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"Back to the drawing board" sounds about right.... - 33%

Metal_Grail, September 12th, 2009

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.