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I've always been partial to Elvenking's unique take on folk metal, and I'm a huge fan of Damnagoras' voice. The Winter Wake marks his return to the band after a brief separation due to health issues. The band's third full-length sadly doesn't recreate the luster of the majestic "Heathenreel", however it is still an incredibly strong, varied release in its own right.
I'll start with Damna. His trademark nasal voice just sounds great here. Interspersed throughout are some death growls as well, a point of some contention with critics of the band. Regardless, he covers a lot of bases here, and helps give Elvenking its trademark sound through his voice. An interesting foray of guest musicians debut as well, including Schmier of Destruction fame on the album's self-titled track. Laura De Luca provides a brilliant performance with Damnagoras in "On the Morning Dew", the album's only true love song.
Aydan is a brilliant guitarist, lending a hard rock sound that blends well with the folk melodies of the violin. He doesn't play with reckless abandon or speed, just precision and intelligence. I am particularly fond of his performance in "Devil's Carriage"; one of the album's quicker numbers. A very superb production job lends the spotlight to bassist Gorlan from time to time, and in a refreshing manner, we can actually hear and appreciate the bass lines.
This leaves Elyghen and Zender (Who comes up with these names, anyway?) Elyghen is literally the driving force of the band's folk influences. He is a dually talented musician, as he plays keys and violin. More prominent is his contribution with the violin, as all songs feature beautiful violin solos and passages that are in many cases more captivating than guitar solos. The keyboard rears up far less often, but adds it's own ambiance to the folk foray on display here. Zender is a skilled drummer; much like Aydan, he plays steadily and methodically, rarely even busting out the double-bass. Regardless, his innovation is welcomed, and he gives Elvenking a solid rhythm backbone.
The Winter Wake is an average-length album. Most tracks are around four minutes in length. My particular favorites are the opener "Trow's Kind", "The Wanderer", and the epic "Neverending Nights". Every track is unique and offers something new, there is no real filler here, just a few average cuts. I will say that "Devil's Carriage" is the weakest offering here. As stated above, the album benefits from a very clear, balanced production and of course, five very skilled musicians. I dig these guys, lets hope they can rebound from the extremely lackluster "The Scythe" and return to this kind of form.