Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: August 30th, 2019
Genre: Power/Folk Metal
Damna – Vocals
Aydan – Guitars
Rafahel – Guitars
Jakob – Bass
Lethien – Violin
Lancs – Drums
2. Heathen Divine
5. The Misfortune of Virtue
6. Eternal Eleanor
7. Diamonds in the Night
8. Under the Sign of a Black Star
9. Malefica Doctrine
10. Sic Semper Tyrannis
11. Warden of the Bane
12. Reader of the Runes – Book I
While it is generally believed that most bands get worse over time, either through failed experimentation or because their music has gone stale, I find that to not be entirely accurate, as there are certainly many bands out there who have not only aged well, but have arguably put out some of their very best works to date, in recent years. One such band is Italian power/folk metal band Elvenking, who have never released a single album I would call less than great, and they have been on a particularly impressive run over the past seven years, with the trio of Era, The Pagan Manifesto and Secrets of the Magick Grimoire all being among my favorite releases by the band. Every time I hear they’re releasing a new album, I get excited, because I trust in them to always deliver something special, and so when I heard their tenth full length release, Reader of the Runes – Divination, would be coming this year and that it would be the start of a multi part concept, I was beyond excited, to say the least! Now that Reader of the Runes is here, I can safely say it continues the band’s ongoing winning streak, and manages to be possibly their best release to date!
At this point in their career, Elvenking has settled into their signature blend of speedy, aggressive power metal and epic folk metal, and while some releases towards the middle of their career were a bit experimental, their past couple of releases have felt like a seamless blend of all aspects of their music, with everything coming together perfectly. This trend continues with Reader of the Runes, as it feels like the band has figured their sound out completely, and they know exactly what they want to do, so fans of any of their previous releases, are definitely in for a treat! The album explores their sound to every extreme, with some very aggressive speedy passages, some more relaxing, uplifting folk passages, some more epic mid paced passages, and plenty of tracks that bring everything together, for one awesome package. The songs are generally straight-forward, with very catchy choruses, but between the excellent guitar work, symphonic arrangements and all kinds of different folk instruments, there is a lot going on at times, and many of the tracks alternate between different movements, with frequent tempo changes throughout. Instrumentally, the release is equal parts hard hitting, epic and very melodic, as always, and performances are fantastic across the board, while vocalist Damna sounds as distinct, intense and memorable as always, singing very powerfully at times, while also being able to rein in it and carry some epic melodies. He remains one of the most unique features of the band, with his very distinct voice, and while everything about the album is amazing, his vocals are my favorite part of it, as usual.
Songwriting has always been a strength for Elvenking, so it’s no surprise Reader of the Runes is yet another triumph, with nothing but greatness from start to finish. While I found the previous release, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, to be book-ended with excellent tracks, and let down a tiny bit in the middle, this album is balanced all around, with my enjoyment never slipping off at all, throughout the entire release, across several listens: Just like The Pagan Manifesto, this album has a perfect a start, a perfect middle, and a perfect end.
The album opens with a brief intro, “Perthro”, which has various folk instrumentation and some epic chanting, as well as slight symphonic arrangements, and it’s a very relaxing, beautiful piece, which sets the tone wonderfully for what’s to come. Opening up the album in full force is “Heathen Divine”, which begins with more nice folk instrumentation before the guitars kick in and the pace picks up, never looking back. Verses are fairly fast paced, with some hard hitting riffs and fun vocal melodies, while the chorus goes full throttle and is the kind of epic, triumphant sounding chorus the band specializes in, except here it’s dialed up to the max, to somehow be even more awesome than usual. It’s certainly a wonderful way to kick off the album, and is one of the best choruses the band has ever written. The second half of the track mixes in some slightly slower passages, more epic vocal melodies and a great guitar solo, as well as an extra epic final run through the chorus. Overall, it’s an amazing song, and possibly my favorite on the entire album. The momentum doesn’t let up, though, as the first of two title tracks, “Divination” (also the third and most recent single,) is a fast paced, hard hitting track with some excellent riffs, furious verses, and a very fun, catchy choruses, which is a bit on the repetitive side, but in a way the band pulls off perfectly, so it ends up being energizing instead of annoying. There’s some nice folk melodies throughout, especially in the middle, to help make the track a wonderful blend of power and folk metal, like the band is capable of.
