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After the dark experimental album "The scythe", Elvenking try once again something completely new in their career and present us an acoustic album. But I must admit that this idea is nothing really original anymore, I am already satisfied with all those folk acoustic albums by German bands like In Extremo, Letzte Instanz or Subway to Sally and so on and enough is enough. When this album was announced, my reaction was just: Sorry? Another acoustic album? Are they all doing acoustic albums right now? There album must be strong to justify its presence!
Well, but this album isn't that strong or original. It is not worse than the acoustic albums of the German folk hard rock bands. But it is not better, too. Too many songs are repeating always the same style. The album is smooth and has a harmonic tranquility, but I'm missing more original folk instruments, some experiments, some courage like on the last album. The average fan liked this album because it was not a provocation, a "hate it or like it" as the last one was. This album could please to almost everyone a little bit, but not completely too anyone. It's an album to celebrate a reconciliation with the old fans that have turned their backs on the band after the last album. The album wants to be intellectual and chilling. I think it's a mostly boring album for a typical metal head but I am able to see some positive points in it.
It starts very well though. After a good introduction, "Another awful hobs tale" has the typical dynamical power folk style of the band, only in an acoustic style. The harmonic single "From blood to stone" is a little bit slower and has a catchy chorus, "Not my final song" is a faster, funnier song that makes you smile somehow. There is nothing dark and eerie on this album any more.
The rest of the songs sound all quite similar and are not as particular or catchy as the three ones that I've mentioned. The acoustic reprises of "The winter wake" and "The wanderer" are not as good as the original versions, especially the first one has a lack of originality in comparison to the original version. The cover song "Heaven is a place on earth" is the only non acoustic song and doesn't fit at all with the rest of the album.
Surprisingly, it is my favourite song on the album and has a really romantic and charming atmosphere that is at least as magic as the original version by Belinda Carlisle that I already liked before. I would even prefer Elvenking's catchy and harmonic version to the pop song and it doesn't happen often that I prefer the cover to the original. This song, just because of the instruments, the romantic style and the powerful magic, has not at all the same style as the rest of the album and it is maybe because of this that the song really surprised me and grew on me with the time. It is also an indicator that the rest of the album can't be that great if a cover song is my favourite tune on the album.
I would recommend this album to fans of inspiring acoustic folk music or people who want to have something relaxing, friendly and harmonic as background music while they are painting, writing poems or just relaxing. But if you take the songs one by one, they are not really strong or original and I wouldn't call this a strong album. It is more an album for special occasions and it doesn't happen that I'm very often listening to it and I would probably consider it as the weakest one in the band's discography.
ELVENKING call this album an experiment. They’re wrong. It’s actually the exact opposite. It’s a safe album. It is in fact quite possibly the safest album in the history of metal. They had no choice. The album that preceded it was what you would call a real, bona fide, hardcore, no-holds-barred experiment. The response was a collective nervous breakdown by fans. Make no mistake, it wasn’t a very good album – but no band has ever run in the opposite direction so quickly. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Let’s start with the yes.
ELVENKING do power folk better than anyone on the planet. WUTHERING HEIGHTS are on the same level, but they’re different in ways that you’ll have to read my reviews to understand. But back to ‘Two Tragedy Poets….’.
It’s an acoustic album that’s not. Let me explain. Normally acoustic means pared down almost to the point of what used to be called “unplugged”. It’d be truer to say this album is restrained. Like I said, it’s safe. So much so that the opening march like instrumental is basically a re-imagining of material from right across their career. And track two makes the point even clearer with a title that literally spells out the fact that the old days are back: “Another Awful Hobs Tale”. The result is a racing violin riddled tune that starts catchy and then gets catchier.
I won’t do the track-by-track roll call, but I will spell out why this album works. “From Blood To Stone” is the first instant classic of the album. Quiet and anguished verses set the tone for a muted anthem for a chorus – that on any other album would have been the equivalent of ten thousand fists punching the air. Here it’s just done quick and spirited. Stills works though. And the lyrics alone are a masterpiece in miniature.
But then you get a song like “Ask a Silly Question” – which is an interesting little beast of a song. It’s by vocalist Damnagoras, and he’s not fooling anyone. This is no folk metal song, but it’s given the folk treatment because he needs to put food on the table. And the smartarse lyrics hit the mark beautifully. Next comes “She Lives At Dawn”. It’s half a song that has no right to be so short. Haunting is the only word that works here. Or maybe haunting and poetic.
