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“Heathenreel” is without a shadow of a doubt the best album that Elvenking has ever made, and most likely ever will make. As far as folk/power metal goes, it’s a harder listen, but not in the way of being overly progressive to the point of being boring and unsuccessful. Rather, it’s that there is so much substance to this album, more so than any decent album twice its length, disregarding the ratio of meatiness to emptiness. Imagine someone cooked a 36 oz. steak which then oozed out luscious, unsaturated, Italian cheese with every bite, and you have the equivalent to “Heathenreel”.
As mentioned before, the success of this album comes from its meatiness. Every song is piled high with its fair share of unconventional chord progressions, heavy riffs, intricate lead solo guitars, impressive drum patterns, soaring melodies and harmonies, and folk instruments. Elvenking harnesses their capacity to facilitate for all of these great qualities, but not exclusively in their own separate realm with spotty appearances. Every minute of every second of this album is charged with the intelligent composition and arrangement of these attributes in a way that gives fullness to it, and simultaneously, various elements are specially emphasized periodically throughout each track while still giving way for every other aspect to fall into place. A prime example of this can be found in “The Dweller of Rhymes” during one of the instrumental interludes which begins with some heavy chugging on the guitars, double bass blast beats, and rock n’ roll style soloing, which then smoothly transitions in a matter of moments into an artistic scale descent on the lead guitar along with the bold and clever placement of a measure in 7/4 time signature which leads to a segment of acoustic folk guitars that build up to the main melodic chords and note arrangements that precede the chorus vocals. All of the elements not only exist, but coexist with one another in a way that is not at all forced. Everything feels like it belongs, in every song, all the time, and never is it indicative of a gimmicky agenda to fill time or to keep the listener awake. The same praise can be given to “Oakenshield”, whose uniqueness in songwriting and execution require no nitpicking to evaluate the excellence and variety. Take merely the intro sequence, with its simplistic march-like drumming feeding into fret board slides and major key power folk festivity, intermingling with the head-banging guitars in their 12/8 time signature triple strums, all before it drops its intensity for some classic folk flare. Only the Elves could produce such fine craftsmanship.
Something else that makes “Heathenreel” a true gem is that it’s all over the place in terms of their songwriting. The last word I would ever use to describe this album is formulaic. On the first listen, the music can be sometimes hard to follow, and one must become thoroughly acquainted with the album in order to map the complex structure of each individual track. In addition to the two previous examples, this is especially exemplified in “The Regality Dance”. The song’s entrance and transition from acoustic to electric gets one uncontrollably pumped and lost in its goofy lyrics, banging riffs, and intelligent melodies infused with the obvious dance-calling fiddler role in the sketch. Not only does it toss in some obscure time signatures, harmonizing guitars, and some awesome hard vocalization, but as the song progresses, it throws the listener for several unpredictable, epic loops, a common occurrence on nearly every song. Two solo guitars pick up the fiddle’s proposed dance lines in a sort of call-and-response fashion and eventually it charges into a dark harmonizing breakdown that makes you want to mosh and punch people. That’s the sort of stuff that Elvenking does on this album, and although it descriptively might sound like a discombobulated mess, it actually possesses much more fluidity than a typical bland power metal album with consistent 4/4 time signatures at 240 bpm. It’s because the music on “Heathenreel” is intentional. It has goals and purposes which it addresses and resolves in a linear fashion, all in a way that displays their talent in their musicianship as well as their creativity in their songwriting.
The vocalist on this album is undoubtedly the most controversial aspect of the production. To the furthest extent of my assessments, most people either love him or they hate him, the latter which can unfortunately lead people to have a distaste for the band. Even for me, it was an acquired taste, but upon the acquisition, I found that one begins to appreciate the style of his voice even more. Its uniqueness eventually came to personally act as a worthy representation of the verbalism of Tolkien’s elves if they were all heavy metal fans. For me, it became a symbol. But even beyond that, the consumption of the vocalist was similar to the adaptation and transition from the traditional high-soaring, vibrato, peanut-butter n’ jelly power metal vocalist to the passionate, artistic, wailing, beef liver with orange sauce vocalist of Elvenking. Once you grow to love it, you realize how mediocre the conventional stuff can be.
