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My first contact with Elvenking's music was a rather risky attempt. Out of curiosity, I took a listen to their “controversial” effort The Scythe. While their early discography is more power metal oriented, The Scythe showed a interesting fusion of folk, melodeath, power metal, metalcore and even some emocore/alternative influences around. While some people found it a disastrous effort, I was really pleased with the result these italian guys laid out.
The namesake opener begins after a brief spoken intro with some synth effects, and then we're presented to Elvenking new aproach: the guitars and drums are noticiably melodeath/metalcore influenced, yet showing excellent riffage and drumming. I was actually surprised with lead singer Damnagoras vocal work: while many complain of his “out-of-place-emo-whinning-with-occasional-bad-screaming” I was actually pleased by his delivery. While the folk influences more present on earlier works may be noted in a lesser extent, they're still present in then-keyman/ violinist Elyghen's very good violin lines. Another highlights of this song are the great guitar soloing and the melodic, soaring chorus melodies.
Melodies, we got the point: Elvenking focuses a lot on it. The guitar work here its not impressively technical and challenging, yet focuses on melodic chord progressions, creative and memorable riffing, and some really tasteful soloing here and there (listen to the soli on A Riddle of Stars or The Divided Heart). It's a really guitar oriented album, but other instruments have their own moments. There's a lot of electronic synths adding a modern and nice feel (listen to Lost Hill of Memories, Poison Tears or the intro of Dominhate), piano work, as well as some interesting backing atmospheres, such the interesting break on Infection or the spoken word segues between the songs.
The band's rythm session is not something to die for, but does an effective job. The bass doesn't stand too much, as it serves more as a low-end to the guitar sound and it's not much high on the mix, but it has a nice tone actually. The drumming is good, shows decent fills and nice double pedal work, but overall is simple.
The folk side of this record may be noted in a lesser extent, but when they appear, they show nice results. Most of the songs have awesome violin lines (even the weaker tracks have their moments thanks to it) or guitar-violin duets. The brief Totentanz is the most folk-influenced song of the álbum, but a lot of folk interludes can be heard on various tracks. This detail lowered a bit the score, 'cause their earlier albums had more balance between the folk and the metal side.
Damnagoras, as I briefly commented before, is a controversial vocalist, a really fine example of the love-or-hate type of frontman. His aproach of singing please to some, but grows deep hating on others. He may not have an astounding range, or a incredible versatility, but he shows he can sing. It's hard to find a comparision of his voice, but his poppier style can remind the vocalists of the Finnish Gothic Metal/Rock scene, such as Mika Tauriainen from Entwine or even Ville Valo (the end of Romance and Wrath, for instance), but he occasionaly laids out more agressive vocals (Infection, for an example shows a good diversity of his vocals), fryish voices, whispers and even some harsh vocals. While his harshes are not impressively well-done, they are a good ingredient of their music, and as it doesn't appear as much as his cleans. And a interesting feature is that Damna is very often backed by himself or a group of people (nothing Blind Guardian-esque, but sounds nice).
Probably the weakest point of the album is Romance and Wrath. It has a confusing structure and a lot of different things put together that doesn't flow so well. Vocally-wise, it even reminds me (not positively) of Cradle of Filth a bit, as Damna (tries to?) do black metal screams, lot of fry and even female speaking (in that signature Sarah Jezebel Deva-esque delivery). Noteworthy too it's the absolutely awful guest vocal performance of a first-unknown “thing” to me. I was really puzzled about these vocals as I couldn't know if it was a really affeminate male voice or just a really awful female voice. According to the credits I've seen, it's actually a female called Laura de Luca, but her voice is so terrible that i prefer don't going on details.
Highlights? Well, all the songs have their potential, all have really memorable vocal melodies, violin lines, or guitar riffs. The greatest cuts for me are the namesake track The Scythe, Infection, Poison Tears and the final mini-epic, Dominhate. Overall The Scythe is a really underated gem. It's an extremely enjoyable album, full of interesting musical ideas and pleasant results. On the other side a thing that lowered the score a bit was the noticeable “lack” of balance between the folkier and the metal side, as seen on earlier albuns, and in their newest efforts (Red Silent Tides and at least Poor Little Baroness from Era, as I haven't heard other songs from the album yet). But indeed t's a great album, but sadly underrated, and even more sadly constantly bashed for it's different direction. Well I'm not such an ecletic guy as Damnagoras (heck, this guy even listen to Lady Gaga, according to his profile on the band's site), but I really recomend this album to musically-open-minded metalheads, as such it's a really good record, with really good musicianship, interesting vocal work and a really good amalgamation of genres that apparently, wouldn't be soo good if melded together.
