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Elvenking – Reader of the Runes Award winner

Reader of the Runes
by Rachel Montgomery at 19 August 2019, 1:28 PM

ELVENKING is an Italian Power Metal band releasing its tenth album. Founded in 1997, the band boasts having Folk and Pagan influences. Given that they were founded the same year as a NIGHTWISH, I’m interested to see if their sound has any overlap.

Perthro”, the opening, is a short song that leads us into the world of the band with some chanting, drums and violins. It’s wonderful at setting the atmosphere for the album. However, the next song’s melody seems to clash with the intro.

Heathen Divine” is a fast, hard-hitting song full of symphonics, evocative lyrics featuring beautiful imagery and intense instrumentals and harmonies. It reminds me of later Nightwish works, and with the vocalist, reminds me a little of DRAGONLAND or BLIND GUARDIAN. However, the vocalist isn’t as polished as singers I’m used to hearing in this genre. It’s still a good voice, it’s just more characterized whereas Symphonic Metal bands tend to employ opera-trained singers. The operatic style has little to no room for vocal characterizations, like a huskier or more nasally singing style.

Divination” is still hard-hitting and opens with some high-pitched symphonics that border on what I call “videogame symphonics”, where it sounds like I’m killing vampires in “Castlevania” rather than listening to a Melodic Metal album. They tone it down with some solid violins and go into some really beautiful harmonies, especially the echoing chorus and the call-and-response after the first chorus. I also like the interplay between the guitars and keyboards during the solo. It’s an epic, exciting song.

Silverseal” slows things down a tad with a still heavy but more anthemic number. The riff is joined in harmonies with the rhythm guitars halfway through the first verse, and the galloping melody in the chorus is really nice. The violin solo is enchanting, but I wish there were more harmony between it and the guitar. The leading and backup vocal harmonies are interesting and unique.

The piano and acoustic harmonies at the beginning of “The Misfortune of Virtue” are stunning. The intro is also very well-done with some subtle harmonies. However, I found the first verse to be a little cacophonic. I did enjoy the chorus and the refrains, especially with the piano work behind it.

The acoustic guitars at the beginning of “Eternal Eleanor” are also beautiful and atmospheric. They tie into the more powerful part of the intro well, employing the same basic riff in each. The upper register used in the first verse gives the song a soaring effect and the song almost sounds like a Viking or Pirate Metal song. Of the songs this far, this one is the most “Folk” and with the blend of softer Folk elements and heavier symphonics, it’s my favorite so far.

Diamonds in the Night” employs some soft, whispering vocals and a sailor-shanty waltz in the verses which makes it a good interlude. There’s a time change from 3/4 to 4/4 between the verses and the chorus with the waltz melody being disjointed. It’s a clever use of technique and highlights the band’s skills.

Under the Sign of a Black Star” employs a similar riff to the last song but hits you with galloping bass lines and a darker sound. I love how they use staccato to evoke a night sky and a soaring chorus to give this song a celestial feeling.

Malefica Doctrine” starts with some fast drums and Gregorian chanting-style vocals. The song hits hard and fast, emphasizing the chaos and stormy themes in the song. The anthemic, choir-like ending makes this song, as well as the Gregorian outro, bringing the song full circle. “Sic Semper Tyranis” is another galloping song, devolving into an anthemic war song. It’s a solid song employing some great thematic elements to make this feel like a battle rally.

Warden of the Bane” is another great song that uses great, thematic elements. I love the thrashing guitar solo, the ambient piano thrown in afterward and the soaring chorus that once again, gets me pumped.

As fitting for the genre, the closing track, “Reader of the Runes” is a 10-minute number encapsulating the themes of the album. The lyrics begin with a grand choir before the soloist comes in. I love the choral elements and galloping melodies. While it doesn’t provide closure for the album, it’s a nice closer that showcases many of the elements the band used.

Overall, this is an excellent, well-executed album that shows why this band had such staying power. If you’re into bands such as Nightwish, WITHIN TEMPTATION and RHAPSODY, this is a band worth checking out.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Perthro
2. Heathen Divine
3. Divination
4. Silverseal
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
Damna – Vocals
Aydan – Guitar
Rafahel – Guitar
Jakob – Bass
Lethien – Violin
Lancs – Drums
Record Label: AFM Records


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