Elvenking – “The Pagan Manifesto” (AFM Records)
Elvenking are regarded as the best known of the Italian folk metal bands, formed in the late 90s and now, 8 albums later releasing what is probably their most mature and ambitious release! Opening with the 12 minute ‘King Of Elves’ shows the band’s confidence in taking on a song of epic proportions that not only includes Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Kiske/Somerville) on guest femme vocals, but also has elements of rock and pomp rock. That’s not to say Elvenking have forgotten their roots – no way – when you check out the epic glory of ‘Moonbeam Stone Circle’ with its up tempo folk dance beat and irresistible folk melodies but also incorporating some tasteful gothic choir along with wild keyboards and soaring solos. Things get even more heavier on ‘Pagan Revolution’ with Irish pipes providing the uplifting melodies over a hard n fast beat, but one that you could easily sing a long to or even dance! Without a doubt Damna’s vocals take inspiration from a range of rock sources and have their part to play in making Elvenking’s material – along with those addictive folk melodies – so accessible and palatable such as on the more commercial ‘Grandier’s Funeral Pyre’ which definitely takes us into Magnum territory with more singalong choruses. Closing with the epic closer of ‘Witches Gather’, they once again bring it all together mixing blistering heavy metal with their folk and dance for a climatic finish to “The Pagan Manifesto”, a confident and proud album that will have the respect of folk metallers and also has the potential to appeal to those new to it. Yes, I think Elvenking wanted to make a statement with this album and they have – big time!