One of the most amusing parts of this album lies in its cleverly-designed musical transitions throughout each individual piece. An example is found in “Skywards”, which begins as a peaceful acoustic ballad which later escalates its ferocity in two phases: first to the electric guitars, then to full-out melodic black metal. It’s pretty sweet.
In the grand scheme of objective musical evaluation, “Heathenreel” is the epitome of all that makes a heavy metal album excellent. Not only that, but it composes its characteristics in a way that gives each track, and the album as a whole, personal identity. Listen to it. Get to know it, and in time, it will become an inanimate friend of yours.
Elvenking's first strike is already amongst the best works this band has ever done and shows a degree of diversity and fresh ideas that many other bands of the genre don't have any more. The band mixes folk influences with majestic power metal sounds but doesn't hesitate to look for death and gothic, neoclassical or hard rock influences within their songs. Sometimes, they plug all those influences into one single song and it can happen that many people find this album too overwhelming and not straight enough.
There is not much coherence or structure but there is a lot of creativity and freedom to find. But even as a fan of the band, I must admit that songs like "The dweller of rhymes" are difficult to follow and need a lot of open-minded patience to be appreciated as there are way too many ideas in not even five minutes of music. That's why I tend to call Elvenking one of the most progressive acts of the recent folk metal wave even if other bands tend to write overlong epic tracks that peak at over ten minutes. Elvenking don't need that as a short track like "A dreadful strain" that is not much longer than four minutes reunites already in a quite coherent way everything the bands still stands for.
The most interesting moments on this record are the longer, epic songs where the band breaks completely free. "The regality dance" is such a highlight. It starts like a sweet dulled folk tale that quickly turns into a much darker track. Epic passages with choirs, traditional heavy metal guitar melodies, slight rock opera approaches in the middle part and soft male vocals next to grim growls kick off and the song is filled with changes and breaks but takes the time to let the fans flow from one mood to the other in a magic way. "Oakenshield" is another highlight and starts with a drum solo before classic rock influences lead to a dark track with some gothic influences. We have some surprising breaks with acoustic guitars and flutes and dominating female vocals as well as quite fast and heavy passages that remind of neoclassical power metal. To put the crown on the Elvenking, this melodic kitsch is supported by memorable death metal growls. The final epic "Seasonspeech" is absolutely overwhelming when growls, soft male vocals and high pitched female vocals create a choir of madness that rather reminds of progressive death metal like "UneXpect" than of traditional folk music.
It also happens that the band decides to give the fans a break by creating songs that rather go in only one genre direction. "Pagan purity" is melodic power metal gem, "Conjuring of the 14th" a stunning symphonic metal song that could have been written by "Nightwish" while "Skywards" prefers to be a relaxing and inspiring acoustic folk tale. The great thing is that with the exception of the fast power metal track "Hobs and feathers", all experiments work extremely well and there is no filler to find. The album requests a lot of patience and attention, but once you are concentrated on the music, you will completely enjoy this fresh wave of diversity.
Even if more recent albums from this band have a few more catchy tunes and are perhaps easier to follow, this record is definitely the Italian summit of creativity. The band reunites many genres and succeeds by not following the kitsch potential of popular landsmen like "Rhapsody of Fire", the stereotypical approache sof party bands such as "Alestorm" or the conceptual boundaries of bands such as "Tyr" that are mostly only interesting for pure Viking fans or history teachers. Elvenking decide to follow the example of bands such as "Skyclad" or "Cruachan" and are nevertheless able to create their own unique brand already on their first album. If you want to discover the band's true style and soul, you have to go for this first album or the last one called "Red silent tides".
Elvenking, being the purveyors of folksy Power Metal (two genres that already cause enough controversy as it is) that they are, has been the subject of quite the amount of controversy over the years, with their ever-changing brand of power/folk metal drawing both huge fans and venomous detractors alike. Being naturally curious, I have decided to go through the band’s releases and review each one of them in chronological order. Isn’t that nice of me? Well, this is their debut album and…it pretty much just sounds like a debut.
I mean, you have everything on here from the sloppiness, the youthful zeal and the woefully under-polished vocals. This album is like a checklist of signs of a debut album! Elvenking were a very new band on here, with only one prior demo and no real refinement yet. Seriously, it’s like Sonata Arctica at a renaissance festival – that’s really about what this amounts to. Folksy melodies clash with speedy tempos and bouncy, bubbly vocal lines that are layered over with gang shouts or just more vocal tracks for extra effect. Everything is over-exaggerated and silly as hell, yet executed with an earnest conviction that makes it really enjoyable.
