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Elvenking - "The Pagan Manifesto" (CD)

Elvenking - "The Pagan Manifesto" CD cover image

"The Pagan Manifesto" track listing:

1. The Manifesto
2. King of the Elves
3. Elvenlegions
4. The Druid Ritual of Oak
5. Moonbeam Stone Circle
6. The Solitaire
7. Towards the Shores
8. Pagan Revolution
9. Grandier's Funeral Pyre
10. Twilight of Magic
11. Black Roses for the Wicked One
12. Witches Gather

Reviewed by on May 12, 2014

"Aydan and Davide have truly established themselves as excellent songwriters and now have separated themselves even further from the rest of the folk metal pack."

For all the complaining heard about 2012’s “Era,” you would have thought that Elvenking committed a crime by progressing its sound and redefining itself as the premiere folk metal group in the world. Choosing not to become a clone of the great Skyclad, I cannot stress how important “Era” was not only for the development of Elvenking, but for the continuity of what has become a highly bastardized genre. With that release, the Italian greats can now enjoy all the freedoms that come with the path they blazed on that release and it shows with “The Pagan Manifesto.”

Should they continue the direction of “Era?” Should they go back and rediscover “Wyrd” or “Heathenreel?” Should they bring back the much maligned “Scythe?” The answer is – all of the above! The guys had the balls and foresight to take a bold new direction, which now allows them to do literally anything they want. Hmmm....I wonder if a certain Finnish band on a parallel journey comes to mind for anyone? “The Pagan Manifesto” will certainly appeal to fans of all “eras” of Elvenking, especially those clamoring for the power metal element to return in force.

When “Elvenlegions” was unleashed as the first single, it was clear that Elvenking was incorporating more of the older elements back into the mix, and the song was met with much praise and rightfully so. On top of that, there is a plethora of earthen goodness and “magick” that had taken a back seat to the much needed rock ‘n’ roll approach. The results speak for themselves as the reintroduced elements sound 10x more exciting and brilliant. The pace is much swifter and the pagan chanting and folksy sound is prevalent once again without being predictable.

Starting the album with the epic 13 minute “King of the Elves” was a brilliant move, as the song plays like an overture at a symphony, incorporating all those layers as an extended preview of what you can expect to hear throughout the remainder of the album. The addition of Amanda Somerville (Trillium/Avantasia) is a fantastic touch. The journey has speed, huge choruses, wonderful orchestration – everything that makes this band so interesting.

Choosing a favorite resulted in a dead heat for me – with “Witches Gather” and “Moombeam Stone Circle” taking the prize. The combination of thrilling controlled chaos and perfectly placed chanting (especially at 2:54 of “Moonbeam”) is as infectious as Elvenking has ever sounded. Playing more the evolutionary offspring of Skyclad rather than a replacement, Elvenking has completely solidified its position as the best pure folk metal band on the planet. Other stand outs are the folk thrill ride of “The Solitarie” and the speed riff driven a la old Skyclad in “Pagan Revolution.” But there is absolutely no lull, no dry spots, and absolutely no filler. The album is energized folk ‘n’ rock ‘n’ metal that combines all of the phases of Elvenking.

Sound wise, I have just two words: Simone Mularoni. The “Italian Charlie Bauerfeind” proves again why all bands in Europe should take note of his work behind the consul as well as on the guitar. The excellence in clarity never goes unnoticed as the attention to all the detail that is involved in the whirlwind instrumental variations of every Elvenking album. Between Mularoni and Lasse Lammert, there is no better in the business.

For longtime, older fans that strayed in recent years as well as new fans – all will find something to enjoy on "The Pagan Manifesto." Aydan and Davide (a/k/a Damna) have truly established themselves as excellent songwriters and now have separated themselves further from the folk metal pack. Keep in mind that the success of this album – especially the re-energized older elements now re-incorporated – were all due to the band’s decision to freshen and expand the sound on "Era."

Highs: Another gem from the best folk band in the world today.

Lows: For the few that wished the band continued an alternative path, this looks back more than forward.

Bottom line: Elvenking reaches back, forward, and from the sides to create a defining "Pagan Manifesto."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)