The acoustic version of “The Winter Wake” was always going to work. The song’s a killer full stop. Here it’s playing the part of anchor smack bang in the middle of the album for fans still recovering from the last album. So too is the Belinda Carlisle cover song that turns up next. It’s a worldwide pop standard. Or safe for short.
But it’s about now, on the home stretch, that the band let’s loose with a burst of powerhouse numbers just begging to get their due. This is what the band was trying to do with the last album, and would have done, if they hadn’t taken so many left turns that they ended up going nowhere. “The Blackest of My Hearts” is ruled by a single repeating drum beat and a single soul stirring melody. It’s also what might be the band’s finest moment. It’s by guitarist Aydan and confirms what I’ve always suspected – that this band is at its best when the songwriting duties stay separate. A small point it may seem, but I’m convinced it’s what contributed to the catastrophe that was the last album. It’s all about chemistry.
So yes, this is another killer album for a band that can claim the same thing for 4 out 5 of their releases. So what are they doing running scared? And are they just getting what they deserve from fans that deserve better. Again – yes and no. The answer is pretty simple really. The fans want to be moved. And the bands wants to keep moving. One without the other is a backward step. Which sad to relate, this album is too.
Elvenking seems to define their career by their inconsistency in output. They essentially set the mark amazingly high with their debut “Heathenreel”, then went through a series of shifts in sound, back and forth through each album. Although the folk trappings and violin melodies always endured, the quality did not and eventually they found themselves flirting with a metalcore variant of the power metal genre that has since made mince meat of formerly great bands such as Human Fortress and Labyrinth. In the aftermath of this, what better way to throw yet another curveball into the mix than to do an almost entirely acoustic album and take their folk sound to its logical conclusion.
While a complete return to form might have served this band better, the end result of “Two Tragedy Poets (…And A Caravan Of Weird Figures)” is actually pretty enjoyable for what it is. Mind you, this is not a metal release by any standard, but a mostly acoustic folk album that somewhat resembles Blackmore‘s Night, but with a compositional style that actually listens like an unplugged version of their power metal beginnings. Several of these songs are up tempo to the point of sounding like upper tempo Hammerfall, while the general character of the melody lines is pretty animated. But for the most part, the strength of this lies in Damnagoras’ vocal delivery. He has one of those plainer sounding tenor voices that is not normally associated with power metal but rather with punk rock, but it works really well here despite the more stripped down arrangement.
There are some really solid songs on here that, barring a somewhat hit or miss set of lyrics, shine through and make you forget some of the missteps the band has taken in the past. “Another Awful Hobs Tale” and “Ask A Silly Question” are pretty solid up tempo songs with very catchy hooks and plenty of violin showmanship to compensate for a lack of lead guitar moments. The vocals often resemble that sort of angry gang chorus model that is common among punk bands and was also picked up by Anthrax in the mid 80s. “The Blackest Of My Hearts” really turns up the Celtic influences like no tomorrow, pouring lovely flute and pluck string lines overtop of a droning drum line that only occasionally changes up. But the true highlights are the acoustic remakes of the songs off “The Winter Wake”, which have been heard in a somewhat similar fashion at live performances for the past few years. The songwriting was definitely a bit stronger 2 albums back, and although the new stuff on here is definitely a sizable step above “The Scythe”, its such a different medium that this doesn’t compare too heavily to the band’s previous efforts as a whole.
Although a pretty solid collection of songs, this is something that will likely cater exclusively to fans of this band, though some with an interest in folk metal in general might take to it as well. The songs are well constructed, although the lyrical content sometimes seems to revert back to the metalcore influence that the band adopted on the last album and occasionally gets a bit ridiculous. The remake of the Belinda Carlisle song is also kind of sappy and out of place among the other songs on here, but otherwise this is something that I can justify owning. It’s the sort of thing that the band probably should have done as an EP rather than a full length because it comes off as a side-project outside of the main sound of the band, but functions well enough as a full length album to be enjoyable.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on May 17, 2009.
Since I'd first heard Elvenking several months back, I have been a huge fan of everything they've done, save for the monolithic-failure that was "The Scythe". However, I feel as though the Italian-born folk metallers have certainly redeemed themselves with "Two Tragedy Poets" When I had, a few weeks ago, discovered that TTP was entirely acoustic, I was ecstatic and had high hopes for their newest release. And I'm pleasantly pleased to say that these expectations were met, and surpassed even with flying colors. "Two Tragedy Poets" is among Elvenking's greatest work.