Now, without that, I don’t think this album would be very interesting, because musically it is just kind of all over the place. Crammed in with every note and riff the band could think of, Elvenking’s Heathenreel comes off as cluttered and overly messy. The band never seems to be able to stick to a solid rhythm and just play some good riffs or melodies. As soon as you get into a song, the band decides to change it up. Vocalist Damnagoras doesn’t have a very good voice, and the stuff he sings isn’t very memorable either. He’s got a very generic, typical sounding Italian Power Metal voice, except with perhaps even less range and dynamic than is usual. Definitely the weakest link in this band. He just has this weird lilt to his voice that somehow, along with the rather obtuse vocal lines, renders what he’s singing rather forgettable.
There are some good songs on display, like “Pagan Purity,” “The Dweller of Rhymes,” the ballad “Skywards” and the jingly “Hobbs an’ Feathers,” but still nothing that really, cohesively ties into a good album overall. It’s too disjointed, too cluttered with needless melodies and trills and drum fills and vocal parts that don’t need to be there. There is a beauty in simplicity, and Elvenking could have easily cut down on the amount of parts they crammed into these songs and had a much better album to show for it.
But I guess that’s part of the fun. Try as I might, I just can’t come down too hard on this album. It’s got a really nice, honest woodsy, tribal feel about it all, and the innocence on here just shines through like a beacon of hope. Heathenreel gets dull at times, and as such I can’t really call it great, but it is entertaining, and certainly worth a listen or two. Recommended, if you already like Human Fortress, Galloglass and other similar bands.
So many ideas so little time. That would be the first thought that comes to mind when I think of Elvenking, or their debut album Heathenreel for that matter. This is regarded as their best album and I can see why. This album is crammed full of folk passages, soaring vocal harmonies, and a very uplifting vibe to it all. However, the music itself, once you take away all the vocals, and the folk elements, is a bit generic even for power metal.
They really tried to fit as many ideas as they could into Heathenreel that it gets kind of chaotic at times. The overall mood of the album is very, very happy, but they also tend to just completely change the overall mood into a darker side. The change in mood is more like a break from the overall happiness that’s given off, but the sudden change just doesn’t fit properly. “Conjuring Of The 14th” feels really misplaced on the album. Its not a bad song, the keyboard part sounds kind of like a pipe organ being played which helps the song out, but overall the song feels misplaced.
This is a very catchy album, especially in the vocal department. There are a lot of vocal hooks to grab your attention and also a lot of vocal harmonies that soar throughout the choruses. The songs all work the grab your attention right away so you pay attention, but the songs drag on a bit, halfway throughout the song the guitars tend to repeat some riffs and the songs turn out kind of bland. Speaking of vocals, on Heathenreel Elvenking overdid the vocal performances. You got the main tenor vocals done by Damnagoras, harsh vocals by Jarpen, backup choruses, and some female guest vocals here and there. Now Damnagoras vocals are pretty high pitched, he almost sounds like a little kid at times. His voice is light and innocent sounding, much like a child’s. The vocals go along with the folk elements with the album. Folk wise this album consist of acoustic parts, flutes, and violins. Now the violins and flutes fit nicely with each song, they’re never a lead but always in the background. The acoustic guitars work only if it opens the song; it’s kind of hard to just switch to an acoustic passage right after some cheesy power chorus you know.
The problem is that when you use all of these in each song it gets rather annoying. The harsh vocals in general don’t fit anywhere, especially considering that this is a power metal release. The female vocals, although the sound good, they also don’t fit on Heathenreel. The choruses are very, very catchy however, catchy in a sing-a-long fashion, and there are a lot of them. This brings me to the mood again. This album is very, very, sugary and uplifting excluding one track. Personally this is something I would listen to instead of taking happy pills or antidepressants, although I can also see the audience for this (people who like really happy power metal).
I would say that this is a fairly decent album. its catchy, uplifting, has some nice folk sections, only real problem with it would be that some of the vocals feel misused and that the album is a little bit too happy for me. But if you’re looking for power/folk I would suggest Ensiferum first, but Elvenking would be a good second I guess.