After their famous and critically praised relase, the Winter Wake, Elvenking went ahead and made something truly exceptional: A melodic death metal album with folk elements.
To most people, this album stands out rather weak because of the sudden change of style. Alright, this is understandable; however, what they seem to be lacking is a proper and unaffected listen. You shouldn't listen to this album expecting to hear pure folk metal or the same old Elvenking, and then write a deceiving review about it. Besides, what is folk metal? If you ask me, it has no limits. If another band were to release this instead of Elvenking, I believe it wouldn't be blamed.
The Scythe features a unique style, it is not completely death metal, nor is it drowning in folk instruments. In fact, I have never listened to something like this. The title track starts off with Damna speaking followed by heavy guitar riffing, and later violins come in. Damna's vocals are great and they fit the song perfectly. While there are some brutal moments throughout the album, if there were mainly brutal vocals, I'm sure I wouldn't like it this much; that's how I can describe it. As for all the other songs on the album, it is the same.
The second track, Lost Hill of Memories, is among the best songs on the album. From the beginning to the end, as Damna's vocals deliver the emotion, nicely crafted guitar-riffs and the unity will get you hooked. "Waters of the ocean, tell her that I am near. Winds of far horizons, blow off all the fears. Fearless I stand, strong of all. The emotions I lived through, as my memories and soul belong to you" The chorus is so catchy that you will probably find yourself singing it along. The song also features a short but top-notch guitar-solo.
Rest of the songs are all worth mentioning. Each one of them has it's uniqueness, especially Romance and Wrath for being the best song on the album. It is like a compilation of what is there to be found on The Scythe, and the female and guest vocals add a lot.
The only purely-soft song is Totentanz, performed with acoustic guitars and violins. A fine relaxation song which is like a pause between Horns Ablaze and Death and the Suffering. Now that I mentioned it, Death and the Suffering is a total-killer. A great chorus and crisp guitar-riffs, and a short, slow violin-section close to the end.
Elvenking have managed to create something different than their usual style, and they have done it right. This album will undoubtedly satisfy open-minded listeners.
In my review for the album "The winter wake", I wrote that I really liked the experimental style of "Trows kind" and "The winter wake" and that I hoped that the band would head on to focus on such particular songs. When the cover artwork of this album was published, I expected some darker material of this album, but that the band would have done such a radical change of style even surprised me. First, I was just mixed up or stunned, but after a few tries, I really liked the courageous darker and harsher direction of this album. I really like when bands go into such kind of directions like Iron Maiden with "The X Factor", Judas Priest with "Jugulator" or Helloween with "The dark ride", just to give you an idea. Now, Elvenking deliver their own dark side.
The first song starts with spoken word intros and weird and dark background songs. In fact, every song on this album begins with some spoken words by a narrator and this style underlines the conceptual style of the album. It is indeed an album about the ways you could die. I find the main idea quite interesting but I think that the narrator doesn't show enough emotions and sounds rather bored and that's what destroys the good ambitions.
The title track is a very dark and heavy song with a very epic and melodic chorus and one of the catchiest songs on the album. But this song shows already that the band concentrates on death metal and even gore elements on this album and you rarely hear songs that remember you of their old power and folk metal style like "A riddle to the stars" or "Totentanz".
A good example for the new direction of the band would be the dramatically and atmospheric "Infection" with death vocal shrieks and a mixture of dark growls and melodic vocals in a very catchy chorus. The violin is though perfectly integrated in this part and gives a very diversified and particular touch to the song. The atmospheric and doom interlude underlines the song's particularity and creepy atmosphere. Even if you would not like this song, one must admit that this sound is unique and courageous. And personally, I think that the experiment succeeded. This song represents very well the album and it is one of my favourite ones.
