Thursday, April 7, 2011

Elvenking - Red Silent Tides (2010)

Italy's Elvenking have done their fair share of groundbreaking in the metal world. They could easily be known as the godfathers of the folk/power metal movement. However, they are not content to rest on their laurels. With this, their 6th studio album, they look to make the next logical step, and once again reinvent the genre. Lofty goals for even the best of bands.

As we begin our journey, something seems awry. "Dawnmelting" begins as you would expect any Elvenking album. Fast paced, violin powered, folk metal mastery. Lyrically powerful and emotionally charged, your head will bob subconsciously when the double kicks begin. But somewhere along the line, the vocals take a decidedly odd turn, almost sounding like more of a later Bon Jovi song than anything else. A wailing guitar solo provides a reprieve, but immediately returns to south Jersey rock.

"The Last Hour," an anthem in every sense of the word, would lead one to check their disc to be sure you were listening to the right album. Outside of the ever present violin, it just seems like a departure from the previous works. The breakdown portion, while strong, does little to bring the song back to life. It isn't until "Silence de Mort" that we truly feel like we have discovered Elvenking. The guitar work, with all it's precise, high octane fingerings is refreshing and vibrant.

A second anthem appears, with a hook that will leave you wanting more. "The Cabal" shows so much promise, but fails to deliver on the scale you would expect. The violin melodies are vintage Elvenking, and so indicative of all they done for the folk metal world. But again, the song drags vocally. "Runereader" brings out the first growl of the album, and finally ignites a fire. The pace increases, guitars whine and drums come at you in a fury. Gang vocals will have you singing along for the first time on the album, and you will be grateful for the opportunity.

"Possession" is the ballad, straight out of 80's glam metal radio. Momentum comes to a stop, and the wheels begin to spin. But your savior is on the way. Despite its title, "Your Heroes Are Dead" is a crushing reminder of what makes this band the envy of so many. Speed, precision and emotion are the recipe for power metal, and the band is no stranger to this. "Those Days" keeps things on track, until the unfortunate "This Nightmare Will Never End," a song which would may have been better if it had been left off of the album.

"What's Left Of Me" is another throwaway, leaving you wondering if Bon Jovi has actually formed some sort of  Elvenking tribute band. Aside from the background presence of the violin, it could easily pass as a "Crossroads" b-side. Some degree of redemption comes with the closing piece, "The Play Of The Leaves," a song which, musically, gives you what you have been looking for.

When you are at the top of your class, it often becomes hard to keep things fresh. Elvenking has been one of the preeminent folk/power metal outfits for the better part of a decade. But in trying to take the next step to once again redefine their genre, they may have made an unfortunate error. The album is missing something. Something so glaring that it may make you wonder if "Blaze of Glory" and "Wanted Dead Or Alive" will be placed in the live set. Perhaps their dreams are truly drowning in "Red Silent Tides."


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