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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