The only song that falls a little bit out of the line is the single "The divided heart" which is a more melodic but yet very dark gothic pop ballad with an extremely kitsch but catchy chorus. That sounds horrible, but it isn’t. Normally, this song would be the weak point of such an album, but that isn't the case here. This song is so catchy and addicting that you can't get it out of your mind, especially for the chorus. The band really has a talent to write catchy choruses on this album and this song gets the peak position. The most important thing is that this song even fits on the album because it stays in a darker tone and relates also to the death topic.
The only problem about this album is that some songs in the second half are a little bit too long and seem to repeat and go into the same direction rapidly. The catchiness of first songs has gone and songs like "Romance and wrath", "Death and the suffering" or "Dominhate" mostly sound too ambitious and overlong for nothing.
But a part of those three songs, you can find seven dark and eerie catchy killers on this courageous album. The band just did what they wanted to do on this album and took high risks, but as far as I am concerned, I think that there thing worked on me. The album is different from the solid but repeating power folk stuff they have done before and that many other bands do. This album has mostly no cute and innocent folk melodies, it is dark, eerie and evil and may shock the old and average fans. I think that it is the highlight in the band's discography. But it is good as well that they didn't continue to head into that direction on the later albums, not to please to the weeping closed minded fans that hated this album, but to keep the unique spirit of this one alive.
"...we're roaming through the shades of forgotten fairytales."
Yes, that sounds about right. Perfect for describing the feeling that "Scythe" will bestow upon you. Especially "Night surrounds..." part. So, what to say? What can I say that has not been said already? Should I tell you how disappointed I am? No, I don't think you care about that. Should I point out to Elvenking's musical and lyrical potential that you are all, I'm sure, very well aware of? Don't think so, no. Actually, come to think of it, there is no need to say anything. Their music (...and I'm giving it too much credit by calling it this) on "Scythe" album speaks for itself. However, allow me to indulge myself with couple of words, and share my point of view.
First of all, if this is your first time listening of Elvenking, know now that this is not it. Please, try no to judge their whole music by this particular standard. Not yet, anyway. There is nothing even slightly Elvenking-ly in whole god damn album. Yes, I know. They wanted to be original. They didn't wanted to repeat themselves, and all that shit. Let me just point out to them (like they care...) that consistency is not at all bad thing, especially if your previous work has proven to be something really good and worth mentioning in the annals of metal music. Furthermore, maybe it's just me being naive, but it seems to me that Elvenking honestly had no intention to sell-out themselves. They really wanted us to take this album like something honest and serious, and to consider their brave new direction a move worth of respect. Well, I would, if it would be so. Ironically, this whole thing is even more ridicilous because of that. And all that bullshit about not wanting to repeat themselves... Oh gods... If I had a coin for every time I heard that from a metal bands that destroyed their reputation with this kind of pitiful stuff. Newsflash, Elvenking. "Wyrd" after "Heathenreel", and "Winter's wake" after "Wyrd" wasn't all that "repeating ourselves-thing" either, wasn't it? But it turned out to be pretty damn good. So what the hell were you thinking this time?
As for music, it's awful. It has no cohesion whatsoever. It's scattered, ugly and what's worst of all, their recognizable, unique folk sound is so poor-timed and distasteful that I was starting to wonder whether this is even Elvenking, or just some "wannabe" guys that killed the rest of the band, but kept Damnagoras with gun on his forehead and forced him to sing. Quite appropriate explanation actually, because it would also explain some very, very bad singing parts from the abovementioned. So, the music stinks. Singing is bad. What of the lyrics? Is it something worth mentioning there? Hell, no! The whole forest/folklore-soaked concept is gone with the wind. Forget about that. No, not even a trace of it. The intelligent, individualistic, nature-respecting and pagan-like point of view are traded for what is seems to be a emo-like, teenage crap with rather shameful influence of worst pop stuff you ever heard. Many true things have already been said in previous reviews, so there is no need to write something else. All I can do is confirm it, and give you my best advice about this album. Do not buy it. Do not even listen it. Do not waste your time on it in any way. It's not worth of anyone's precious time. So much from me.
As I'm writing this, the new album "Red silent tides" is done and waiting release. I can only hope that Elvenking is still rightfully called "Elvenking", and that we will once again have music that will force us to put some old shoes on, and take a long walk through the old forests of the earth.
Oh, and by the way...