The first slower track on the album is second single “Silverseal”, a more relaxing, heavily folk infused track with some wonderful melodies. It moves along at a fairly slow but nice pace, with some relaxing, enjoyable verses, and the chorus is very melodic and warm, with some excellent vocals from Damna, but the highlight of the track is the wonderful folk instrumentation, especially in the middle, with some very nice melodies to accompany an epic guitar solo. Despite being on the slow side, it’s a very catchy track, and showcases the softer side of the band perfectly. Back on the heavier side of things, “The Misfortune of Virtue” starts off with more nice folk melodies, before turning into one of the heavier tracks on the album, with some pretty extreme sounding guitar work, and furious blast beats, at points. It’s mostly a fast paced track, with very heavy verses and instrumental sections, though the chorus is actually very soft and has some beautiful folk melodies, so it’s yet another case of the band blending the different aspects of their sound together perfectly. Once again on the softer side, “Eternal Eleanor” has some very soft, melodic guitar work, as well as a ton of folk instrumentation. It’s the calmest, most relaxing and most beautiful track on the album, with Damna singing very smoothly, and yet with a ton of emotion, giving a stunning performance. It feels like a classic folk tale set to music, with minor metal elements throughout, as well as slight symphonic arrangements. It has very nice verses and a huge, epic chorus, which only gets better towards the end, as it the sound gets bigger in scope and scale. Overall, it’s an incredible track, and one of my personal favorites. Following that is the brief interlude “Diamonds in the Night”, a largely acoustic folk infused ballad, which teases the chorus of the album ending second title track. It’s a brief, but very nice track, and serves as a nice interlude.
The lead single is “Under the Sign of a Black Star”, another softer, more folk infused track, though it has a bit more bite to it, thanks to some slightly heavy guitar work. Verses are fairly laid back, but still engaging, while the chorus is the kind of upbeat, epic and heartwarming material the band excels at, with some excellent vocal melodies, as always. The track has some heavy instrumental work in the second half, but it’s still a very nice, melodic folk metal track, overall. Getting back on the speedier side, “Malefica Doctrine” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and it does a nice job of alternating between speedy verses, with some very flashy guitar work, and a slower, epic chorus, with more wonderful vocals and folk melodies. The track varies in tempo a lot throughout, as well as alternating between heavy power metal passages, and lighter folk passages, to help make it another excellent blend of the band’s two styles. Next is “Sic Temper Tyrannis”, a more straight-forward track, which stays at a more moderate pace throughout. It has some epic symphonic arrangements, and is another heavier track, with a very epic, catchy chorus. The folk melodies are a bit more downplayed, compared to normal, but they’re still in there, though the track leans more towards symphonic power metal, overall, and does an excellent job of it.
Back on the more complicated side of things is “Warden of the Bane”, another track which alternates between some heavier passages, and some more melodic, epic folk passages. It gets a bit dark during the verses, before the uplifting melodies kick in for the chorus, and it alternates nicely between fast and slow passages, while being pretty heavy in spots, and beautiful in other sections. It’s another excellent track, overall. Closing out the album is the second title track “Reader of the Runes – Book I”, a near 11 minute epic, which takes everything the rest of the album has going, and dials it up to the absolute max! It has some fast, heavy passages, more amazing folk melodies, epic symphonic arrangements, and one of the biggest, catchiest and best choruses on the entire album. It alternates nicely between soft and heavy, as usual, and has some great extended instrumental work, while still having plenty of excellent vocal melodies. It’s an epic track, overall, and an amazing way to close out the album!
Elvenking are one of those bands that always deliver an excellent album, every time, and Reader of the Runes – Divination is no exception. It contains the same seamless blend of speedy, hard hitting power metal, and epic, uplifting folk metal as usual, while having some epic symphonic arrangements, and plenty of memorable huge, epic choruses, as always. This band has only gotten better with age, and while I initially thought The Pagan Manifesto could be unbeatable, this album may have just proven me wrong! Either way, it’s an absolute must buy for fans of the band,a s well as anyone looking for some truly special power/folk metal, as there really aren’t any other bands in the world who can pull this sound off nearly as well as Elvenking can. And with the promise of a direct follow up, I can’t wait to hear what comes next!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms