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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 The Scythe 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 band'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 wouldn'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 Damnagoras' 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. I'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 non-serious.
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 Guardian's Nightfall In Middle Earth. 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 they'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 album'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 Heathenreel. Songs such as "Dominhate", "Romance And Wrath" and "A Riddle Of Stars" 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. There's also a pretty solid speed/thrash riff to kick off "Death And The Suffering" 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.