Even this 5% is not because of some present, but well-hidden quality of this album. It's just me being happy that they didn't change their logo, along with their music.
I…just don’t know what to say about this. Yes, it is about as bad as people will tell you. Yes, the band did probably smoke large quantities of paint thinner before writing this. And yes, it is apparently intended to be taken seriously.
I don’t know. I…just don’t know anymore. I mean, this is what they thought would be acceptable to release to their fans? Elvenking fans? You know…the band that appeals to all of the folk metal pussies who listen to bands like Rhapsody, Korpiklaani and Sonata Arctica exclusively? Not that there’s anything THAT wrong with that, but…you must understand where I’m coming from with this. Just, gah, listen to “Poison Tears.” Pop-punk vocal lines, metalcore chugging and violins all in one song? It’s too much; I need to pause it and get my act together! I can’t stop laughing!
Okay. Okay, I’m going to try and collect myself in order to properly review Elvenking’s The Scythe. As difficult as that may be, I’m going to do it, and give this album the proper thrashing it damn well deserves. Just listening to one song off of this makes me want to hurt people, how am I supposed to get through an hour of it? But I digress… let’s swallow our dignity and try to get through this without reaching for the pause button again.
Elvenking apparently decided, upon the return of resident drag queen Damnagoras to their fold, that they were going to stop being cool and write music that appealed to people who liked My Chemical Romance. Except with a violin. And metalcore-inspired guitar playing. You know, things that have nothing to do with My Chemical Romance or any kind of popular mainstream radio fodder. Things that make no sense together, and things that you’d think a combination of would be, well, completely batshit insane. Are you following this? Because apparently Elvenking couldn’t.
I mean there’s creativity and then there’s stupidity, and this album crosses the line pretty fucking quick – as in, by track 2. You can’t just mash together anything you want and assume it will sound good without, you know, actual effort to the songwriting. And you can’t have it both ways between playing commercially infested drivel and third-rate Power Metal, either – Elvenking would do well to realize this, and pick a side quickly, because I can’t take much more of this. The immature angst that this has just make it even worse. Songs are titled stupid things like “Dominhate” or “Poison Tears.” Grow some balls; goddamn! The level of testosterone on here is about as plentiful as the number of good twists in an M. Night Shyamalan movie. And that isn’t very high, for those who were wondering!
The music itself is unpleasant and ridiculous, jumbling heavy, obnoxious guitars with a very out of place violin; do they just keep him in the band now because he’s related to their parents’ friends or something? Damnagoras is just silly, perhaps the silliest on here, although that’s really not an easy contest to judge. His usual stuffy-nosed attempts at emoting are diluted into the most basic, lowest common denominator possible. Nothing he sings sounds the least bit convincing, and the poppy, uber-listenable sheen of his melodies just make it all the more nauseating. The band cycles through goofy melodies and asininely simplistic bashing guitars on ass-fests like “Infection,” “Dominhate,” the wimpy, groove-tastic “Death and the Suffering” and the especially shitty “Romance and Wrath,” which not only has awful tradeoffs between harsh and clean vocals and some truly wretched melodic ideas, but at the end of the song, we get the weirdest vocal sound effect that sounds like someone belching up their lunch into a vocoder…that’s the best way I can describe it. Why? Who knows, who cares, this album blows.
I mean, what the fuck do you want me to say? I mean they really thought anyone would actually like this? Even the worst of mall-core kiddies aren’t that stupid! This album is a joke! It’s crazy in the worst way possible. A folk power metal band writing poppy alt-emo-metalcore with violins and shitty narration to open up every song? The jokes, the criticisms, the scathing diatribes write themselves! Fuck, I think I’m having a mental breakdown. Oh, I forgot about the narration, didn’t I? Yes, yes, apparently aside from the goofy-ass music, the band decided they wanted to have some douchebag recite horrendous poetry at the beginning and end of most of these songs, in a perfectly dead-pan American accent that sounds about as nerdy as a Star Wars convention held in a World of Warcraft player’s basement…fuck it, I’m just going to go break things until I calm down.
