Album Title: Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Label: AFM Records
Date Of Release: 10 November 2017
I don’t like folk metal.
That’s what I’ve told myself for many years, anyway. Some years ago, I delved into the genre and found the whole thing pretty underwhelming to be honest. Included in this journey of discovery were the likes of Finntroll, Eluveitie and Korpiklaani to name but a few. Unfortunately, I just didn’t hear anything to really pique my interest. The music, be it heavy or softer was certainly melodic and, in some cases good fun. But much of it felt a bit too cheesy, too twee and the folk melodies never really spoke to me all that much. As a result, I decided to take my music-listening in a different direction.
I can’t quite put my finger on why therefore, I decided to give the latest album from Elvenking a go. With an unmistakeable and pronounced folk edge to their music, the Italian power metal band should not be something I’d even take a second look at. After all, I’ve never tried any of their previous eight albums released before now. Even the cover, with the folk-metal band logo and mythical creature is something which would normally cause me to keep walking in days gone by.
I suspect this choice might have something to do with a conscious decision of mine to try to broaden my horizons and open my mind a little – after all, manofmuchmetal.com is my site and I get to choose what I listen to. But whatever the ultimate reason, I did press the download button attached to the email from AFM Records and, even more surprising, here I am now writing a review of album number nine, ‘Secrets of the Magick Grimoire’.
But I don’t like folk metal.
The thing is, this personal mantra has suddenly started to sound a little less vehement having listened to this record. And that’s because my pre-conceived ideas have taken a bit of a battering because I really like ‘Secrets of the Magick Grimoire’.
There’s a fair amount of talk in the press release to suggest it has more in common with the 2001 debut, ‘Heathenreel’. Who knows if that’s true because I’ve not heard a note of it in my life. I’ve not heard a note of Elvenking’s other seven albums either come to that. So what you can take from this review, is the thoughts of someone with an entirely fresh perspective.
And what I hear is pretty darn super. The power metal aspects loom large, and there’s an inescapable catchiness to many of the compositions, the kind of music that gets you moving and smiling in spite of yourself. Some of the hooks burrow deep, making repeat listens a necessity rather than a chore. Then there are the more extreme metal elements that lurk within the Elvenking tapestry. To underline this ingredient, Angus Norder (Witchery,Nekrokraft) is an invited guest on this record, providing the harsh growls and screams within nearly half of album’s tracks.
‘Secrets of the Magick Grimoire’ is comprised of nine compositions in total, with a running time around the 46 minute mark. And, aside from the acquisition of a brand new drummer, Lancs, the remainder of Damna (vocals), Aydan (guitars), Rafahel (guitars), Lethien (violin) and Jakob (bass) have been present for the past two releases, giving the outfit some stability.
Once the theatrical and cinematic intro passes, ‘Invoking The Woodland Spirit’ kicks off this impressive record in bombastic and infectiously energetic fashion. There is more than a hint of ‘Dawn of Victory’ era Rhapsody to be heard as the double-pedal drumming of newbie Lancs and galloping bass of Jakob is built upon with rich symphonics, fast riffing and some expressive and potent vocal work from founder Damna. There are vibrant lead lines, guitar solos, choral vocal sections and a huge chorus, with the entire thing owing far more to power metal than anything else.
The trend continues with ‘Draugens Maelstrom’, as the power metal influences loom largest over the composition. The riffs dip in and out of the verses that are dominated by the sound of Jakob’s rumbling bass and more atmospheric synths. Damna’s clean delivery soars and then ‘duets’ with the deep growls of Norder, which provides the catchy number with a little gravitas and an inference of extreme metal.
It isn’t until ‘The One We Shall Follow’ that the folk elements become more pronounced, led by the perky and chirpy violin of Lethien. And, oddly, it is one of my absolute favourites on the album. The chorus is insanely catchy, despite being built upon the kind of folk melody from which I’d normally recoil. I also like the stomping mid-tempo nature of the song, along with the rousing choral vocals that supplement Damna very nicely indeed.
As the album develops, so does a more serious air to the music. ‘A Grain Of Truth’ may still be rooted in folk and power metal with strong melodies and a swagger at its core but the growls of Horder are far more prominent, accompanied by riffs and drumming more akin to the world of black metal. The layers of sound and overall complexity are increased, and then there’s the quieter, theatrical segment in the latter stages which, with its dark and Gothic overtones recalls the colour and texture of Cradle of Filth.
‘3 Ways To Magick’ once again summons the aura of more extreme forms of metal whilst retaining an extremely accessible edge, with the lamentations of the fiddle an important factor. 90s black/Gothic metal is the flavour of ‘Straight Inside Your Winter’, at least in the opening sequence and at further points in what is much more of a slow-burning number with a ballad-like façade.
I am not totally shocked, but I am surprised that I like this record, at least to the extent that I do. Every time I listen to ‘Secrets of the Magick Grimoire’, I like what I hear that little bit more. The thing that does it most for me is that this isn’t an out-and-out folk metal record, nor is it a pure power metal album. It is a clever and mature blend of the two, where strong, memorable compositions sit at the heart of what Elvenking have created. The fact that it is delivered with passion and conviction only serves to strengthen my enjoyment. Could ‘Secrets of the Magick Grimoire’ be the key that opens the door for me into the largely untapped world of folk metal? If it is, I owe it a huge debt.
Maybe I do like folk metal after all…
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Moonspell – 1755
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
Communic – Where Echoes Gather
Impureza – La Caida De Tonatiuh
Auđn – Farvegir Fyrndar
Beast In Black – Berserker
Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day