Elvenking - Wyrd
Italy's Elvenking are finally back on the scene, and they here deliver their second outing Wyrd, which has beeen highly anticipated among the fans, and the anticipation has been rising for every week lately as the cd has been pushed forward several times. The obvious and apperant question is now: has the waiting been worthwhile? Read on, and find out what Elvenking Anno 2004 are all about.
It opens with Pathfinders that immediatly starts with a sharp riff backed up by a swirling violin/flute combination in good folk spirit. Despite this, the song never really rises above anything average as it is a bit unstructured with no real hook or melody that sticks. A slightly puzzled look could be spotted on me by the time this song ended, as it was hard to really get a feeling what the rest would be all about. This is followed by Jigsaw Puzzle and The Silk Dilemma which both are standard Elvenking songs as we are used to from the debut. The melodies, the well balanced amount of violins counteracting with guitars are there, as well as tempo/mood changes. It never really reaches the level as on the debut, though.
It is so far into the album very clear that the tempo has been decreased in favour of more grooves. Another thing that has decreased since the debut is the amount of really good ideas and melodies. The moments where you really get touched or hooked by something are very, very few as it a lot of times sounds like they have had quite a few good ideas in the rehearsal room, but fail to make something really good out of it as they get confused about wether they should experiment with some untested new elements, or just play metal.
Moonchariot, for example, sounds like a mixture between a lullaby and a drinking song in the verse, spiced with fragments of guitar riffs here and there. Unfortunatly a failure, and a low water mark on the album. The Perpetual Knot is the only song up until this point on the album that is really good, as it has pondus and good melodies and instrumental work. Unfortunatly it is only 3 minutes long. The second part of the album is just as unwilling to fall in grace with my musical ear, as it simply put is very flat and does not interest. Competent, yes - but not engaging.
One other thing to mention is that there is a lack of solos - guitar or any other string instrument. For some reason that have to stand back here, and I don't think that is to their advantage. The closing A Poem For The Firmament, that clocks in at 12 minutes, is a bit of a saviour and saves the impression of the album after it has stopped spinning. It's an epic and heavy track, with a lot of beautiful parts as well as fast and straight riffing. Elvenking as we got to know them on the debut, but still with a fresh and new touch to it. More of this and the album would have earned better grades.
The grade of musicality I can't say have increased especially much, as they already on the debut showed that they all are very skilled, and that's the same level we experience here. that they want to explore other sides of the folk/metal hybrid is understandable, but it has in my point of view been done on behalf of the melodies. Singer Kleid that replaced former singer Damnagoras is doing fine, but does not really shine. The similarities are many with his predecessor, and they are both charmingly sliding a bit on a few high notes here and there. Production wise it still pretty similar to the last album, with the same type of instruments involved (apart from the general ones also flute, violin and female choirs), and a similar soundpicture. With the difference that it sounds a bit thiner and more dry this time, and the guitars are from to time a bit heavier.
The songs also feel a tad bit too similar in constructions to my likes. Folktunes as intro, neat vocals with only drums or acoustic guitars in the verse, and some gutars to back a pretty flat bridge/refrain part. It does not feel especially much "metal" over this either, as it seem that the main focus has been on the folk bit this time. A big focus was on that part on the last album also, but there they blended it perfectly with great riffs and a good metal feeling, and that's why that hit the market as a big success.
This is good, and still original, metal with a personal touch to it, and very well performed - but I had expected much more from this band. It feels like this album might deserve its place in the cd player every now and then in the future, but I certainly will play the debut way more often.