This is…bad. This is really bad, guys – right up there with the worst of ‘em. People will ask how a band like Elvenking could possibly come up with something like this, but really they were never a good band anyway, and The Scythe is living proof of that, rather than some kind of black spot on their supposedly good record like their boneheaded fans will tell you. Here we have a band with no huge lineup changes, no transition album, and THIS is what they put out. The very fact that Elvenking made this album should be enough to convince people not to keep supporting them, because no band of any remote morsel of quality could ever come out with anything this dumb, this silly. I don’t even know why people liked them that much to begin with; it isn’t like they ever did anything genre-defining, or like they were ever that good in the first place. But I guess I shouldn’t expect much from the masses anyway.
I’m going to have to give this a zero – if not for the awful music, then for the implications of it all. On no level of artistic appreciation is The Scythe worth my time. This is painful, and even the unintentional humor behind it doesn’t last that long. Everything about this sucks, from the terrible, heinous combination of music to the insulting implication that people would find this in any way charming, entertaining or enjoyable. What a load of ass! This is so bad that I’d even say it’s a good argument in favor of abortion, or even just safe sex – nothing of worth can be derived from the seeds that would produce an album like this. One of the rare albums where I actually wished harm on the band members after listening to it. People, this is rock bottom. Do not listen to this, do not support this band, do not ever condone anything in their name again.
There’s something everyone’s forgetting here. Forget all the hysteria and genreism about whether this album’s folk, or power, or (heaven forbid) emo. And let’s not worry too much about how Damnagoras sings, when we should be worrying about what he sings hey?
This album is not an abortion. It’s not lazy. It’s not even an experiment. The fact is it’s a vision that doesn’t quite tally with their usual stripe. Now as a band you really only have one of two choices here: do the side project thing (and another one of those is just what the world needs right now right?), or stay true and just put it out there. Now if the fans decide it’s a return to sender moment, so be it. So what do I personally think is wrong with this album? It’s simple. Nothing sticks. The melodies, riffs, tunes – whatever you want to call them – just aren’t very good. Or at least not as good as what’s put this band on the map from day one.
Take the “The Scythe” for instance. It opens with a near downtuned buzzsaw riff overladen with death growl that says we’re trying different arrangements. That’s fine, except that we’ve heard the same verse and bridge that follow on better ELVENKINGS songs than this. I’ll come back to that in just a moment. Anyway, back to the chorus. Not much there waiting to greet us except that sorta sad, sorta whining, sorta out loud melody that we all know is the hallmark of modern pop rock outfits the planet over. Like I said, I honestly, genuinely don’t care if that’s the name of the game. But with the exception of a desperate violin trying to sneak in on song after song, the melodic firepower of the ELVENKING of old makes way for the deliberately modern “sound” the band are going for.
“Poison Of Tears” is another good example. The verses are a catchy power metal gallop, but the chorus is just the near same melody sung twice as a fast. “A Riddle Of Stars” doesn’t even try. Despite a killer retro riff, the vocal melody just stops and starts and forgets that at some point this thing has to bite. Which is exactly what “Romance & Wreath” sets out to do will all the eight or so minutes of effort it can muster. The end result is an everything except the kitchen sink jam session that says we’ve mastered the modern thing. I’m not going to argue, but just tell me at what point I’m going to feel a shiver up and down my spine.
“The Divided Heart” is the album single for the obvious reason that it’s the most pop sounding song. It’s also the song that’s gotten under the skin of fans the most. No mystery as to why, it’s virtually the rest of the album poured into one track. There’s your problem. That and the fact that it’s just not a very catchy hook. Same goes with “Horns Ablaze”, “Death and the Suffering” or “Dominhate”. A half song here, a potential hook there, but just too many wrong judgment calls by a band too possessed with structure and arrangements.
Now having said that – by the way fans talk about this album – you’d think ELVENKING phoned this one in. That’s garbage. The detail and effort is all there. The damn hard work. The concept is audacious. We’re talking a take on death. But if it’s not catchy, it might as well be a shopping list set to music.
ELVENKING is still one of the top ten metal bands on the planet. And lyrically THE SCYTHE still has them light years ahead of most of their peers (in any genre). But let’s not pretend they’re all out of ammunition on the music front. So calm down people.
