With a real winner in 2006’s “The Winter Wake,” you can bet I was excited to get a hold of “The Scythe,” ELVENKING’s latest release. These Italians have shown themselves capable of writing energetic, infectious music that incorporates Power Metal with Folk influences and instruments. Like BLIND GUARDIAN they write busy songs, with seemingly a dozen things happening at any time in multiple layers of vocals and guitars. Grimsters need not apply.
“The Scythe” is a concept album, but the songs can stand on their own. The story involves a madman in pursuit of Death (a female, as you can tell from the cover) who ultimately finds that his quest requires his death. There’s some pessimistically gothic narration at the beginning or end of songs that tie it all together, as without it the lyrics are vague enough that each song could otherwise seem unattached. Going along with the macabre theme, the musical is a touch darker than on previous releases (see especially “Infection”), though you’d have to hear earlier work to tell that it angles darker.
My first thought of “The Scythe” is that it reminds me a lot of the song “Trows Kind” from “The Winter Wake”—there’s a great big, catchy sing-along chorus here waiting to be find, but a less than perfect production on the vocals, a choral overdub, and an odd length keeps it from sinking in. There are some legitimately great moments to be seen here—the chorus of “Poison Tears” compares favourably with the first half of “Neverending Nights”: from the previous album—but compared to its predecessor the album falls a little short. Though a listener may hum a passage eventually, she probably won’t be singing along as readily.
Of course, “The Winter Wake” was a high bar for comparison, so I don’t think “The Scythe” can score as high as if its predecessor hadn’t awakened. This is a good album, with a lot of fun or energetic or rocking or however you want to put it parts. There’s even some romance (“Romance And Wrath”), courtesy of guest vocalist Laura De Luca and maybe Isabella Tuni (she’s credited as “The lady with the scythe” for “Romance And Wrath” and I don’t really know what that means). The album also shows ELVENKING getting more confident and adventurous, with “Romance And Wrath” and “Dominhate” (I don’t like that name) passing the eight minute mark.
So yeah, ELVENKING fans need this. Power Metal and Folk Metal fans should definitely check it out. New to the style or the band? “The Scythe” ain’t a bad place to start. It may not be their best album, but it’s definitely in the top two. Recommended.
A bonus track, “Horns Ablaze,” is available on some versions.
By the way—“An eyeball in the mouth of the snake is pouring poison”? Seriously, what does that even mean?
(Online December 30, 2007)