Although Italian Folk/Power Metallers Elvenking have been active since 1997 (recording their excellent debut, Heathenreel in 2001, Wyrd in 2004, and The Winter Wake in 2006) and amassed an underground following in the European metal scene, it wasn’t until 2007’s critically acclaimed The Scythe that the metal world at large stood up and took notice. The band subsequently released several albums (Two Tragedy Poets…And A Caravan Of Weird Figures, Red Silent Tides, and Era) to a mixed response from their fanbase. With their latest opus, The Pagan Manifesto, Elvenking may have created their masterpiece. The album was produced as well as mixed and mastered by the amazing Simone Mularoni (DGM) and it shows. The individual instrumentation and harmony and lead vocals are pristine and the mix is perfect, a credit to Mularoni given the amount of instruments, orchestration, and multi-layered harmony vocals involved.
On The Pagan Manifesto, Elvenking combine elements of traditional folk music, pagan themes, modern metal, as well as power metal to create a sound filled with enchanting dark melodies, hook-laden verses, and anthemic catchy choruses.
The short folk-inspired bombastic intro The Manifesto, the album kicks off with King of The Elves, a thirteen minute opus filled with folk-laden melodies, blast drumbeats, massive orchestrations, musical twists and turns and a HUGE chorus that is catchy as hell. Trillium vocalist and part-time Avantasian Amanda Somerville makes a guest appearance towards the end of the song with her trademark passionate and emotive voice. The band is firing on all cylinders here. The next song and first single/video, Elvenlegions is a fun folk metal anthem with a shout along chorus that serves as a tribute to the bands loyal following.
The Druid Ritual of Oak has a medieval/folk-ish melody that is reminiscent of Iron Maidens recent material. Violinist Lethian gets to shine in the spotlight while lead vocalist Damna’s charismatic vocals cast a spell over the listener. The pace quickens on Moonbeam Stone Circle, a fast and furious power metal anthem with a huge fist-pumping chorus with multi-layered harmony vocals and a breakdown that takes the song to another level with its soaring vocal harmonies. The rhythm section of Jakob (bass) and Symohn (drums) start off The Solitaire, a song that is reminiscent of Elvenking’s previous song The Divided Heart (from The Scythe). Again, the chorus here is massive, impressive and impossible to get out of your head. The album slows down temporarily on Towards the Shores, a folky ballad with melody and emotional power and beauty. The band gets back to the fast and heavy on Pagan Revolution, a folk metal meets punk ditty with attitude to spare and another shout along chorus.
Grandier’s Funeral Pyre is another strong mystical themed folk metal anthem with growling vocals added for emphasis. The band flexes its speed metal muscle on the epic and bombast of Twilight of Magic, a massive power metal headbanger that has an energetic verse and refrain. Black Roses For The Wicked One is a piano-tinged song with modern sound techniques and symphonic orchestrations, combined with Elvenking’s penchant for writing huge memorable choruses and Damna’s emotive vocals take this one to another level. The album closer, Witches Gather clocks in at just under nine minutes of guitar chugging, dark and haunting vocal melodies, chanting vocals, folk-driven metal riffs, harsh growling vocals, thrashing drums and lyrical themes of mysticism and magic.
With The Pagan Manifesto, Elvenking have launched themselves into the upper echelon of melodic folk metal. A note to U.S. promoters of the annual Paganfest tour, if there were any justice in the metal world, Elevenking would be a perfect fit for Paganfest. This is one Manifesto that cannot and should not be denied.