"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Thranenkind - "The Elk" (CD)

Thranenkind - "The Elk" CD cover image

"The Elk" track listing:

1. Monument (3:43)
2. Just Another Way of Expressing Defeat (7:28)
3. The King Is Dead (3:12)
4. My Transparent Heart (6:39)
5. Today, the Sea (Anja's Song) (3:48)
6. Deleting Those Three Words (5:45)
7. Eternal Youth (3:53)
8. Seven Dead Horses (5:28)
9. Silence Is Everything (3:09)
10. Forest Pt. I (The Veil) (2:15)
11. Forest Pt. II (The Grove) (2:50)
12. This Story of Permanence (4:16)
13. The Elk (5:34)

Reviewed by on August 23, 2013

"'The Elk' is a decent first album from a band still trying to skirt the line between moody black metal and atmospheric post rock."

Thränenkind flourishes when they let the music provide the backdrop for their themes, instead of using words to relay the same effect. “The Elk” is a concept album about two siblings who travel to attend their father’s funeral. To get this story across, the band splits the album between reflective instrumental tracks and lighter black metal fare. The former is much better at conveying the emotional undertones of the concept than the latter, and that is a large factor in the uneven nature of Thränenkind’s debut album.

Don’t think of black metal in the usual sense when discussing “The Elk.” Thränenkind doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but the band takes a more mid-tempo speed compared to implementing tremolo-picked riffs all over the place. The lengths of the songs vary, and that keeps the album moving. There isn’t much downtime, and only the seven-and-a-half minute “Just Another Way of Expressing Defeat” really bears the weight of its running time enough to be noticed.

That track is one of a handful of instrumental tracks on “The Elk.” The band puts most of them in the latter half of the album, leading to an unequal feeling as far as album progression goes. The instrumentals are mellow, never rising above a whimper, and show off how well they work within that style. The guitars strum out fruitful melodic notes that suck the listener into a dreamy world conceived. Their inclusion, especially the two-parter “Forest” and the title track, reinforces the validity of their sonic direction and the best parts of their music.

Less successful are the vocally-charged songs. The raspy yells and shouts aren’t spectacular, and the songs don’t do anything overtly interesting. Thränenkind finds a formula that works for them, as most of the tracks start off soft, then get a momentous burst of heaviness. It gets predictable by the album’s halfway point, and the band doesn’t break from their cushy position. “Deleting Those Three Words” does stand out with its driving guitar work, and the drum fills on “This Story of Permanence” land a final moment of electricity before the low-key closing title track.

What hasn’t been discussed so far is the lyrical aspect, which is integral considering the idea that “The Elk” has a central premise behind it. The band, hailing from Germany, is using English in its lyrics for the first time. If it wasn’t for a press release, the concept would be hidden from sight. The instrumental-only side of the band puts on an ominous, longing front that is expressed in the music much better than what is delivered by the average vocals.

The death of a close loved one is perfect fodder for a concept album, and it’s hard to mess that up with all the emotional aspects that could be touched upon. Thränenkind puts in a performance that has its high marks, where the music clicks and emotes the right passionate response, and its low points, where it falls victim to uninteresting songwriting. If this was cut down to an EP, featuring just the instrumental tracks, “The Elk” would have been a far better result. Instead, “The Elk” is a decent first album from a band still trying to skirt the line between moody black metal and atmospheric post rock.

Highs: Wonderful instrumental tracks, interesting lyrical premise

Lows: Songs with vocals in them don't have the same effect as the instrumental tracks, occasionally dull songwriting, average vocals

Bottom line: Some compelling instrumental tracks are sided with average post black metal tunes for an uneven debut album.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)