Album Reviews

Elvenking – The Pagan Manifesto Review

thepaganmanifesto_cover

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Genre: Power/Folk Meal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/elvenking.official

 

Line Up:

Damna – Vocals

Aydan – Guitars

Rafahel – Guitars

Jakob – Bass

Lethien – Violin

Symohn – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. The Manifesto

2. King of the Elves

3. Elvenlegions

4. The Druid Ritual of Oak

5. Moonbeam Stone Circle

6. The Solitaire

7. Towards the Shore

8. Pagan Revolution

9. Grandier’s Funeral Pyre

10. Twilight of Magic

11. Black Roses for the Wicked One

12. Witches Gather

 

Elvenking has never been an easy band to predict, as almost all their albums to date have surprised listeners with either new elements added, certain elements reduced, or even with one key member being absent for one particular album. Their debut Heathenreel was a fresh and masterful take on power/folk metal, which managed to strike just the right balance between the two genres and up until now I had considered it as their very best. Over the years came several surprises, with Wyrd, for example, being the one and only Elvenking album to not feature vocalist Damna, while The Scythe happens to be their most loathed, and at least if you ask me, their least understood album, as it featured less folk elements than normal and a more aggressive, at times borderline metalcore sound. Things only got weirder with the acoustic follow-up Two Tragedy Poets …And A Caravan Of Weird Figures, which was a surprisingly strong album. With Red Silent Tides they finally returned to a more traditional, if slightly watered down, power metal sound, and then Era came along and surprised once again with the power metal elements mostly ditched for a greater emphasis on folk. Personally, I have been impressed by all their albums to date, and Era happened to be one of my favorites, so I had pretty high expectations for their eighth full length album The Pagan Manifesto, and they certainly delivered.

Just by looking at the album name and glancing quickly through the track names, it should be obvious that they were looking to connect this album all the way back to Heathenreel, which is exactly what they’ve done. Both lyrically and musically this album is the closest they’ve come to recreating the magic of their debut, though it also shows how much the band has grown over the years, as this is by far their most diverse and most mature album to date. While The Scythe showed them at their most aggressive, and Era (along with the acoustic album, obviously,) showed how well they can pull off a more relaxed folk infused sound, The Pagan Manifesto feels like a combination of everything that Elvenking is all about, as it once again strikes that perfect balance of epic, energetic power metal, and happy, fun folk metal with occasional harsh vocals, symphonic elements and other surprises. In that sense this album really is their manifesto, as it represents everything the band is about, both musically and lyrically, and it shows them at the absolute top of their game.

Compared to their last two albums, the bands seems much looser and more energized on this album: There’s definitely no holding back on this one. The power metal elements are much more impressive and more fully fleshed out than anything the band has done in a very long time, with the majority of the songs being fast-paced, and featuring some of their heaviest and most memorable riffs ever. At the same time, the folk elements are also more present than they were on some of the middle albums in their discography, and they always feel fully integrated into the songs, never coming across as a mere afterthought, but as an essential part of their music. All this could also be said of their debut, and another thing that makes this album even more similar is the usage of harsh vocals. Almost all their albums feature some harsh vocals, but they are used more on this album than they were on any of their last three albums, and the way they feel seamlessly connected to the music on this album is more in line with the debut, as opposed to the sometimes forced core-ish screams on The Scythe, which even I found a bit annoying at points.

Speaking of vocals, Damna remains one of the most unique power/folk metal vocalists I’ve ever heard. His tone is somewhat punk-ish, yet he somehow fits in very well, both on the epic upbeat power metal choruses, and the calmer passages, with the folk ballad “Towards The Shores” being an especially good showcase of his voice. He may not be the best singer technically, but he has unquestionably improved from album to album. What ultimately makes him the perfect fit for this band, though, is the insane amount of energy and passion he brings on every song, and if anything he seems even more fired up than usual for this album.

Really, the entire band seems to have taken their performance to a whole new level on this album, displaying more confidence than ever and playing with more energy than they have in years. A perfect example of both this renewed confidence and passion can be found on the first full length song, King of the Elves, a near 13 minute epic which also happens to be the longest song they’ve ever released. Along with its amazing chorus, this song features some of their most dynamic songwriting ever, with constant transitions leading to one epic moment after another, with some highlights including a surprisingly dark symphonic section, and a very calm folk section with excellent guest vocals from Amanda Sommerville. As complex as the song is, though, it’s the fast tempo and the overall feel of a band pushing past any limits of what one may think they should be capable of, that comes through more than anything else.

Starting an album with such a huge highlight could have been a bad thing if the rest of the album had failed to maintain the high quality displayed on that track, but thankfully that is not the case with this album. If anything the single “Elvenlegions” only goes further in showcasing how on fire the band is right now, as both lyrically and musically it’s the most confident and energized I have ever heard them sound. Plus, that chorus is really damn catchy! Other highlights include the similar, but possibly even more addictive and fun “Pagan Revolution”, the insanely fast and epic “Moonbeam Stone Circle”, with its epic chorus and intense symphonic section that follows, the previously mentioned “Towards The Shore”, and “The Solitaire”, which sounds like a typically epic folk/power metal song, but enhanced with some really awesome screams during the chorus. Every song on this album is fantastic, but my favorite is “Twilight of Magic”, as it’s possibly their best and most epic up tempo power metal song ever.

In short, The Pagan Manifesto is a perfect summary of everything Elvenking is about, and it is also their best, most mature album to date. Fans of Heathenreel should be especially excited, as it feels like an even better, more fully developed version of that album, while also showing the ways the band has evolved over the years. It is also the best power/folk metal album I have heard in quite a long time, and as a big fan of that particular genre combination, I am absolutely delighted to hear a band pull if off this well.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    10/10

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