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The Winter Wakeup Call - 94%

MettleAngel, April 28th, 2006

On this their third reveal, Italian folk metal legends Elvenking revel in mystery and imagination. The Sacilian pathfinders have finally found their niche, and disentangled the silk dilemma. After several line-up changes and reconciling the dreadful strain from internal conflicts, and overbalancing the staid sound similar to so many other folk metal musicians, Elvenking have triumphantly resubmerged with an enlightened and rekindled spirit . Elvenking formed in October 1997 under the direction of guitarists Ayden & Jarpen. Damnagoras - the dweller of rhymes joined in March of '98 as their vocalist/bassist. Then, they released their demo "To the oakwoods bestowed" in 2000 and were soon signed by AFM-Records. Shortly thereafter, Gorlan joined to play bass, permitting Damnagoras to concentrate on perfecting his seasonspeech vocal duties. Their debut CD "Heathenreel" was a fast paced blend of Skyclad meets early Dark Tranquillity with lyrical concentration on the sherpa way of life and reverance for Mother Earth. Then in August 2002, Damnagoras departed and new singer Kleid joined the fold. Together with Elyghen, whom they enlisted as their keyboardist/violinist, they released their sophmore outing "Wyrd" enlivened by the famous book by Brian Bates who enthralled Martin and company to create Sabbat's "Dreamweaver". Many fans were disappointed with this effontery, so Damnagoras was reinstated into the band, but due to personal reasons, Jarpan was compelled to exit. Elvenking now present us with their jubilant, piquant and more polished poem for the firmament - "The Winter wake".

I relished the pagan purity of "Heathenreel" and gamboled to the dandy regality dance on "Wyrd" with it's infectiously haunting melodies. Although, as I ensconced myself in the march of fools pride, I enthusiastically anticipated the release of "The winter wake"; since I prefer Damnagoras on vocals. This CD truly is the masterful blend of both their other releases. The band has definitely matured and invented their own style of music without imitating those bands which ealier motivated them. This CD has many admirable qualities including: string arrangements, female choirs, and even some guest appearances by Nino Laurenne from Thunderstone soloing on the opening track "Trows Kind", and Schmier from Destruction joining Damnagoras in an eternal ban on the title track. Curse the Gods! Even without the dual guitar interplay of Ayden & Jarpen, the production mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox studios is superb. Even though most of the music and lyrics are written by Ayden, those tracks penned by Damnagoras are eccentric as well; especially "Neverendeing Nights" which includes an awesome guitar solo by Damnagoras, himself. This time the band have advanced and ventured lyrically by improving on their weird heathen realities with more focused storytelling. The subject matter is more metaphysical and the fairytales are gentile. Another admirable quality to the CD is the packaging and booklet which includes detailed artwork and descriptive pictures for each song. These artisitic impressions elucidate the more intrinsic essence of the song's girth. The import version even includes a Skyclad cover of "Penny Dreadful", which is one of my favorite Skyclad songs on "Irrational Anthems"!

Each song on this CD is quite ennobled. The more I listen to this, the more I celebrate the banquet of bards.. Stand-out songs like "The winter wake", "March of fools", "Devil's carriage", "Rouse your dream", and "Neverending nights" endorse a magnanimous manifest. It's a deliberate choice, and not a total desaster, selecting the German - Inventor of evil - Schmier to reject emotions and throttle out a thrash attack chorus for "The winter wake. United by hatred, the mad butcher" paradoixcally parleys with Damnagoras on the title track. Jarpen even assists by contributing a solicitious solo. Yet, given Schmier's confused mind, his most recent ritual "Alliance of hellhounds" features Messiah Marcolin, Biff Byford, Paul Di' Anno, Doro, and more classic metal artists. As I mentioned, the lyrics are just more profound and thought-provokingl. When this is augmented by such illustrious images in the CD booklet, it bedights the array and guides the listener on an enchanted magical inner journey. Open up and swallow the tale of "Swallowtail, a brooding yarn yielding the pusillanimous to beware of a witch, whom may just be a butterfly. This song becomes even more feral with Damnagoras imitating the Mercyful King's shrills heard through such denizens as "Them". "The Wanderer", is an upbeat melody for wayward souls searching for infinite truth and knowledge, through the pursuit of classic literature. There is a picture of a young boy standing amidst a swirling tower of caddy tomes and neverending stories. Following this is "March of fools" an iconoclastic reverberation with a wilted, knotty forest crag draped with inverted cisterns and a knight's helmet. This song envisions the wisdom recognized through an inward journey prevalent in us all. "I'm getting older, maybe I don't recognize. I'm yet too old for all this mind-blowing fair of insanity. When I was a kid, I promised myself I'd never grow up, but now wiser a bit I can see!". These words are lamented betwixt beauty and the beastlike affectations with Damnagoras singing more base, while female sopranist Pauline Tracey assumes a more angelic register. "This continues with the little ditty "On the morning dew" with female vocalist Laura de Luca joining Damnagoras in an eloquent duet, respendent with accoustic and flute arrangements.

Elvenking are not a band concerned with epic or fantasy type themes, but they do create intriguing percipient stories which blend so well with their stlye of music. Their weal and ethereal passages are more pronounced and played out. On a more straight forward metal cut like "Devil's carriage" with artwork showing a demon-like dragon being tamed under the big top circus tent. One feels as if he has embarked on a nightmarish, bumpy, and turbulent carriage ride to the midnight circus and onward through the nether regions of hell itself. "Rouse your Dream", which follows Elvenking's intrepid take on the pied-piper concept on "Rats are following", is another mystical reverie with images of Jacob's Ladder laminated. This track begins with bass and piano and then
emerges into a powerful, conceptual piece. "For every single day you live , for every fragment of your broken dream....start again and find your way to live - rouse your dream!". This is just so elevated and quixoitic. It's songs like this which bring elation to my mettle pulse. The real masterpiece of the CD is the last full-length track. "Neverending nights". This undulating reciprocity scored by Damnagoras has all the vitalities of metal with punishing drums, shredding guitars, and excellent choir arrangemnents. The chorus does not even occur until well after the middle of the song. The attendant personifying portrait depicts eeire inhabitants peering through sordid windows. This song even has the characteristics of some of the more mysterious Annihilator songs. The CD concludes with "Disillusion's reel" a quaint balladesque coda and a fatal portait of a forlorn bride surrounded by ravens.

Thus, with a fiery stride in the right direction, Elvenking have finally formulated the music found deep in their white willow whispers and wishes. "The winter wake" is ardent folk metal mellifluously and cautiously conducted by an entourage who intuit the fellowship and faith of folk metal. They know the rats are following in their footsteps, but their detractors have been led to the loser's ball! Elvenking encourage you to rouse your dream skywards on these neverending nights. Search inside, discover the wanderer and yet, another haven .To the oakwoods bestowed the oakenshield with hobs an' feathers under the tree of us'dom, behold the winter wake.

As originally posted on www.metalcdratings.com