I'd like to say that this album is metal in aesthetic, however it's more folk-rock in terms of musical sound. In addition to the pristine tone provided by Aydan, Elvenking also utilize electric guitars in some instances, and this is done to great effect. The first song we're greeted with is a well-chosen exposition entitled "The Caravan of Weird Figures". This gives one a hint of what's to come - beautifully done, infectiously catchy folk rock. "Another Awful Hobs Tale" is a fantastic, speedy song with some fairly interesting lyrics. While it isn't a highlight, it's definitely not one to skip! Next comes "From Blood to Stone", complete with this set of groovy riffs that'll have even the most kvlt, misanthropic black metaller tapping their foot along and perhaps even humming the chorus: "FALL-ING, FALL-ING!" Certainly one of my favorites on "Two Tragedy Poets". Next up is "Ask A Silly Question", which is not one of my favorites, but is still by all means worthy of much merit. The shouted gang vocals are a nice touch and that main riff is just damn catchy! Hearing Damnagoras sing "THE MISSIONARY POSITION.." is a sonic-sight to behold. "She Lives At Dawn" follows the aforesaid and is merely a short, yet sorrowful I think, interlude. It doesn't add much, but rather disrupts the flow of the album as a whole. Elvenking's classic song "The Winter Wake" is redone in an acoustic style and I'd say it's even better than the original! That certainly says something. Damnagoras' vocals are pristine here and worthy of unequivocal praise. "Heaven is a Place on Earth" is an interesting song, it's a cover of Belinda Carlisle's, and I must say that in all of its utter "cheesiness" lyrically, it's a solid song. No complaints there. "My Own Spider's Web" contrasts with most of the other songs on "Two Tragedy Poets" in that it's actually relatively downbeat. The almost "tribal" drumming throughout is a pretty cool touch. Despite its stark difference from some of the other songs on the album, it's a pretty cool tune. Subsequently follows "Not My Final Song", which is I think had potential but was thrown off a little by several factors. Damnnagoras' vocals here are a little strange, harking back to "The Scythe", however they're not nearly as offensive. "The Blackest of My Hearts" is an interesting song, it's definitely not very fast-paced, and it exemplifies how great a drummer Zender is. "The Wanderer" is, I think, the most amazing song on the album and is certainly my favorite that Elvenking has ever done. While the original was great, it doesn't compare to the complete and total "catchiness" that is the acoustic version. After the main riff is played, which is on its own amazing, we're treated with an awe-inspiringly cool little secondary riff, at around :16. Definitely a highlight! "Miss Conception" comes up next and is also one of my preferred tracks. Its thoughtful lyrics and heavenly acoustic chord progressions render it as being a masterpiece on its own.
The guitar-work is fantastic and completely varied, Zender does a masterful job in terms of percussion, and Damnnagoras' vocals are just perfect. The folk elements therein, provided largely by Elyghen, add much to the album and keep alive the flame of the old Elvenking. However, the bass on this album is largely unnoticeable, which is, in my book, a negative. With such amazing tracks as "From Blood to Stone", "The Wanderer", and "Miss Conception", "Two Tragedy Poets" is sure to go down as a folk-classic in the metal scene. Elvenking have crafted a commendable album - an album that I'm proud to call one of my favorites.
"As the lights slowly fade in an emerald whirl
I dig through my broken ideals
As the sun hides his smile from the plain down below
I stand enchanted"
So about two years ago or so Elvenking released their album “The Scythe” which turned out to be nothing more than just modern metal, and it made the band look like a bunch of sellouts if anything. So after that bad album came out Elvenking decided to release an acoustic (mostly) album to bring the folk metal back into Elvenking. But is it metal? No not really.
The majority of the album is an acoustic album, with acoustic guitars, drums, violins, and so on. They still use electric guitars for some of the songs, only three songs or so have electric guitar parts to them. The nice feature that the three songs have is that the electric guitar isn’t the main focus of the songs. The main focus on most of the songs would be the violin. Not many bands that are considered to play folk use a violin, usually when I think of folk metal I think of someone with an accordion, or a lute, or a instrument in that vain.
The other main focus I find with this album would be the vocals. They’re very clean throughout the whole album, no harsh vocals or anything like that, although there’s a harsh scream in the song “The Blackest of My Hearts” that feels out of place. This isn’t anything like power metal or whatnot so you won’t hear any high notes, or low notes for that matter. The vocals done by Damnagoras are basically middle ranged, so don’t expect anything outstanding from him, their just light folk like vocals.
