruses, great folk instrumentation and an energetic delivery make “Era” an absolute winner. Not an essential listen for everyone, but if you're a fan of power metal and of folk metal then you owe it to yourself to buy this.

Written for The Metal Observer
http://www.metal-observer.com/