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Even without the vocal and compositional leadership of Damnagoras, it stands to reason that Elvenking’s sophomore album is delivered in the same spirit as Heathenreel. What the band’s future releases would go to show is that, even though the change in the lineup was not necessarily desired by the fans at the time, it was evidently needed to keep the creativity alive. Though not the entire album was so richly imbedded in originality, Kleid and the others kept the tree walking with its strong folk influence, powerful instrumentation, compositional complexity, and hearkening nods to older, superior works.
The hot topic surrounding this release was the change up in the vocalist. Personally, I have no preference for one over the other. That, however, does not go to say that there are not aspects of each vocalist’s performance that distinguished themselves from that of the other vocalist. Kleid sounds older, for one, and the hard vocals are more consistent and less cheesy. He has a greater propensity to use vibrato in his singing, similarly to many of his contemporary power metal vocalists, but his aged tone gives it a little more folky flare and allows the listener to take him more seriously, even if in some parts he sounds like he is straining. For Elvenking connoisseurs (and I am not claiming to be one), the straining vocals are actually a desirable and unique attribute that gives this release (and some of their others) greater originality in terms of their performance.
At Kleid’s back, he has a forest choir with him, although at some points he is harmonizing with himself on separate layers of recording, such as on “Jigsaw Puzzle”, “The Perpetual Knot”, and “A Fiery Stride”. I am not a particular fan of self-harmonizing and prefer the styles of Heidevolk and others who have multiple vocalists with which they harmonize, but the vocalist’s self-harmonizing on this album is not particularly bad, and I can understand how it would be difficult to find another session vocalist with a style comparable to Kleid. His backup singers make appearances every so often, and they are always timely, in “Pathfinders”, “Disappearing Sands”, and most profoundly and perfectly in the masterpiece “Moonchariot”.
There is also a great instrumental blend on this album, especially between the guitars and the folk instruments, showing the casual blurring of lines between folk and power metal, as the solo guitar and fiddle often harmonize with one another in songs like “Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Disappearing Sands”. The folk interludes are timed perfectly throughout the courses of multiple songs. “The Silk Dilemma”, with its “roaming through the forest trees”, and “Moonchariot”, have personal favorites. The two main lessons that Wyrd teaches is that: 1. The chorus is not always the focal point of the song (this is something they seem to forget in later releases), because plenty of these tracks use each part of itself as a stepping stone connecting all of the puzzle pieces together (no pun intended). 2. MAJOR KEY IS NOT ALWAYS BAD! I can think of countless heavy metal examples in major key that sound incredible! Even in black metal, if you listen to “Sunwheel” by Drudkh on Autumn Aurora, major key proves its worth in the metal scene. Wyrd is stuffed full of it, even more so than its predecessor, and at the very least dabbling in it in every song, and it fits the folky, upbeat mood of the album, this from which it derives much of its creativity.
The album as a whole is slightly simpler than Heathenreel, but it pays homage to the previous album that it acknowledges is better in “Moonchariot” with the return of the “White Willow” classic theme. The reference has more meaning in this album than it does in it’s the Pagan Manifesto, as here it immortalizes the heights of musical excellence that Elvenking would never reach again after 2004 (yet). Other references are to “The Regality Dance” in “Another Haven”, and to a more subtle extent in “Jigsaw Puzzle”, but in a more serious tone. Though it is simpler, Wyrd still has its fair share of progressive moments, including the key changes and time signature changes in numerous songs, in “Pathfinders”, most noticeably in “Midnight Circus”, and fantastically in the 2/4 pickups to the growls in “Disappearing Sands”. Other songs share their own experimentalism, not excluding “Moonchariot” (of course).
“Moonchariot” is essentially the “Oakenshield” of Wyrd. It goes all over the place, from fiddle, to acoustic guitar, to soloing, to crunchy riffs, to epic choruses, and the list goes on. From start to finish, it is one majestic masterpiece and not only fits with the other pieces, but in several ways rises above many of the other tracks.
The one track that never made any sense to me was “A Poem for the Firmament”. Is it a bad song? Well, that depends. Are you comparing it to post-Wyrd Elvenking? If so, it’s a gem. If not, it’s a mediocre and unintelligent attempt at becoming Wintersun as they were on Time I, but the result is more like the title track from Scar Symmetry’s album “Holographic Universe”: long, unnecessary, and totally boring. There are memorable parts, sure (sort of), but when you spend three minutes replicating “Canon in D” with a post-Tarja Nightwish vocalist, you know you’re trying too hard. Wyrd would be an ever better album without it. You don’t always need an epic closer. Plenty of albums do just fine without them.
All being said, however, Wyrd is a fine piece of folk/power metal, far greater than many other contemporary bands’ attempts, but in terms of what this band is, or was, capable of doing, it is still grasping at the wind, perhaps even caressing the leaves and branches of the Oaken Wood, but marking the beginning of the daunting truth that the Elvenking would not be returning to his realm any time soon after this release.
I really don't get the hate people have for this album. Sure the first album was alright, but this? This is gold right here. The new(well, not anymore) vocalist (Kleid?) has a really unique voice that just makes me happy, instead of Damnagoras, who is the Alexi Laiho of the metal world, an annoying singer that gets on my nerves repeatedly. So, what about this album? By golly, it's the nicest piece of mozzarella you will ever hear!
Wyrd isn't unique by any means. It's cheesy, it's jolly, it's power metal with a dash of folk, so what? But, the thing that Elvenking managed to do so well is the fact that these folk influences work. Starting with the song "Pathfinders," you know what this album is about, a healthy dose of soaring choruses, inspirational lyrics about a "spring in bloom," crunchy riffs that make you want to jig, and a vocalist who just sounds perfect. It's a great opener to an album, and it just gets better. "The Perpetual Knot" is probably one of the catchiest pieces of art I have ever heard. The violin intro and solo is really spot on, and Kleid really sings his heart out on this song, out rivaling in anything Damnagoras has sung in any of their next albums. My personal favorite, "The Midnight Circus," is a speedy, yet emotional song with some very nice riffs. Emotional due to the fact that Kleid almost sounds like he is weeping when he sings "It grabs our soul if there is one!" And of course, you have the obligatory epic, "A Poem For the Firmament," a 12 minute song that begins with a delightful acoustic ballad, and dives into some fantastic rhythms and melodies.
Of course, the weak side of the cd are the annoying choirs, which I know are used to enhance some of the songs, but they're grating and got on my nerves very quickly. Also, where is the bass? It was not audible at all, and if employed correctly, I think this could have gotten a higher score. But I digress, Wyrd is a delightful little gem, a diamond in a cave of rocks and stones. Because my friends, this is the only album of Elvenking worth buying, due to the fact that Damnagoras comes back, and with him leading, it would seem Elvenking would be forgotten. Such a shame, they have so much potential.
After a great first record, Elvenking lived a couple of changes, especially with the departure of the former singer Damnagoras that was replaced by a certain guy called Kleid that only stayed for two years. Musically, that didn't change too much. The band continued in the vein of the first record by creating folk metal songs with many progressive and fast breaks. The record focuses though a little bit more on the guitar work and surprises with stunning solos and great harmonies comparable to a more traditional heavy metal approach.
A good example is the opening package of "The loser's ball" and "Pathfinders" that sounds like a mixture of Helloween meets Judas Priest with some folk touches in the beginning. "Jigsaw puzzle" goes even further and surprises with melodic guitar solos and a pumping bass guitar that remind of Iron Maiden.
Overall seen, the album quickly changes its heavier style and returns to a more traditional Elvenking sound. Even though the folk parts are somewhat reduced and instead of telling epic fantasy tales, the band often searches for a rather spiritual approach with majestic choirs and patterns of classic and religious music, this album has the same unique brand that the Italians already created with their first strike. This mixture of some new metal elements and the addition of a spiritual approach by staying close to the established sound is the main force of this album. I was surprised to discover an outstanding and heavily underrated gem.
