Two Tragedy Poets ... And a Caravan of Weird Figures

I can’t honestly recall having heard Elvenking before, and as I understand it, this isn’t a record I should judge the band by as it’s an attempt to do something different from their normal sound. This record, however, sounds like a band in need of an identity. Is it folk? Is it power metal? Is it 1980s pop rock? Yes, and often in all the wrong ways.

This record opens on an interesting note, with the very traditional instrumental “The Caravan of Weird Figures.” Enjoy it. It’s the strongest piece on the record. The second track, the appropriately titled “Another Awful Hob’s Tale,” sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s a jumbled mish-mash of different influences. There’s some nice traditional instrumentation running through the song, and a break right before the guitar solo with no modern instruments that’s cool. Layered over the foundation of traditional music, though, is a kind of power metal-lite drum and guitar line with a 1980s pop vocal melody. Taken in pieces, there are some admirable moments. Taken as a whole, it just doesn’t work at all.

The same could be said of “From Blood to Stone,” which opens with an interesting acoustic melody before dropping into hair metal power ballad territory. It’s a place they return on the acoustic “The Winter Wake,” while album closer “Miss Conception” goes into new wave territory.

And what is the fascination recently with really bad covers of 1980s pop songs? Elvenking’s contribution to the joke is a fairly faithful cover of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” that adds a chunky one-note guitar riff at the beginning and a few harmonic squeals, but is ultimately pretty goofy.

It’s easy to take shots at this record, but it’s not all horrible. “My Own Spider’s Web” features some very cool acoustic work by guitarist Aydan at the beginning, and as one of the more traditional folk numbers, it’s a really good song. “She Lives At Dawn” features a nice piano intro, a more restrained vocal style and some interesting effects, but it’s really only an interlude. “The Blackest of My Hearts” also offers up an intriguing mix of rock drums and traditional instrumentation.

The talent seems to be there for a decent folk metal outfit, as they really shine on the more traditional numbers. “Ask a Silly Question,” for example, features an energetic reel from the traditional instruments, but it’s ruined by punkish screams on the chorus and the bombastic 1980s rock posturing. “The Wanderer” also opens on a pleasing traditional note, but singer Danna just can’t help himself from going back to the ’80s in his vocals.

I should probably go back and check out some of their previous work, as there are some promising moments here, particularly in the folk sounds. But overall, this mixing and matching of folk, power and pop just isn’t working.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 2nd, 2009


  1. Commented by: Chris

    Heathenreel is still the only album by this band that anyone needs. The Winter’s Wake was alright, but none of the other stuff has done anything for me.

  2. Commented by: LoftComplication

    Total agreeance with Chris. Its really incredible how bad their albums have been in succession. They havent levelled off and this what their 4th album or 5th album. Heathenreel is a great album, granted I havent heard this one, and probably never will but I remember making it about halfway through ‘The Scythe’ and being shocked by how bad it was and turned it off immediately.

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