This one really puts my cat in the microwave. I'm not a sadist so that's a bad thing in case you were wondering. I like all kinds of metal ranging from Iron Maiden to Falkenbach to Behemoth so I figured (based on the amount of positive reviews), I'd find something to like here. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Luckily I downloaded it first. Then I locked myself in the room with it to begin tackling the music.
Me: "So, Elvenking, I hear you are a mixture of power and folk metal."
Elvenking: "I'm the aborted love child of Ensiferum and Hammerfall! Teehee!"
Me: "Holy hell! Why didn't anyone warn me?"
Elvenking: "I dunno but one of us isn't going to make it out of this room, sweety."
How could this happen? The melodies remind me of some merry transvestites skipping to Candyland. That's as succinctly as I can put it. Maybe we should play this in Guantanamo Bay or maybe we should put this band in Guantanamo Bay and play Krisiun for them 24/7 until their eyeballs explode.
Hey, at least the guitar tone is acceptable. There are some generic power chord progressions around that manage not to piss me off badly. All the rest of the guitar parts are nauseating though. Very melodic and the phrasing is spirited fruitiness. The vocals are rather distracting, too. Predominately cleans but there are a few weak growls around as well. There's even some vocal harmonies here along with tons of melodic vocal hooks. Again, all of it's fruit-tastic though. At least the drumming is solid but everything else is so damn lame most of the time that it doesn't really matter much.
Really what you are getting here, beyond the sugary gayness, is generic power metal sections pasted together with happy folk passages. They'll switch around the order perhaps, or throw in some break or interlude or something tying to keep you awake. The acoustic guitars sound okay but the whole thing reminds me of a band of traveling minstrels frolicking off into the woods with arms full of Vaseline and cheap wine. This is when they were actually "good"??
The feeling that pervades this piece of sonic torture is enough to make even Rue Paul come in screaming, "YOU GAUDY MOTHERFUCKERS!" How can people enjoy this? Maybe I am the one who's wrong? I'm not sure but this music is confusing me. Are men actually attractive? Gah! I can't listen anymore. I'll be sending the band my therapy bills.
I was suggested to check this album out and was amazed by it. I've never been a fan of folk music so the folk influences were closed to turning me off from the band. But i heard so much good things about this album i continued listening to it to see if it was really as great as everyone said. Well guess what, i agree they were right.
I'm new to folk metal so whole celtic theme to was pretty new to me. But the mix of folk with power metal works well. I'm going to say that this album's only dissapointment is the fact the vocalist throws in the occasional growls. If you listened to Into Eternity the growls by their guitarist turned me off. But Elvenking rarely has the growls going so i can stand it, besides the great playing by all the members of the band still wins me over.
I'm more of a black metal fan recently so this album wasn't really a huge sucess with me at first but it was still a great album that deserves recognition. Elvenking has won another fan.
I don't get the mixed opinions on this album. I heard the To Oak Woods Bestowed demo. Banquet of Bards is great, and why they didn't port it to this album, I have no friggin' clue, but this stuff is just as good, if not better. People complaining about riffs, don't listen to this. It's as easy as that. People complaining about "decent speed metal riffs" need to take into account the small fact that speed metal does not exist.
This is some great folk music. Some of the transitions between folk and power parts are sort of goofy, especially on Pagan Purity, where all of a sudden they just drop everything for like 7 seconds for a weird intermission of sorts. It works, but it's just kind of sloppy. Which leads to another thing that keeps this album from perfection. The drumming. It's almost abysmal in technicality, and, while suitable to the music, it takes away at times. The fills in some songs are hilariously bad, and mostly everything is the typical power metal beat.
The vocal harmonies on the album are AMAZING. The vocalist is a very enjoyable singer, and hits high notes with a somewhat subdued, non-cheesy singing style. Some of the growls by the other guy sound forced and weird, but they fit in most of the time and split stuff up. This band would probably rip live, and I'm pretty sure they'd be accepted at any Folk Festivals in towns or cities (like mine). Pick this up if you like Secret Sphere and Cruachan, and other related things.
Also, this album can be enjoyed even by black/viking fans, because of its dual nature. Definitely an innovative and fresh release.
