Elvenking's The Pagan Manifesto
Release Date: May 9th, 2014
Genre: Folk Metal, Power Metal
Ahhh Folk Metal. Folk Metal usually falls into three categories, though these categories can mix an match also. You'll have your serious Folk Metal that tells the epic folklore stories passed down through the band's ancestors and since these bands tend to come from Europe, the amount of material they can draw upon is staggering. Another category is the one that encapsulates the far-less serious folk metalers, those that stick to a certain theme such as pirates or trolls as well as those that are content with making drinking song after drinking song after drinking song. The last category involves the folk metal bands that tell other stories, either written by themselves or other famous authors such as Tokein, though this category tends to mix with Power Metal most times, since Power Metal themes tend to revolve around Tolkein-esqe tales. This last category is the one where we find Elvenking, a Folk Metal band that gets a lot a lot of hate in the folk and power metal community for not being close enough to one of the genres and walking the line right between them. Folk metalers will complain that Elvenking is too cheesy-sounding and melodic than it should be and Power Metalers will complain that the folk elements harm the otherwise grand choruses power metal normally has, basically that they aren't close enough to Blind Guardian. If you are reading this and have no idea what I am talking about it, have no fear, for this album, whether you label it as Folk or Power Metal (I personally believe it is much more Folk), it is quite a treat to hear
Elevenking has been around for almost two decades now and their first release, Heathenreel earned much love in the Folk Metal community and today still stands as one of the shining moments in Folk Metal history. You would be hard pressed to find a Folk Metaler who does not like Heathenreel, myself included, but you'll find many more who felt that Elvenking started a steady decline the years following. To some extent, this is true, though Wyrd, their second album has the song "The Silk Dilemma" which happens to be one of my top songs ever and is the first thing I think of when I think of Elvenking. A few more albums later and the Folk community started to give up on Elvenking, not explicitly calling them bad, per say, but more disappointing. Myself, I haven't really listened to them since their third album but with The Pagan Manifesto, their eighth album to-date, my love of Elvenking has reawakened and it has in a huge way.
The above song, "Pagan Revolution," is a perfect example of the kind of music you'll find from this album: Super upbeat, fun, singable, and catchy as all hell. These are songs are the folk metal definition of earworms, as they will forcibly bury themselves into your brain and will actually make you "sing and dance to the sound of revolution," just as the song states. The singer, Damnagoras, or Damna for short, is completely on-point here, as he is through the rest of the album, and the lyrics stand out as being surprisingly good and enjoyable to sing. Many songs that get into your head and have you singing the lyrics can have lines that make little-to-no coherent sense, but here they all tie in together and really formulate a fantastic rebel anthem. Also, one other note, particularly for those new to Folk Metal, the violinist Lethien probably stands out on this album as being the strongest and most consistently good element, so if you are a fan of violins, as most sane people are, you will love what you hear here. I am also in love with Aydan's, one of the only remaining founding members, guitar work here, as he strives, and succeeds I might add, to make hooks just as catchy as the lines written for the choruses.
If you want a good summary of this, here's what I have to say: The Pagan Manifesto is my favorite Folk Metal album of the year. Sure, there were other very impressive albums, particularly Skalmold's album released just last month which just barely missed being on my list, but this album is what I personally listen to Folk Metal for, and a lot of music for that matter: to have fun. You can tell Elvenking are having a blast playing all of these songs and they put their heart and soul into the tracks to give them as much life as possible, and it paid off. My only complaint is that the album doesn't really have a satisfying conclusion, as the harsh vocals on the last song, "Witches Gather," seems a bit out of place and then it just fades out and ends all of a sudden. This is just odd considering the album began with a very nice folksy opening track that really sets the mood but really, this is just a small complaint for what is an incredible album. I love just about every song and I still listen to them just about every day and I hope you at least give them a chance, they are well-worth it.
"Towards the Shores"
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