"The silk dilemma" reminds me of compositions I have heard from Rondo Veneziano, "The perpetual knot" leaves me stunning with a long and inspiring violin solo, "A fiery stride" could be a modern Christmas carol and the middle part of "A poem for the firmament" slightly remembers the brilliant Pachelbel's canon. There are many little sparks of creativity outside of the metal genre that I don’t find within the usual folk metal bands.
The rest delivers what we are already used too. On the positive side, we have got the stunning highlight "Moonchariot" that mixes heavy metal melodies with acoustic guitars and violins, sweet clean vocals with dark growls, and epic hymn parts with silent parts dominated by whispered vocals. In comparison to other overwhelming tracks, this song sounds surprisingly coherent. The already mentioned "A poem for the firmament" goes even further. It's not only by far the longest track the band has ever recorded until now but takes the time too hypnotize with a multitude of positive melodies and subtle changes of style by creating a very floating and sometimes spiritual atmosphere in the second half. This track requests multiple tries and is amongst the most consistent and creative songs the band has ever written. It unites the new elements with the old ones in a unique way. On a more negative side, we have too hectically and overwhelming tracks to which we already got used on the first record and that don't give the opportunity to digest all the great ideas like in "Midnight Circus" that is probably the weakest song on the record.
Even though there is so much creativity to find on this second record, I feel that the band still orientated too much on the first album and didn't take the time to create something more courageous as they are still attached to the old line up. Especially the singer Kleid tries too hard to sound like its predecessor Damnagoras and has rarely the occasion to prove that he has a quite interesting and slightly darker and more mature voice as he shows for example in the very interesting "Another haven" that has a slight stadium rock vibe and touch of the eighties. It's a missed occasion that they didn't concentrate more on this dark and atmospheric voice and that the band buried his skills under too many overwhelming song structures. Nevertheless, the fact that he is able to sing like Damnagoras and fits to the spiritual and folk melodies as well as to the heavy and power metal parts prove that he is more talented and diversified than Damnagoars. The only problem is that he can't always show his charisma and seems less unique than his predecessor. The band always convinces when they take their time to introduce their changes of style and write rather epic tracks instead of the traditional up tempo songs.
All in all, the album has perhaps less memorable choruses and melodies than the first record but convinces with its epic structures between spiritual approaches and excellent heavy metal melodies that they never did before or afterwards again. Even if there is some filler material in the second half of the album and too many overwhelming structures in some songs, one must underline that every time the band introduces something new or fusions its skills in the longer tracks, they create masterpieces of a high quality that improve on the sound of the first record. That's why I adore this album as the negative facts are overpowered by songs like "Pathfinders", "Jigsaw puzzle", "Moonchariot", "Another haven" and "A poem for the firmament" that are in the top ten tracks the band has ever done. This leads to a stunning fact to me that I didn't expect to discover as I got into this band when Damnagoras was back in it and only lately discovered this record. This album is the best one the band has done and a fairly underrated gem worth to discover over and over again.
So, yeah, this is the only really good Elvenking album. Why? Because Damnagoras is gone, and with him the unfocused songwriting and the bland vocals. Wyrd is just an improvement in every area - the songs have been tightened up, the vocals are a little better, the choruses are better, the riffs are better and the whole thing is just really fucking solid all around. So, let’s dig into Wyrd!
Yes, it is pretty generic for Power Metal. Aside from the violins, which aren’t really even that prevalent, Wyrd is a Power Metal album exactly like you’d expect, with the only exception being that it is heartfelt, soaring with a genuine conviction and unbeatable pep that I find extremely entertaining. I still don’t think the vocals are exactly amazing, but they’re a whole lot better than those of current front man Damnagoras, who just can’t sing very well; let’s not kid ourselves. The vocals on this album actually sound like his quite a bit, but they just sound better, is all. He has a better range and he seems to have more control over his voice, with a smooth, gliding tone that I find myself surprisingly enjoying.
