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Heathenreel, though not a very consistent release, had some of my favorite Elvenking songs on it - Seasonspeech and Conjuring of the 14th. These songs had a very epic, dynamic feel and although they were not very catchy and sounded a bit immature, they had all the making of a genuine folk metal song in my opinion.
I hadn't listened to anything else by Elvenking until their 2006 release, The Winter Wake. After giving it my first listen all those years ago, I realized Elvenking had taken quite a turn in their musical direction. With Trow's Kind, I immediately noticed the violin completely leading the music while the guitars hovered in the back playing simple power chords. The music was more mature, but at the same time was definitely not as complex and had a more "pop" sound to it than the epic folk metal sound a song like Seasonspeech had. The song structure was much more predictable and simplistic, but this was not a bad thing; To me, it made it a very fun album to listen to Though it was different and, in my ears, not as great, I gave it my approval and stamped it as a solid release.
My favorite song on the album would be The Wanderer. The Wanderer is the poster boy, single of the album and with good reason. To me, it completely defines the album; a fun, simple, energetic and catchy song with a sing-a-long chorus and beautifully crafted violin melodies while the guitar takes a somewhat backseat. One of my honorable mentions is Rouse Your Dream, which is borderline cheesy in lyrical content, but has a special, optimistic aura about it, a very feel-good song. The other mention is The Winter Wake, which at first listen is some sort of strange hybrid between electronic and classic rock (complete with some of the most amusing and flat out bizarre opening vocals I have ever heard) but comes back to folk metal with a beautiful acoustic interlude that is followed up with a decently rocking guitar solo.
The album has a couple of acoustic songs in it, which are always welcome to me, since I believe Elvenking writes some of the best acoustic folk songs in the field (check out Two Tragedy Poets if you don't believe me). The song On The Morning Dew is a sappy, yet very pretty duet with applaudable female vocals supported by guitar and violin. The other acoustic song, Disillusion's Reel is my favorite of the two, with solid vocal work by Damnagoras backed up by equally solid guitar work by Aydan.
All in all, The Winter Wake isn't a masterpiece; it has its fair share of lethargic tunes that have some very awkward song structure and vocals but in between these parts are some truly good and entertaining listens. It may not be true metal but... honestly what does it matter? At the end of the day if the music is enjoyable and you walk away nodding your head in approval and at the catchy chrous' now etched into your mind, it's a solid release. Don't try to enjoy it as an magnum opus; take it for what it's worth and enjoy the folk pop-rock that is The Winter Wake.