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When I started to listen to metal music, I was mostly into folk and power metal and that’s how I came across Elvenking. My tastes evolved since then but so did Elvenking’s music. Yes, I liked the enchanting and epic debut “Heathenreel”, the more progressive follow-up with new singer Kleid “Wyrd”, the upbeat power folk record “The Winter Wake” that marked Damna’s return and also the darker and more modern conceptual release “The Scythe”. The acoustic release “Two Tragedy Poets (…and a Caravan of Weird Figures)” wasn’t really my cup of tea but still a welcome experiment. The last two albums “Red Silent Tides” and “Era” were quite good but sounded a little bit too alike after all. It was gripping power metal with folk influences crowned by catchy hooks and a few small experiments here and there. I liked these albums but I felt that a change was needed for the band’s next record to continue to evolve and give some new inspiration to the band.
Sadly, “The Pagan Manifesto” offers nothing new to the Elvenking universe despite some darker outfits and the promising album title and promo videos. The new record is once again power metal with folk influences focused on catchy hooks. This mixture has become a trademark of the band but it doesn’t sound inspiring anymore. I do like the acoustic folk pearl “Towards the Shores”, the speedy feel good track “Pagan Revolution”, the darker parts and the gripping growls in the classic beauty meets the beast approach of “Grandier’s Funeral Pyre” or the extremely catchy hooks in “Black Roses for the Wicked One” that would make an excellent single. The problem is that these songs are nice but nothing more. I’ve been saturated with this kind of music and it simply doesn’t touch me anymore. Elvenking really starts to repeat itself.
The other songs on the record basically sound like a mixture of the four aforementioned tracks in more or less convincing ways. “King Of The Elves” starts very badly with stupid male choirs and unnecessarily speedy riffs that don’t harmonize with each other at all. After a few minutes, my worst fears are becoming reality. This song desperately tries to be ambitious and epic but it’s just fails. This piece of music is overlong and pointless. The song is a disappointment. Amanda Somerville’s guest vocals are also rather annoying as she has been present in too many projects lately. This particular song indeed sounds like an attempt to sound a little bit like Avantasia. It’s probably the worst song on the album and the band didn’t do well to open its record with this track.
The other epic in form of the closer “Witches Gather” has at least some more atmosphere and the song writing feels more coherent but the track is still too long and good average at best.
“Elvenlegions” and “Moonbeam Stone Circle” (the song titles are also getting more and more exchangeable) try to be the new band hymns but they sound too calculated on one side and aren’t constantly catchy enough on the other. They are not utterly bad songs but exchangeable Elvenking standard tracks. At some points, Damna’s vocals in “Elvenlegions” are not only slightly nasal and whiny but also androgynous. At the end of this track’s bridge, I really believed for a few seconds that Amanda Somerville was singing again but that’s not the case. I always defended Damna’s unique vocals but his vocal performance is rather getting worse than improving over the years in my opinion. Recent live footage seems to prove me right but I wished I was wrong.
The album goes on this way. It all sounds like a routine job with less passion and ideas than on the last records. Most of the songs are not offensive or bad. It’s maybe even worse because they are dull, unimpressive and have noticeable lengths. I really prefer a controversial record like “The Scythe” to such an exchangeable release like “The Pagan Manifesto”. In my opinion, it’s the band’s weakest album to date and my rating is still quite generous. This record is only for fans that want Elvenking to sound the same and like classic Elvenking all the time.