But the real star of the show here is the riffing. Far from the jamboree of folksy nothingness on the debut, Wyrd puts the guitars up front and churns out a multitude of catchy, enjoyable riffs and melodies for any Power Metal fan to enjoy. The speedy, galloping “Pathfinders” opens up the disk with a majestic power surge of a melody and a set of riffs moving so fast that the friction between them will set your speakers on fire. It is followed up with two good, but not great, songs, but once you hit the smoothly melodic riffing of “Disappearing Sands,” the album never lets up.
“Moonchariot” is the album highlight, with an epic build up, a huge chorus and floral melodies falling like Sakura petals on a wintry landscape. “Another Heaven” just rocks out, with a smashing riff and no shortage of blazing leads, “A Fiery Stride” has a kick-ass riff and a hugely catchy chorus and the Helloweenisms of “Midnight Circus” provide for much entertainment. Listen to those leads, and that gallop! Damn, this is cool. Who would have guessed a band like Elvenking could write an album of this caliber? “A Poem for the Firmament” is twelve minutes long, flourished with delicate acoustics and epic build ups alike, and it’s a good song, although definitely the hardest to get into on this disc.
If Wyrd has any flaw, it’s just that the songs seem to run into each other a bit, and even the really cool ones don’t exactly have enough identity to be memorable after the disc is over. The vocal lines are still a little too oblique and complex, and it robs the songs of just a tiny bit of the punch they could have had. With more polishing of this style, the band could have worked out these kinks and produced a really first-rate album of Power Metal gold, but sadly that did not happen, and original vocalist Damnagoras came back later to ruin this band for good. But they did leave us with this one very cool album of Power Metal. Check it out.
Elvenking has always mixed a lot of various influences with their take on folk metal which has always interested me. The influences themselves are questionable at best considering that they’re usually ones that you wouldn’t want to be caught listening to in the first place (punk, emo, euro power). The harsh vocals stand out to me the most. They’re used in a somewhat rally up style much like what you would find in a hardcore band. Whenever harsh vocals are used they’re always used as a backup chorus, they rarely are the main focus of the song. The harsh vocals however are more annoying if anything. Harsh vocals are ok in folk metal, but they don’t really fit properly in power metal, so it would be best to just leave the harsh vocals out of the music.
The most significant improvement on Wyrd compared to Elvenking’s debut Heathenreel would be the higher usage of the violin and various folk instruments. The violin is used more frequently on Wyrd compared to Heathenreel. It is mostly used as a rhythm instrument but every once and a while it does have its own solo like on “The Perpetual Knot”. Acoustic guitars aren’t used as much as on Heathenreel though. The intro “The Loser's Ball” and the final track “A Poem for the Firmament” are the only tracks which feature any acoustic guitars in them. Even though the album has a lack of acoustics, it does have more string use. The electric guitars are used actually more compared to Heathenreel, and the violin and even a harp are used more also.
Wyrd also has a different vocalist. Kleid is the main vocalist on Wyrd, but there are also backup vocals done by Jarpen (who does the harsh vocals) and Aydan, and four female guest appearances. The female vocals are all sung in an opera like fashion that remind me of the kind that Tarja Turunen used in Nightwish. Kleid also sings in a tenor like voice much like the one Damnagoras, only Kleid’s doesn’t sound as nasally, but at the same time Kleid does sound a little bit softer and feminine compared to Damnagoras.