After the release of their first demo "To Oak Woods Bestowed", Elvenking were signed to AFM Records and finally release a first-class debut titled "Heathenreel". They're a band from Italy and offer melodic speed metal, very folk-inspired, and there's also traces of medieval music, featuring flutes, violins.... Some influences are Skyclad, Helloween and Blind Guardian. The vocals are high pitched and clear, but there's also a few harsh death metal-growls. They really can't easily be compared to other bands as they have a sound and a song writing of their own (and quite mature with that). The band certainly stands apart from the Rhapsody imitations that are so common in Italy. The album contains 11 songs as well as an excellent cover version of Skyclad's "Penny Dreadful". Favorite tracks: "The Dweller Of Rhymes", which combines different metal styles, "Hobs An' Feathers" (this song could easily have appeared on a Skyclad album) and "Seasonspeech", which offers several changes of atmosphere, from acoustic passages á la Blackmore's Night to melodies in the Melodic Death Metal style, and features 4 different voices. The members are rather young, the oldest being 26. Despite their youth they're magnificent musicians. The wide variety of musical styles and tempos are blended together perfectly. If you like folk metal and the bands mentioned in this review you'll be more than pleased with this CD.
Combining catchy power metal riffing with folk melodies and atmosphere, this band falls in roughly the same category as Cruachan and Tuatha de Danann, but with a considerably lesser focus on Celtic sound. Perhaps calling them a less crunchy Falconer would be a decent comparison.
The playing on this album is superb, the songs actually cohesive and flowing, albeit perhaps not the most technical music out there. The vocalist, I feel, is a very versatile and efficient singer, with a somewhat high yet very subdued voice. To be honest, he sounds quite feminine which fits Elvenking's sound perfectly. The vocal layering on this album can be truly astonishing at times, as some of the harmonies are almost pure aural perfection.
The musicianship on this album is near flawless though, again, not overly technical. The violins, guitars and vocalists melding together almost perfectly. As it stands, I would consider this and Falconer's "Chapters From A Vale Forlorn" to be the two best albums in the folk/power subgenre and, given the direction things are going, I doubt they'll be topped for a long time. Really, there's not a bad song on here. I fully recommend this album to fans of folk and viking metal... though I've found that the more closed-minded power metal fans tend to dislike Elvenking, for reasons I've yet to determine.
Update: Sadly, after this album, Elvenking would go through a lineup change wherein they lose everything that made them good. After the release of the follow-up album, I was nauseated to such an extent that I've gone back and listened to this album again. Again, it has managed to not only keep me as a fan of it, but has warranted a score increase as it has yet to fail to impress me.
Wow. Shit only knows where some of these songs came from. It's like taking Sonata Arctica and subtracting everything that ever made them listenable, ever. In other words, it's a complete pile of crap.
Folkish power metal has been done before, but I've never heard it fucked up before. Not this badly, anyway. Reaching right into the Lord of the Rings and extracting Hobbit music does not make you good. These guys, who, by the way, look really fucking stupid in that picture, try to make everything nice and catchy and fruity, without actually paying attention to the music. The thing is, the sings will often start of with a nice riff and then it promptly gets taken away for more dance-around-the-fire type folk music. Yes, they get bonus points for actually having riffs. Some of them are pretty damn good, too. But they take them away right as it starts to kick ass.
The prime example of this is probably Pagan Purity. Some random crap at the beginning, then BAM, at 2:09 we get a nice speed metal riff for about ten seconds, then more crap. Same thing with The Regality Dance. I should mention that in that song they try to emulate a melodeath band, with the singer going into growls, and failing miserably. Actually, that is the main reason why this song fails. It has some nice riffs, but they pound them relentlessly into the ground so that you're tempted to skip about halfway through. Oakenshield is hailed as the best thing on here, but even that is completely raped in the ass. I swear, these guys must be taking lessons from In Flames about how to make music.
The good? Not much. The Dweller Of Rhymes is the best song here. This has some nice fucking thrash riffs that don't get boring and vocals that don't blow as much as normal. Why couldn't they make the rest of the album sound like this, this kicks ass! Actually, To Oak Woods Bestowed is a nice little intro, but it's too short. I don't get it, they shorten all the good stuff and try to stretch out the shit for as long as possible! It just doesn't make sense!