When one hears the name Elvenking, the last thing that one would associate with it would be sounds conducive to the 2006 craze of mixing emo ala My Chemical Romance or Atreyu with metalcore. But upon delving right into the opening moments of â€œThe Scytheâ€ that is exactly what is heard, really lame pseudo-tough guy with a gimp-like tinge to it shouts and all. All of our praises to the woodland legends and lore have gone out the window, and along with it all of the bandâ€™s lyrical credibility and seriousness. If one went by everything other than the general game of notes, the hit or miss riffing, and the occasional quasi-Folk remnant, terms such as musical self-parody and bad auditory joke are very easy to throw at this.
Unlike some of the people who canned this album, I wouldnâ€™t go so far as to say that this is not a metal album, but I will say that it incorporates a lot of highly questionable influences and falls well short of being what could be called good. The key offender is Damnagorasâ€™ vocals, which have basically zero punch to them whenever he goes harsh, and has taken on a very emo quality during the clean sung sections. Iâ€™ve long struggled with how to properly sum up exactly what is wrong with the emo/metalcore vocal style, but this album really brings the flaws into such a clear state of focus that the proper picture just pops right out. Just picture someone with a level of vocal skill trying as hard as possible and failing utterly, coming off as overly dramatic and yet utterly unserious.
Aside from the vocal issues, the other really severe blight on this troubled opus is the whole presentation. Brief passages of really awkward sounding poetry verses narrated in a semi-comical spoken voice are littered in between nearly every song, almost like a really bad pop singer trying to do his own emulation of Blind Guardianâ€™s â€œNightfall In Middle Earthâ€. The whole death and hatred theme of this album runs contrary to the pleasant Folk passages and pristine clean vocals that pop in and out of here, almost to the point of assuming a contradiction as ridiculous as Kid Rock writing songs centered around the writings of Terry Brooks or Stephen Donaldson. This band literally would have done better if theyâ€™d just written songs about the uses of a scythe in agriculture, and maybe improved upon it a little by making the farmers depicted in their tasks pagans.
Nonetheless, one thing I will say to this albumâ€™s credit, in spite of the really obnoxiously modern sounding production, is that musically this album has some moments. When Damnagoras avoids both the whining and the poorly delivered screams, he sounds fairly close to his old self on â€œHeathenreelâ€. Songs such as â€œDominhateâ€, â€œRomance And Wrathâ€ and â€œA Riddle Of Starsâ€ have some solid riffs thrown around here and there, and the occasional highlight chorus theme that would probably sound really good with a less ridiculous vocal character. This music is essentially much more complex and metallic than your average mainstream American or European emocore band. Thereâ€™s also a pretty solid speed/thrash riff to kick off â€œDeath And The Sufferingâ€ that is hampered a bit by the overdone production, but still listens far closer to the real thing than your run of the mill Trivium riff.
Unfortunately, a few solid ideas and a couple of passable yet heavily flawed songs do not equal something worth blowing money on. This is one in a growing group of albums out of the power metal field that signifies a dying spirit in the style, and unfortunately a lot of journalists on various metal websites are walking on eggshells on this issue and looking for excuses to pass this off a small step down but an otherwise good album, rather than the woefully confused, self-mocking caricature of modern metal that it is. My hope is that this band, along with Labyrinth and Human Fortress, cease and desist in sullying their good name with auditory trite like this.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 9, 2009.
Well, this won't take too long... I don't know what they were thinking, but Elvenking really used to be one of the better power metal bands (actually, I'm only referring to "Heathenreal" here). This is just pure, well, shit actually. I expected better from these Italians... Again: what were they thinking?
First of all, Elvenking is now what can be called powercore (well yeah, just take the already existing term and put -core behind it, it seems to be very trendy nowadays). This just isn't power metal anymore, in any way. Powercore vocals (if you hear it, you'll know what I mean, but since I wouldn't recommend it: think high pitched and melodic power vocals in combination with typical metalcore chorus-styled backing vocals) in combination with irritating folky tunes, female whining and stupid intro's on almost every fucking song. Damn, I can't even stop myself from using obscene language... It's not that it isn't endurable, they surely will get loads of new fans, but being an ex-die hard power metal fan, this just is something 'old' fans won't take.
I really hate it when bands with potential (which they really have, I've seen them live and it was more then fairly enjoyable) waste this on trying to sound 'new' or 'original'. It's the faith lots of bands are victims of: Sonata Arctica, Freedom Call, Kamelot, Stratovarius and now also Elvenking... Pretty sad to see melodic power metal evolve in such a bad direction, hopefully this year will bring us some surprises (Leverage's latest samples sound promising!). Don't buy this, unless you're into bands like 3 Inches of Blood and Trivium, then maybe you might like it...
