Elvenking – Era
As someone who considered Red Silent Tides to be Elvenking at their most accessible best, I nevertheless anticipated Era with some dread. After all, the Italians have never been shy of a misjudged experiment (The Scythe in particular), and one can never quite guess what they’ll do next. Advance online single “Poor Little Baroness” put me temporarily at ease, but not until my first full run-through of the new album was I fully relieved of my anxiety. Era is another ace in the hole, and even overall a stronger effort than its predecessor.
Infusing some folk back into the power, Era harkens back to Elvenking’s roots, while simultaneously continuing the catchiness of Red Silent Tides. Some adventurism accounts for a more diverse and consistent listening experience, where the previous record sort of tailed off towards the end. With the cacophonic opening of “The Loser”, one would almost wonder if Elvenking had taken a note from countrymen Sound Storm. But soon enough the saccharine melodies seep in, and the first high-flying refrain is a fact. More of its kind follow, with the equally self-deprecating and/or dark “I Am The Monster”, “We Animals”, and “Walking Dead”. You’d expect lyrical material like that would be paired with depressive instead of dulcet tones, but Elvenking keeps things light and frivolous throughout.
Even the abundant balladry never fully caters to melancholy, but clings on to a sliver of hope. Listen to the sweet romanticism of “Through Wolf’s Eyes” and the (pardon me for this one) unforgettable “Forget Me Not”, marking one of two guest appearances by Jon Oliva (Savatage). No sign of the announced Alessandro Conti (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody) or Marco Sandron (Eden’s Curse, Pathosray) by the way, so if you can spot them, please holler. Damnagoras hardly needs them anyway, adding a rougher edge to his voice and sounding more confident and engaged.
Perhaps the standout of Era is “Chronicle Of A Frozen Era”, combining every strength of the band with its sweeping scope, soft violin touches, huge choruses, and general epic atmosphere. Being very much their own thing, I would not include Elvenking in the recent New Wave of Progressive Power Metal just yet, but at times they get awfully close. Besides, we don’t need every Italian band to be that awesome, right? In any case, even though I still enjoy the first half of Red Silent Tides marginally more, Era is the stronger album, and one that’ll grow over time. Let’s hope that Elvenking never strays from this path again, as Era promises the potential for many more delights along the way.
Arno’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5