Album review: ELVENKING – The Pagan Manifesto

Elvenking - The Pagan Manifesto

AFM Records – Out Now.

Even though they have been earning their chops performing Folk infused Power Metal for the last seventeen years, the members of Italian sextet Elvenking do not really perform the style of music that I would go out of my way to listen to.

So, why am I writing this review? Simple – sheer curiosity! You see, the band was due to visit the UK a few moons ago in order to assist legendary poet/frontman Martin Walkyier perform classic Skyclad material on a handful of dates.

Even though this short tour never really materialised, the fact that the bard himself chose to trust this very group of musicians with such an important task convinced me that reviewing “The Pagan Manifesto” might not be a bad idea after all.

So, what of Elevenking’s eighth studio album? These twelve compositions are clearly influenced by a variety of styles, some of which I was quite ready for but also surprised, since some of these influences one would not necessarily expect a Folk Power Metal band to have invested in.

While the likes of Blind Guardian and Skyclad have provided some inspiration for this album, the themes associated with such bands are very few and far between, sharing space, so to speak, with material that’s darker and much heavier by nature. Surprised? I, for one, certainly was.

Following a short and somewhat predictable intro entitled “The Manifesto”, the album truly proves its thirst for variety with the follow up “King Of Elves” – a thirteen minute piece which somehow manages to combine early 90s Swedish Metal riffs and catchy Hard Rock/Euro-Power choruses with discreet supporting orchestral arrangements.

The pompous Euro-Power melodies of “Elvenlegions” did not do much for me but I really enjoyed all the clear Skyclad references in “The Druid Ritual Of Oak” a well as the bombastic Iced Earth sounding choral break in “Moonbeam Stone Circle”.

It may be true that “The Solitaire” is the closest that this band came to playing Pop music but the melodies on offer are actually very pleasant. However, the purists amongst you who may have been slightly offended by the band’s flirtations with melodies of a more commercial nature will be rewarded by the Folk-infused duet “Towards The Shores” / “Pagan Revolution”.

“Grandier’s Funeral Pyre” speeds things up a bit and even though some momentum is lost by the average sounding “Twilight Of Magic”, the spell-binding chorus of “Black Roses Of The Wicked One” will erase all the negative feeling created by its less than impressive predecessor.

Spanning eight minutes and forty two seconds, “Witches Gather” concludes the album with another exercise in combining themes of a varied nature, the end result, however, is deemed not too successful by the author of this review.

I expected not to like the music of this band, and so it is with some relief that I discovered that Elvenking have something to offer me. Ok, the pompous Euro-Power choruses and certain high register vocal parts are things that I believe that the band could definitely do without, but their ability to explore and incorporate in their music elements from a variety of different genres is quite impressive.

Though far from christening myself as a fan, I am now in possession of a newfound respect for these lads – now, let me see how I can get the catchy refrain from “Black Roses Of The Wicked One” out of my head now…

John Stefanis

Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)


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