Released: 2014, AFM Records
Elvenking returns with their 8th studio album in THE PAGAN MANIFESTO this spring. The Italians have managed through the years to build a strong following despite some less than stellar albums through the middle of the past decade. Yet, for all of their devoted fans the band has unquestionably been chasing their debut in the eyes of many metal lovers ever since HEATHENREEL’s release at the beginning of the millennium. Those that are familiar with the band’s folk/power metal style will find that not much has changed in terms of the band’s template. What has happened though is a nearly seamless integration of the folk within the power metal, in fact nearly every song having folk instruments and elements. Despite this, for the pure power metal listener, it is pretty easy to tune out those folkish elements if you so choose, as the power metal charges forward in every song as well, save for a few ballads. Thus, THE PAGAN MANIFESTO can be considered an album that is likely to have the broadest appeal for metal fans.
After a brief intro, the albums opens with the 13 minute plus ode to Elves titled “King Of The Elves.” Perhaps to intrigue listeners and prevent a press of the skip button, the tune features Amanda Somerville on guest vocals as well as a rare (for power metal) wah wah pedal. Despite its length, it is one of the better songs on the album showcasing a balanced melding of folk and power metal. Vocally Danma sounds inspired, and the band likewise are technical and driving on this song. The compact tunes are worthy of checking out as well with both “Elvenlegions” and the folk influenced speed of “Pagan Revolution” being under four minutes and quick to resonate. Perhaps the best and most ferocious song is album closer “Witches Gather”, which manages to overcome the growly vocals that represent nothing of the essence of Elvenking.
Evaluated as a whole, THE PAGAN MANIFESTO does nothing to surprise the band’s fans, while drawing heavily from the band’s earlier elements but maintaining their modern sound as well. The power metal is fairly pronounced but the folk elements are certainly featured in many of the tunes. Song wise, there are a legion of bands that do the power metal as good or better than Elvenking, so it really is the blend of folk and power that this band is hoping continues to distinguish them and attract listeners in a subgenre whose cup doth indeed runneth over. Sound wise, the album is immensely full bodied the production capturing the thunder, thump and pomp of a talented band that has redeemed some of their less inspired albums with a solid release in 2014.