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Same era, different album cover. - 78%

hells_unicorn, December 12th, 2012

Elvenking's career can pretty well be summed up in 2 eras and, in the case of their bomb of a 4th album, one unfortunate interlude into modern emo drudgery. The first of these eras is largely scene as their stylistic zenith in "Heathenreel" and "Wyrd", typified by a fusion of power metal and folk influences that while not directly comparable to the likes of Suidakra or Ensiferum, at least were playing in a similar league. But the era that "Era" finds itself in (no pun intended), is what has ruled this band's woodland roost since the release of "The Winter Wake", namely a modern rock tinged approach that sounds a bit more catchy but not quite as intricate as the older form, and ultimately one that has far less of an overt folksy character.

To be fair, this album does have a bit more of a folksy side to it than its predecessor "Red Silent Tides", but its fleeting acoustic sections and occasional violin work seems more like window-dressing for what is otherwise a pretty straight-line approach to modern power metal. It's not the most dynamic or speed dominated approach to the style as typified by the Rhapsody Of Fire school, but it does share a pretty strong affinity with the recent output of bands like Secret Sphere, where the riffs are generally plain and, at times, slightly contrived, while the vocal work tends to dominate the mix. It succeeds at being quite catchy, but also has a tendency to run together from one song to the next, in no small part due to a fairly limited template for the rhythm section, which has generally been the band's weak point.

The way that the generally fixed character of this music is compensated for is with a dense arrangement and a very pristine production approach. It gets to the point that it gets difficult to differentiate this from a number of recently released mainline rock albums, save the greater level of technical display during the few instrumental passages. Perhaps the one area where things get really involved and starts showing some signs of the older version of Elvenking in a newer production capacity would be "Chronicle Of A Frozen Era", where the acoustic passages are a bit more frequent, not to mention one of the wildest guitar solos heard out of this band (literally approaching Roland Grapow territory) makes its way into the mix. The closing ditty "Ophale" represents a further deviation from the band's current sound with a very involved set of flute lines and a serene acoustic overlay.

Be this as it may, most of this album is generally steeped in mid-pace rocking sameness, taking its cues directly from the safe and formulaic character of "The Winter Wake". Right from the onset of "Loser", things keep to a very familiar tone where the guitars and drums sound load and raucous, but don't really get terribly adventurous. To make matters a bit more mundane, vocalist Damna sees fit to showcase a slightly more gruff-tinged vocal style that doesn't really work well for him, especially when his vocal register has much more in common with Michael Kiske than that of Jari Mäenpää or James Hetfield. Nevertheless, the overall format does lend itself to being easily sung along to, with the likes of "I Am The Monster" and "We, Animals" being the most memorable, though also sadly indicative of this band's inability to come up with good titles to their songs.

This is not of the same caliber as what this band was clearly capable of back when Jarpen was still a part of the band, but it definitely has its moments. It's a pretty safe bet that any tag-alongs that joined this band's scene circa 2006 will like this, as they haven't really ventured too far out of their comfort zone since the unfortunate mistake that was "The Scythe". But it definitely has more punch to it than the weak offering that Ensiferum trodded out earlier this year, if nothing else.