The rest of the album is just random folky-sounding trash scraped together and called music. Why anyone would listen to this for any reason other than The Dweller Of Rhymes is beyond me. Can't you guys write a consistant album?!
Well, this is it. The one and only (for now, at least) Elvenking "masterpiece." The album that has theoretically inspired dozens of Folk Metal bands trying to imitate their killer sound. Heathenreel . . . the one true masterpiece of Elvenking. And there was much rejoicing. Huzzah.
Hey, kiddies, I've got a riddle for you! Ready? What do you get when you take To Oak Woods Bestowed, subtract Under the Tree of Us'Dum and Banquet of Bards, add Pagan Purity and A Dreadful Strain, and fill the rest of the slots of a standard full-length album with abortive filler crap and some growls?
Answer: Not Much. And that's exactly what Heathenreel delivers. All the great songs on this album, with the exception of Pagan Purity and A Dreadful Strain, were already on To Oak Woods Bestowed. Instead of completely transferring the demo to the full album and making more shit-pounding songs like those, Elvenking decides to write a plethora of meaningless riffs pounded into the ground and record over it the most obscenely stupid growls I have ever heard coming from a band, and that includes Mayhem's shit-for-lungs current vocalist. What the hell are you talking about?
Elvenking sees the light with Pagan Purity and A Dreadful Strain. Here we have some original riffs with the distinctive Elvenking vocals, and instead of pounding the same riffs into nothing, Elvenking develops those riffs and then introduces some new riffs. That's how it should be done. Now, if Oakenshield and White Willow were new songs, we would have something to talk about here. Unfortunately, two decent new songs and two graduates of an earlier demo do not a classic make, at least not in my book.
Now, as I've mentioned in my review of To Oak Woods Bestowed, this may be the only Elvenking you can find, in which case you should buy it, because there are four terrific songs on here and one very cool Introduction. If you can find the demo, however, buy it first. You lose more from not having Banquet of Bards and Under the Tree of Us'Dum than you gain from Pagan Purity and A Dreadful Strain.
Or you could just download all of Elvenking's good songs, burn them onto a CD, and call it 'The REAL Heathenreel'.
What? No, of course I don't do that. Downloading's ILLEGAL. Im just saying, though . . . that you could . . . if you wanted to . . . yeah. *cough cough*
Elvenking. When I first heard that name I thought that their music had to be some ridiculous power metal, with words like "dragon", "kingdom" and "sword" repeated over and over in the songs. But then I started to listen, and that I don't regret.
Already the opening track "To Oak Woods Bestowed", indicates that this is something different. Starting with flutes and tambourines in a typical folk-inspired melody. This music is very varying, going from fast, heavy riffs, to some calm melodic passages, which all of a sudden could explode into blasting drums and even some death metal voclas. The voclas of "Damnagoras" as he call himself, is as varying as the music, and he does it well.
This cd is full of suprises, great folk-inspired music, with choires and instruments like flutes and harps. So if you like to be suprised and like som "odd" music, this is something for you.
I will summarize this cd by 2 words: Innovative and Surprising.
This album by Italian band Elvenking mixes a certain power metal feel with death metal influence on guitar riffs and the occasional growls, while it also combines a strong folk component, featuring flutes, violins, harps and acoustic guitars.
I consider this album a very good one from the beggining to the end, the intro "To Oak Woods Bestowed" with its flutes and strings opens way to "Pagan Purity" which kicks off with a shout and full guitars.
The folk influence is so well inserted in the song structure that the guitar riffs can really evoke images of woods and pagan-folk in their rituals!The song "Regality Dance" for instance, starts with an acoustic guitar, then adds soft drums, which become slightly faster and finally, more than 1 minute after the song started, the guitars kick in.In this song you will actually feel the urge to do a heathen dance!Honestly, I'm not joking!
"Skywards" is a beautiful songs performed mostly on violin and acoustic guitar, while "Conjuring of the 14th" gives a more creepy feeling to the mood. Finally, the last song "Seasonspeech" is probably the most interesting on the album, it features 4 vocalists, one for each season of the year, and the instruments alternate among themselves, one minute the song is a fast guitar oriented metal song, the other it sounds like a ballad with flutes and acoustic guitars.
Overall, this is a very good album and if they stick to this formula the next album will be as good as this debut LP.