1.Trows Kind 2. Swallowtail 3. The Winter Wake 4. The Wanderer 5. March of Fools 6. On the Morning Dew 7. Devil's Carriage 8. Rats are Following 9. Rouse Your Dream 10. Neverending Nights 11. Disillusion's Reel 12. Penny Dreadful
Every so often an album comes along that leaves a very deep yet very positive impression on the listener. Albums such as these do not necessarily display an extreme amount of technical proficiency or avant-garde songwriting. Rather, they possess the power, passion, and beauty to truly evoke a genuine emotional response. Elvenking’s “The Winter Wake” is one of these albums. Although it lacks the originality of “Heathenreel” and the extraordinary soloing of “Wyrd,” “The Winter Wake” is its own kind of unbelievable creation. On this album we see the band’s original vocalist, Damnagoras, reunited with guitarist Aydan, bassist Gorlan, violinist/keyboardist Eleghyn, and drummer Zender. Unfortunately, guitarist/growler Jarpen did not return for this album, and his absence is noted on both fronts to which he contributed. However, some simpler riffs with fewer leads over them do not even come close to spoiling this album.
The album kicks off with one of its best songs, “Trows Kind,” a truly inspiring and uplifting tune. My younger brother told me, as we listened to “The Winter Wake” in the car, that he thought all the world’s problems would vanish if everyone was forced to listen to “Trows Kind” once a day. I can’t help but agree. The highlights of this song are the choruses, which are sung by an eight-person choir (as are many of the choruses on the album). Making up the choir are several notable names – on the female side we’ve got three women who have added their voices to Elvenking albums in the past: Laura de Luca (also of Tystnaden), Giada Etro, and Pauline Tacy. Also lending her voice is Whisperwind, a member of Damna’s other band Leprechaun. The male choirs are sung by three of the band members – Eleghyn, Aydan, and Damna – and Claudio Coassin, frontman of the band Raintime. And, as an added bonus, the album’s producer (and guitarist in the famed Finnish band Thunderstone), Nino Laurenne, contributes a stellar guitar solo.
I wish I could talk about every single song off of this album in as much detail, but alas, this review would be entirely too long. I can only instead point out the rest of the album’s highlights. “The Winter Wake” features what at first seems like a very un-Elvenking techno-ish intro, followed by some cool thrash vocals courtesy of Schmier from Destruction. In addition, former guitarist Jarpen joined the Elves in the studio for a day to record a solo for this track. “On The Morning Dew” is probably Elvenking’s best acoustic piece save “Skywards.” Guest vocalist Laura de Luca’s beautiful voice would serenade even the most ferocious of beasts as it intermingles with Damnagoras’. Some of the best lead picking can be found on “Devil’s Carriage,” which sounds more like Wyrd-era Elvenking than the rest of the CD. The song with the best melody, and my personal favorite, is “Rouse Your Dream.” Somehow, the Elves took an extraordinarily simple piano melody and wrapped the entire song around it, infusing the riffs and choruses with this one little line. The results are beyond fantastic.
“The Winter Wake” is, in my opinion, the best album to come out in 2006 thus far. I cannot realistically see any band surpassing Elvenking either. Save their first album, “Heathenreel,” I have never beheld an album containing so much sheer emotion to the point where I’m totally overwhelmed each time I listen. Elvenking are and will forever be the best at what they do, as long as they keep making music. Damnagoras, Aydan, and company, I salute you. I have never said this in a review before, and I can’t imagine I will ever say it again: you’ve created a perfect album.
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