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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!