It features a bit less folk, yet it features a bit more (euro) power. Acoustic guitars are missed, yet it features more violins. Vocals aren’t as nasally, yet they’re a bit more feminine. A lot of people would consider this to be a step back, but I consider it a step forward. Sure it’s missing some of the components that made Heathenreel so enjoyable, but it’s a more straightforward and coherent album as well. It still has all the rich melody and vocal hooks that were present on Heathenreel which is probably why I didn’t hate this album as much as others have. I personally find Wyrd to be overlooked in the Elvenking discography, for it is more fluent and consistent compared to Heathenreel, and it is less experimental compared to their later three.
My opinion of this album started out higher, but just sank as the album descended into a swamp of filler down the track list. There's not much worth commenting on, since most of the songs are so unmemorable and unoriginal.
Jigsaw Puzzle is a keeper. There is some spirit here. It's not bogged down by needless crap. They only put stuff that adds to the song instead of trying to overwhelm with unnecessary parts. It was more focused than old Elvenking, which had a tendency to meander around and change directions constantly. The song flows well and the chorus is enjoyable. This song raised my hopes for the album, but they were quickly crushed. The Silk Dilemma was OK for it's happy catchiness, but the rest of the album is disposable.
Poem for the Firmament killed me with sappiness. During this overwrought...thing..., my mind drifted off and I began having fantasies about tracking Elvenking down and sodomizing them with a flute for writing this. Then some guitar hits in, waking me up. Hey, could something neat happen here!?! I start getting a little excited, but then grow disappointed as I realize that nothing is going on here. This song is over 12 minutes long, and it alternates between sappiness and instrumental wankery... the bad kind of wankery that has no purpose and adds nothing to the song. It's still going on as I type this! There is some female vocals here, and I want to shoot her. The only emotion this song is inspiring in me is homicidal annoyance. This song tries to be some grand epic, but just flops.
In case anyone is wondering, there is nothing special going on with the limited edition bonus songs either. The Cookie Monster even makes a small appearance on one of them, which is enough to warrant the skip button. I'm sorry, but a band called "Elvenking" should NEVER GROWL. One of the few positive things about this album is that the Cookie Monster does not really show up besides that (this might not be a certainty, however, because I skipped a few of the songs from boredom). Besides that, the difference in vocalist is not what effected me much negatively, because the old vocalist always made me think of a 13 year old boy, which was cute, but could also get annoying.
If you want some power metal with a folkish mood, try out this year's Wuthering Heights release, which slaughters this.
As one could gather from my review of Heathenreel, I greatly enjoyed this band and their sound. However, in the past year or two, they removed Damnagoras from their lineup. Damnagoras... singer and one of the primary songwriters. I knew this would affect their sound to a considerable extent, but I didn't guess it would be by this much.
This album, in my opinion, captures nothing of the old Elvenking sound. It's painfully obvious that without Damnagoras' presence, this band is more or less incapable of capturing the essence of the folk sound. Their new singer sounds like some generic "folkish" power metal singer (read: crappy tenor with a fake accent), and the old femme vocalist is gone as well, now we have one that tries her damnedest to sound like Tarja of Nightwish fame (read: offkey pseudo-operatic). No longer do we have vocalists that sound like they're putting their hearts (or even effort, really) into the music, but a pair of lackluster vocalists that really need to find new jobs.
From the Cha-Cha Slide-esque (you all remember that stupid fucking song, I'm sure) hand clap loop in the first track to the generic and uninspired power metal riffage, this album just reeks of genericism. Sadly, they've also started using more synth keys, giving it that added dose of Sonata Arctica worship. Really, this bears more resemblance to bouncy/gay power metal than it does to folk. Yeah, sure, the violins are still there. Who cares.
Uninspired, unoriginal, mechanical. These are the only things that come to mind when I hear this album. This band no longer comes across as a folk band, but a shitty flower metal band with a violinist and a gimmick.
While the first album may have been a little sloppy at times, it was good enough that one could ignore that. With this, though the production and playing may technically be better, the songwriting and heart just aren't there... and it almost reminds me of what happened to Immortal.
I was expecting much much more from this album, and have been completely let down on every level. Thanks for wasting my time Elvenking. I now know where all your talent was.