I don’t think anything can match the disaster of a group’s selling out into trendy crap, especially when the band has created special reputations from past endeavors. Italy’s Elvenking had much more on their side than others as they incorporated strange violin harps amongst power metal barriers, yet in one foul decision, it all went away. Marking ten years in music and a departure from metal, “The Scythe” urinates over everything that could have, would have, and should have been. Basically, Elvenking’s fourth full-length effort glorifies mainstreamed tinges by repressing folk influences and power metal qualities, which results in minimal substance layered over the shit-eating grins of these fading Italians.
There is an obvious conclusion when listening to the release in question: it is not intended for metal fans at all. Instead, Elvenking thrusts into a very repetitive form of radio-friendly rock that only demonstrates half-assed riffing smeared across easy percussion and restrained bass playing; that’s the whole record in a sentence, respectively. “The Scythe” exercises somewhat heavy guitars throughout its duration, but any hope of finding other metallic properties quickly shrinks as the listener is constantly bombarded by poppy choruses, melodramatic vocals, and no-talent-necessary riffs. You might find a hydrating moment while traveling through Elvenking’s modernized desert; nevertheless, an oasis is nowhere in sight aside from minimal refreshment periods.
Musically, there’s no doubt “The Scythe” can terminate brain cells; however, Elvenking’s one-step song writing will eventually put all abusers in a zombie-like state if exposure isn’t cut off immediately. Every tune has the same encoding makeup in which a few verses are played before mindless choruses start up over and over again; this whole album is based around the said formula without any variation or intelligence. Also, one can expect stupid narrative interludes that dreadfully connect each track by contributing confusing rhymes while simultaneously omitting any meaningful purpose for the speaking bridges. Quite irrelevant and useless, but I guess retarded things tend to travel in clusters.
Elvenking really had something going with their past efforts, yet this creation shall always resemble an attempt to land on radio currents and fit in where they didn’t belong. Last time I checked, “The Scythe” wasn’t the center of attention for MTV or metalheads, so selling out didn’t do anything but piss off loyal fans awaiting classy folk-laden power metal; not quite what these clowns wanted on either spectrum. Ironically, “The Scythe” is a very fitting title as it quickly slices Elvenking’s legacy across the jugular until only some bloodied corpse remains rotting in an empty grave. Not sure about you, but I’ll be skipping the burial ceremony without question.
The day this album was released, it became the subject of intense discussion among fans. Most people disliked it because of the new style, which is less folky, once a key element in the band's music. The folk element is driven to the background, or even completely inexistent in some of the new songs, and harsh vocals are used a lot more frequently. Add darker themed lyrics to the mix, and you have an album that completely breaks with Elvenking's previous style.
Myself, having enjoyed Elvenking's older albums, picked this album up, really not knowing what to expect. At first I was quite startled with the new style, but as the album progressed, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. Actually, I liked the album more and more after every consecutive playthrough.
In my opinion, Damnagoras' vocals have definately improved, and the fine blend of clean power vocals, harsher thrashy vocals and growls sounds great. While the folk element has been pushed into the background, the violin is still extensively used in a lot of songs, and the songs have become more melodic and 'edgy'. I can't think of a single song I dislike, and almost every track is amazingly catchy. The lyrics have become darker, with lyrics about death and the like (save for a few exceptions). A story is told inbetween many of the tracks, which unfolds at the end of the album, and gives the album a sort of mysterious feel. Presenting the concept of 'death' as a sort of female grim reaper turns the story into a tale of folklore, which really fits the album's mix of darker lyrics and mild folk elements. While I don't find these short passages to be amazingly great, I do think that the album would have a different feel to it, had they not included them.
All in all, I really enjoyed this album. I can see why many Elvenking fans are disappointed with the new album, but if you clear your mind and prepare yourself for something entirely different, you might just love this album. I applaud Elvenking for this brave new direction they have taken, and unlike my disappointment in Sonata Arctica's "Unia", I have fallen in love with this new style.
