Elvenking - The Winter Wake
AFM Records
Epic Power/Folk/Celtic Metal
12 songs (55'17)
Release year: 2006
Elvenking, AFM Records
Reviewed by Marty
Italy's Elvenking are back with their third album The Winter Wake and with it brings yet more personnel changes. Original vocalist Damnogoras who recorded the demo To Oak Woods Bestowed and the debut album Heathenreel has returned and Kleid, who did the vocals for 2003's Wyrd album is out. Other line-up changes include the departure of founding member/guitarist Jarpen. Since he also contributed some death scowls and screams to Elvenking's work, the band brought in Schmier from Destruction to do the job in the studio for this new album.

Although I liked the Heathenreel album, I actually like Wyrd even more (I seem to be in the minority on that one!). I liked the heavier and more power metal approach and I felt Kleid's vocals were much stronger than Damnagoras'. Needless to say, most Elvenking fans did not agree with me and were generally not very satisfied with the Wyrd album. For The Winter Wake, many welcomed the triumphant return of Damnagoras yet for myself, I really didn't think that it was a positive step in the future of this band. Much to my surprise, this album far exceeded my expectations and is being heralded by many as the best Elvenking album yet.

With a blend of celtic and folk influenced power metal, Elvenking has similarities to Blind Guardian but they use more traditional instruments like violin and flute along with the charging double bass fuelled power metal. They actually have a violin player as a permanent member of the band. Trows Kind gets the album started and along with the second track Swallowtail, really introduces the much heavier yet still very folk oriented power metal. Thick power metal guitar chords, lots of atmosphere and the almost punkish rawness to Damnogoras' voice distances Elvenking from the more crafty and polished sounds of the Wyrd album. If you liked Heathenreel then you're going to love this album. The first two tracks are solid but, vocal-wise, Damnagoras has done better. For the mid tempo title track The Winter Wake, Destruction's Schmeid adds his aggressive vocal tones to the chorus section and aside from gang style choruses, there's a nice acoustic guitar/violin interlude. With The Wanderer, things start to fall into place. What a great song....one of the best Elvenking tracks ever! With a speedy celtic Blind Guardian tone, Damnagoras' vocals are finally up to standards with a great chorus and solid melodic lead guitar work. The quality keeps coming with March Of Fools, Devil's Carriage and Rats Are Following. All feature charging celtic flavored power metal with great instrumental breaks, sudden and moody tempo changes and big huge choruses. In fact, Rats Are Following has one of the best on the album. On The Morning Dew sees Elvenking keeping their tradition of having an acoustic track that features both male and angelic female vocals. Rouse Your Dream has some very Thin Lizzy like elements especially with the guitar melodies and this spirited and energetic track reminds me of part of Thin Lizzy's Dedication. The Lizzy-esque celtic flavored harmony guitars continue with Neverending Nights; an epic and energetic power metal track with another huge chorus. The acoustic flavored track Disillusions Reel finishes the album. For the European version, we get a cover of Skyclad's Penny Dreadful which was obviously recorded in another session as although a solid version of the song, the production qualities are nowhere near the rest of the album.

Overall, Elvenking has taken a step forward yet at the same time, reaches back to resurrect elements from their past. They have continued with the heavier trend that was seen with the Wyrd album yet they have returned to the more pure folk and celtic sounds of Heathenreel. This is a very heavy album by Elvenking standards with hammering double bass work and a big fat guitar tone but the subtleties of the celtic/folk styles are still ever present. A very unique band and one that exists quite comfortably outside the realm of most other power metal, they are an acquired taste. Much like Jethro Tull is to the progressive rock world, Elvenking is to the genre of power metal. It took me a few listens to really get into this album as I still feel that Kleid has a better voice than Damnagoras. However, Damnagoras' voice seems to be a better fit to the Elvenking sound. He gives the band a more "rough around the edges" feel and is definitely a voice that you really have to warm up to to really appreciate. Even though I feel The Winter Wake gets off to a somewhat slow start, it quickly gels into an excellent album and shows Elvenking in their finest hour.....just added this one to my "Best Of 2006" list.

Killing Songs :
The Wanderer, March Of Fools, Rats Are Following, Rouse Your Dream and Neverending Nights
Marty quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Elvenking that we have reviewed:
Elvenking - The Pagan Manifesto reviewed by Joel and quoted 85 / 100
Elvenking - Era reviewed by Olivier and quoted 80 / 100
Elvenking - Red Silent Tides reviewed by Khelek and quoted 69 / 100
Elvenking - Two Tragedy Poets (... and a Caravan of Weird Figures) reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
Elvenking - The Scythe reviewed by Marty and quoted 69 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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