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September 2001
Released: 2001, AFM Records
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: EvilG

If you haven’t noticed, the albums I’ve covered this month have been totally up my alley. I don’t always give high grades on CDs like this but when I hear music of this caliber I am in awe. Elvenking are no exception. Italy’s Elvenking were formed in 1997 by guitarists Aydan and Jarpen. This band’s strength lies in its originality. Yes it’s power metal but unlike many of the bands that walk the worn pathways of Helloween, Elvenking incorporate other influences and sounds. A fitting description for their music is folk influenced power metal. This would not cover all the ingredients of the band, but it does go a long way. The band’s bio describes it best: “Elvenking set themselves the objective of finding a formula which can combine metal, folk music and extreme sounds in a unique mixture, with lyrics based on the pagan worship of nature and on the tradition of folkloristic fairy-tales.”

So who can Elvenking be compared to? It’s kind of hard to compare them to just one band or to pigeonhole them to one thing. There are elements of Blind Guardian, Rhapsody / Luca Turilli (solo material) and a folk feeling that will make you think of movies like Willow, Highlander III or even of the fantasy novels you love. The album opens with the track “To Oak Woods Bestowed” complete with flutes creating suitable imagery and feeling. “Dweller of Rhymes” begins sounding like it’s going to be heavy thrash. The song changes gears throughout with acoustic parts and rhythmic vocals with a definite folk influence. “The Regality Dance” is one of the folkier songs on here complete with violin and folk like bass and drum patterns. Part way in the feel changes and for the first time on the album we hear the “growling incantations” from backing vocalist and guitarist Jarpen. His vocal style is similar to the gruff vocals found in Children of Bodom or In Flames. Incorporating this vocal style in a folk/power metal band is yet another of the things setting Elvenking apart from the rest of the bands. Damnagoras is the lead vocalist on here of course, and his melodies are only strengthened by this contrast. The song “White Willow” has a main melody line reminiscent of Luca Turilli’s “Legend of the Steel.” This is perhaps my favorite by the band thanks to the sing along chorus “The fire in my heart was burning like the flames of ancient times…” Makes you want to raise your fist/sword/ale/whatever in admiration! “Skyward” is almost entirely acoustic, a beautiful song, then near the end the “growling incantations” come in and throw us a spin! “Oakenshield” is an amazing song that has very strong melody lines. Again this song has some of the death metal like vocals thrown in. The darkest sounding track on HEATHENREEL is the lengthy “Conjuring of the 14th” The subject matter is sinister which you will discover once you read the lyrics. A perfect match of music to lyrics! The album closes with “Seasonspeech” which has four vocalists. Try wrapping your head around their intricately woven vocal lines in one listen! It’s easy to tell that a LOT of work went into working this one out.

One thing about this band that many will find is that the music requires more then one or two listens to appreciate or to wrap your mind around. Once you start hearing it a few times you will very quickly be absorbed into Elvenking’s world of fantasy. If you have liked the sprinkling of folk elements in Luca Turilli or Blind Guardian but have wanted to hear a band more fully embrace it then you have to give Elvenking a listen without further ado! HEATHENREEL is easily one of the more original albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in a long time. I cannot come up with any criticisms about this album at all! Listening to this makes me want to read some David Eddings (The Elfstones of Shannara?) or any other fantasy novel…excellent from original music and melodies to the lyrics. Highly recommended to those who crave more from their metal!!! If that wasn’t enough, the album was recorded at New Sin Audio Design by Luigi Stefanini and mixed at Fredman Studios by Fredrik Nordstrom. The cover artwork was done by renowned artist Travis Smith, while the band logo designed by J.P. Fournier (Avantasia, Immortal, etc.).

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