When Elvenking vocalist Damnagoras declared in an online musician's poll that My Chemical Romance's 'The black parade' was his favourite CD of 2006 the alarm bells started ringing. But in reality, the warning signs were actually there on Elvenking's own 3rd CD from that year, 'The winter wake'. Before a note was recorded, the announcement was made that the guitarist and harsh vocalist Jarpen had left due to the old 'musical differences' adage, this coming just a few months after the return of the erstwhile Damnagoras.
'The winter wake' was a good to be sure, but features some distinctly dubious moments along the way, not least from the input of Damnagoras – his own harsh vocals were more a yelping scream than the rolling growls Jarpen had provided, and on more than one occasion a vocal melody (most notably the pre-chorus of "The wanderer") sounded like it owed more to emo than power metal.
Well, prepared or not, 'The scythe' is here, and it sadly has to be reported that it is a stinker. The influence Elvenking have taken from trendy American alternative metal is unreal, with the sound of their first 2 CDs almost completely gone. Unbelievable as it may sound, there is exactly one power/folk metal song on the CD. Sure, violin player Elyghen is still a notable presence throughout, but it takes more than a stringed instrument trilling away constantly in the background to make folk metal.
Right from the get-go, the opening title track gives a taste of what is to come, with the very polished, modern production and chugging guitars a clear indicator of what the rest of the CD will sound like. But it is only with the 2nd and 3rd songs that things really start to nosedive. Replete with vocals that run the full gambit (nasal whine, tough-guy growl and 'creepy' whisper), chugging breakdowns and hellish buzzing keyboards, things simply never recover from this woeful pairing, and in fact somehow conspire to get even worse in places. The seemingly never-ending 8-minute "Romance and wrath" is nothing short of torture, with Damnagoras turning in a shameful, career-worst display as he strangles a duet with a female vocalist. Elyghen's attendance on this song is particularly forced, and by the end, the shrill wails of his violin reduce the song to an ear-numbing cacophony.
Every song is opened with a short rhyme (delivered in a perfect American accent of course), all of which could easily have been culled from the pages of a malcontent teenage goth's diary. "Of hugs and lashes" indeed. Ignoring even how dreadful the lyrics are here, the sheer repetitiveness of having one of these pieces of doggerel sandwiched between every single song is simply devastating.
Credit, unfortunately, has to be given where it is due. That lone folk metal song, "A riddle of stars" is actually a good one, cut from the same cloth as the Elvenking of old. Similarly, the acoustic interlude "Totentanz" would actually be a nice diversion if the high school poetry wasn't extended to last through the entire song. The guitar solos are mostly very good as well, probably the best Elvenking have actually recorded, helped in no small part by the presence of King Diamond axeman Mike Wead as a guest on 2 tracks.
The end result, however, will surely rank as the greatest disappointment of 2007. Whether Elvenking's shift in style is a financially motivated one, or whether they genuinely believe they are pursuing a more worthwhile musical avenue is known only to the members of the band, but in the end it makes no difference. For whatever reason, this once-promising act have decided that mall metal is the stuff for them, and an experienced Italian power metal band should simply know better.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
For years I have been an elvenking fan and had nothing but respect for the band. But this release has made me take a complete 180 on them. This isn't power metal, this isn't folk metal, what this is, is trash. Utter trash, there is not one good track on this whole CD with the exception of poison tears and that's what gives this album a 10% instead of a 0%.
Now to discribe the music. This "Album" sounds basically like what you would get if you mixed dimmu borgir, slipknot, and elvenking with very little elvenking influences. The song The Divided Heart made me puke with it's terrible emo lyrics and awful music video. It's almost like they're aiming for a 12 year old MTV audience, selling out their original and amazing sound. Most songs are introduced with a spoken text. Now normally that would be... maybe.. okay... but this is just cheesy beyond cheese. The guy sounds like a total idiot. The vocals, yeah damnagoras's clean vocals are really good, but his harsh vocals are just lame. The use of synths on this album is ridiculous. It sounds like rave techno going on in the background of most songs. The break downs are borderline metal-core and the lyrics are just awful.
All in all save your time, save your money and most of all save your respect for this once awesome band, this album is their downfall to terrible. I am terrified to see what they release next. Mayhaps it will include a popular slipknot song cover. This album made me sick. If you're thinking "Can it really be that bad" the answer is yes.