Interesting enough, they have a lot of keyboard parts in this album. Not just classical piano which blends in with some songs, but like cheesy 80’s keyboard parts also. When the keyboard is used like cheesy power metal song would use it feels misplaced and can ruin the song. Every time the keyboard part comes up in the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth” (which is a cover song) it just ruins the song for me, which sucks because it occurs rather early in the song (ten seconds in or so). When they use it as if a somewhat classical approach it sounds rather nice, even if one of the songs it’s used in (“She Lives at Dawn”) is just a filler track.
Speaking of filler, hate it when this happens, but they got some filler tracks in here. When I first looked at the song listing I fought the two remake songs “The Winter Wake (Acoustic Version)” and “The Wanderer (Acoustic Version)” would be the fillers. I always think that covers, remakes, and some intros/outros are always fillers. The only reason that I don’t find them to be filler tracks this time would be because I had never heard the original version of those songs, and they sound pretty good for remakes. Now those aren’t the filler tracks but the filler tracks are “Heaven is a Place on Earth”. It’s a cover so it already is one, and it has that annoy keyboard section in the beginning that bugs me. The other filler tracks are “Ask a Silly Question” and “She Lives at Dawn”. They just use the same annoying chorus line on “Ask a Silly Question” (something about the missionary position or whatever).
This isn’t really a metal album at all. It’s more like some light folk rock with a few pop elements here and there that don’t totally blow. I always get the feeling that you would find some music like this being played in some Irish pub or whatnot. Anyways this is a pretty good album, even though it’s not really metal or true folk music for that matter.
I am one those people who has never lost faith in Elvenking. I love Heathenreel, Wyrd, and The Winter Wake. I also enjoyed The Scythe, which was a large change in their musical style but at the same time, also incorporated some of their roots, but I never hated the album. Two Tragedy Poets (…And a Caravan of Weird Figures) almost completely goes back to those very folky roots of Heathenreel and Wyrd.
Two Tragedy Poets really displays how Elvenking is a very versatile and creative band. This album is primarily all acoustic but also incorporates a little bit of electric guitar as well. In my opinion, it contains some of the catchiest songs that Elvenking has written to date. Some of these are “Another Awful Hobs Tale,” which is catchy and fast-paced with a sing-along chorus (which I find similar to “The Perpetual Knot” and “Hobs an’ Feathers”). “Ask a Silly Question” is a strange song, but overall has taken “Petalstorm’s” place for my favorite overall song of theirs. “Not My Final Song” is one of the highlights of the album. It is a fast-paced song with another dreadfully catchy chorus and is very well put together. “Miss Conception” is the closer of the album (unless you own the digipack) and contains yet another catchy chorus and is one of the most beautiful songs Elvenking has done.
The album also contains acoustic versions of “The Wanderer” and “The Winter Wake,” both from the 2006 album, The Winter Wake. Both remakes are brilliantly put together and beautifully arranged. In some cases, I prefer the acoustic version of “The Wanderer” over the original. Damna’s vocals have become even better with the album and Elyghen’s violin work is even more astounding.
With two Tragedy Poets, Elvenking goes back to their roots but also has developed a new and different sound. This will more than satisfy anyone who loved Heathenreel and Wyrd and fans of the folk metal genre in general. If you hated The Scythe, than give this album the much needed chance that it deserves.
I'll be completely serious, I had no great expectations for this album. Although Elvenking is one of my favorite bands, it's hard to expect a good release from a band after an album like The Scythe. So, I had somewhat of a negative bias before I listened to this one.
These attitudes were completely unjustified, because this album absolutely blew me away. This album sounds nothing like The Scythe; Elvenking has returned to their previous, predominantly folk style, which is what we were all hoping for. During the track "Another Awful Hobs Tale", I had to stop and remind myself that I wasn't listening to Heathenreel.
You might want to be careful with this album though, some songs are so catchy that you might sprain your ankle from tapping your feet too much, especially during songs like "My Little Moon", or "Not My Final Song".
As promised, much of the guitar work is acoustic, although a few songs involve electric lead guitar lines, it makes for a nice mix. Damnagoras did a great job with the vocals on this album, and Elyghen's violin lines are extremely catchy. The drums also fit in with the songs very well.
All in all, this is a great album; for anyone who liked Heathenreel, This album is a must listen.