Honestly, I’m not one to write a band off after one bad album. I gave STRATOVARIUS a chance (or two) and I sure as hell am going to give SONATA ARCTICA an opportunity to make up for their recent disaster. All that considered, however, I feel like I didn’t give ELVENKING the same courtesy. The Scythe, their previous work, was atrocious. A band as skilled, unique and distinctive as ELVENKING did not need to fall into the trappings of Modern Metal as they did and it was a serious let down. A year and a half later I noticed their familiar logo and decidedly folk-y artwork on an unfamiliar CD and I decided to give it a gander. After seeing that there were two "Winter’s Wake" songs on the album done in acoustic versions I scoffed and walked away thinking that they just released a flavourless B-sides album and ‘acoustic’ meant ‘acoustic’ in the vein of those atrocious power ballads on "The Scythe". I made a huge mistake that day.
The first thing to note is that this is a brand new long player and not a B-sides compilation. Yes there are two remakes but they are for effect because what "Two Tragedy Poets" is is an all Folk album. Invariably it is ELVENKING’s attempt to return to their roots (as indicated in the liner notes of the CD). Needless to say it is one glorious return to form for one of Italy’s greatest exports. There are only 3 tracks on the entire album that actually contain electric guitars while the rest are all played with acoustic folk instruments. The violin that was sorely missed on "The Scythe" returns as the shining star and comes with its fangs barred. Accompanying the violin is a healthy amount of flute, mandolin and all manner of English minstrel hardware to really drive home just how Folk-based the band is trying to be.
As far as the songs go, each one is peerless, from the Celtic intro all the way to the gorgeously addictive closer, "Miss Conception". Along the way we are treated to plenty of folk balladry as well as a couple of irons-up, ELVENKING stompers; namely “Another Awful Hobs Tale” and “Not My Final Song”, the latter of which would have sounded just as excellent on a SKYCLAD album. The acoustic renditions of their former songs are tastefully performed, despite the lack of any reinterpretation of the compositions themselves. Still, both songs come alive as acoustic songs placing the emphasis squarely on the violin and showcasing ELVENKING’s true prowess which is, and always will be, in Folk-based songs. The rest of the tracks are all slow to mid-paced ballads complete with acoustic guitars and sparse percussion. “Ask A Silly Question” is stupendously catchy (and yes quite silly) and “My Own Spider’s Web” is extremely minimal and invokes images of a campfire in the medieval ages.
If there is anything worth poking holes in the album for it is the cover of BELINDA CARLISLE’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”. The choice of the cover is goofy enough but the song itself is not far enough detached from the original that it is actually listenable. It is very reminiscent of BLIND GUARDIAN’s ridiculous cover of “Barbara Ann” in that it is just a poorly executed and conceived choice of a cover. At least BG tail-ended their album with their cover... it makes one wonder what possessed ELVENKING to shove the song half way into the disc where it does not belong in the least. Needless to say it gives the album a sort of clunky and misshapen feel; almost as if it were rushed or poorly planned upon release.
Overall this is one solid album. Not only is it relieving to see ELVENKING revisit its folk roots and return itself to the music that both shaped them and made them great to begin with but it’s great to see a band take a risk in the oft-pretentious world of Metal and completely adhere to their softer side. The liner notes of the LP apologize for how the acoustic sound is not all that Metal and that this is not necessarily the new course of action for the band. What’s there to apologize for? It’s almost as if they thought we wanted "The Scythe". That we wished after hearing "Winter’s Wake" that the band would just make a half-handed concept album centred around mediocre Metal music. No, in fact what we wanted was "Two Tragedy Poets" and thank the gods in Asgard that is exactly what we got!
For Fans of: SKYCLAD, WAYLANDER, CRUACHAN
(Online June 28, 2009)