Originally written by Chris Chellis.
Tis the season for folk metal, with recent releases from Korpiklaani, Ensiferum (EP), and Trollfest, and this Italian quintet gives the genre enough of a power boost that anyone turned on by ancient tales of bravado should find it a worthy member of their music collection.
You know the story; elves, scary grandmothers warning of potential doom, fairies guiding weary wanderers, something about fools and the things they do…lyrically, this presents little that’s new. But can we not say the same thing about every band that fits as purposely into a sub-genre, whether it’s death, thrash, black, or folk metal? If you buy anything from Impaled, Toxic Holocaust, Darkthrone, or Elvenking, you know what you’re getting into from a lyrical standpoint, so the question becomes, what does this release sound like? In the vein of a Korpiklaani, Elvenking is primarily happy folk metal, but unlike Korpiklaani, the latter sounds less like bar music. Inherent in a majority of the riffs is a power not commonly found in more atmospheric peers. Aesthetically speaking, that’s about all that separates Elvenking from the rest of the fairy-obsessed.
If folk metal came in grades, Elvenking would certainly rank as grade A material. There are softer, more melancholy songs like “On the Morning Dew,” where vocalist Damnagoras sounds especially eloquent and smooth, and tighter, more technical riff-driven songs like “Devil’s Carriage” and “March of Fools.” “Swallowtail” easily sounds like a track left off of Korpiklaani’s recent Tales Along This Road, though some passages are much more rough than such a comparison would suggest.
The Winter Wake will rank as one of 2006’s greater folk metal triumphs. At nearly 52 minutes, there’s little to complain about in terms of either diversity or length, and the replay value is immense. The inclusion of harsh vocals from Schmier of Destruction fame makes The Winter Wake all the more interesting.