Elvenking – The Pagan Manifesto
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Of all bands out there, hardly any can come close to showing the amount of growth and evolution as the Italian folk/power metal band Elvenking. Boasting a unique and powerful sound since their very beginning in 1997, the band stands taller and stronger than ever seventeen years later with the release of The Pagan Manifesto. With eight full length albums under their belt full of fairy tales, Paganism, and love, the band has returned with their best release yet, with just enough experimentation and familiar old style, that all fans of the band can enjoy.
It begins with a great intro track, setting the stage for the record in a way that we haven’t seen from this band in years. Although it’s very mellow, mostly flute and acoustic guitar, it pulls in a dramatic vibe through added sound effects. When the electric guitars and violin come in, the intro track flows seamlessly into the opening song “King of the Elves” which sits impressively at over twelve minutes and features a guest appearance by Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Kiske/Somerville). While I am always a sucker for bands that fittingly use their band name in their music, this song is a pretty amazing song aside from the cleverness. Intriguing time signature movements, layered atmospheric elements and chanting, mixed with the overall drive and gallop from drums and bass lines make the song fly by. At first listen, it’s a wonderful way to introduce the evolution of Elvenking, while still reminding old fans why they fell in love with the band in the first place.
“Elvenlegions” follows immediately, and was the introduction to the new album as the first single. It’s a very catchy song, and a nice rally tune for all of the fans out there, with a fan club aptly called The Elvenlegions. While it makes sense in a way why this would be released as the single, there are definitely better songs on the album. Tracks like “Moonbeam Stone Circle” and “Twilight of Magic” instantly come to mind, as I have listened to this album for more than a week solid and can’t get enough of either. These two songs in particular are catchy, but feature beautiful lyrics and wonderful orchestration. Both songs prove that the album needs to be listened to through a great sound system to truly hear all that is going on. Don’t sell yourself short with laptop speakers or cheap headphones here.
After the touchingly beautiful “Towards the Shores” fades out from it’s ballad-like sound, “Pagan Revolution” begins with a bang and proves to be a true folk metal tune. The violin work really takes the lead and pushes the song along nicely with a more muted distorted guitar. The lyrics unleash about pagan pride, appreciating mother nature, and the freedom to be who you want to be. Of course, those messages are common themes throughout the album, fittingly so given the album title.
Like all great things however, The Pagan Manifesto must too come to an end. “Witches Gather” closes the album, as another long tune at just under nine minutes. This song features many different vocal styles, though off-putting at first, it all seems to mesh well together as the song moves on. The experimentation here is well done and well appreciated, especially since the band met a lot of backlash for doing similar things on 2007’s The Scythe.
The Pagan Manifesto is no Heathenreel and it’s no Era, it’s no sequel or continuation of either. It’s an entirely new being on its own, proving that the band has grown so much just within the past couple of years. From the production, to the orchestration, to the guitar solos, literally everything about this album is a step up from previous works. If you’re looking for great hooks and melodies, folk instrumentation, and awe-inspiring choruses this is definitely an album for you. The Pagan Manifesto is Elvenking‘s most powerful album yet, but with the growth that they have shown, I am very excited to see where they can go from here.