The Scythe by Elvenking
Release date : September 2007
Reviewed by Eric Stephens
Formed in October 1997, Italy's Elvenking came to fruition via the efforts of fellow guitarists Aydan and Jarpen, both of whom shared a mutual passion for both folklore and Metal music. Shortly after, Sargon joined on bass. Damnagoras was recruited in March 1998, and Zender stepped behind the drumkit in September. Recorded and mixed by Luigi Stefanini at New Sin Studios during January 2000, self-released demo To Oak Woods Bestowed secured the group a record contract with AFM Records. Sargon had previously departed, leaving Damnagoras occupying bass duties. Firstly a session musician, bassist Gorlan filled the slot soon after. Inaugural full length Heathenreel, issued in July 2001, was mixed by Fredrik Nordström at Fredman Studio, and Travis Smith designed the cover artwork. Elvenking then conducted several festival appearances, appearing alongside the likes of Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, Edguy and Virgin Steel. As result of health concerns, Damnagoras temporarily stepped down in August 2002. Vocalist Kleid joined, revitalizing the group's Folk elements. Violinist / keyboardist Elyghen joined soon after. Released in April 2004, sophomore album Wyrd was laid down at Gernhart studios in Siegburg with Martin Buchwalter. Meanwhile, mixing and mastering occurred at House of Music studios with Achim Kolher. In late 2004, Damnagoras returned to the fold, and Kleid left. In January 2006, The Winter Wake arrived. By February 2005, it was announced that founding guitarist Jarpen was no longer a member. The group cited that Jarpen no longer held passion in the type of music Elvenking played, and wished him all the best. By November 2006, Elvenking worked on the group's fourth studio album.
Mixed at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki, Finland, the mastering process for The Scythe occurred on April 10th 2008 at Finnvox Studios under the supervision of both Mika Jussila and Nino Laurenne. Swedish guitarist Mike Wead lends guest parts to two tracks, an axeman that has notched up credits by contributing to the likes of King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Candlemass, Memento Mori, Firegod and Abstrakt Algebra. A music video has also been cut for the song “The Divided Heart”, shot by director Mirco Andreis (Eldritch, Macbeth, Disarmonia Mundi).
Members of the public will be mildly curious as to what actually forms a scythe, so let's solve that particular mystery. A single-edged blade that is both long and curved while possessing a long, bent handle, a scythe is utilized in the practice of mowing or reaping. The whole album immerses itself within a tale concerning the implement, not to mention the sinister darkness which lies in its very wake. Critiqued based on its own merits, the album artwork alone supplies an adequate canvas in which a riveting musical trek can live and breathe. Shrouded by the dark of night, both the walking dead teamed with wandering spirits roam a graveyard. Brief narrations inaugurate each respective track, detailing The Scythe's tale. Such information is printed within the liner notes, as well as the lyrical content. Opening composition and title track “The Scythe” showcases a fresh level of both maturity and songwriting ability, and witnesses Elvenking strive further towards a darker realm. Ably supported by both melodic vocals and power chants courtesy of respective bandmates, vocalist Damnagoras immediately unleashes a swathe of heavy growls. Roughly midway into the overtly progressive composition, axeman Aydan contributes a respectable solo prior to the execution of a driving breakdown. A small yet melodically poetic track, “Lost Hill of Memories” calmly showcases Elyghen's abilities in playing the violin. The audible violin may cause the user to blindly assume that “Lost Hill of Memories” comprises a dainty number, though in actual fact the song opts in favour of heavier moments towards its conclusion. “Poison Tears” combined with “Death and the Suffering” form The Scythe's heaviest songs, and both supply their own individually brutal recipe. The tracks feature grittier vocals which exhibit more angst, whereas the general pace sprints towards a frenzied ambience that's very much reminiscent of the Hardcore genre. In penning “A Riddle of Stars”, Elvenking finally utilize their signature progressive Folk traits. Comprising much more than a mere melodic Metal affair, The Scythe welds together a rich blend of progression, Folk, melodies and dark Power Metal.
When sporting such visually engaging artwork, pressure builds upon that full length to boast somewhat competent song. Judged as a whole entity, The Scythe fails to disappoint. The album's tale is greatly enhanced courtesy of the Folk elements, warmly residing against grinding rhythms. Damnagoras' voice proves dominantly commanding, and has vocal ability which encompasses numerous spectrums. If asked to elect which track demonstrates the frontman's melodic vocals at their most supreme, then that coveted title would go to “The Divided Heart”. While the guitar riffs bear an audible resemblance to In Flames, choosing to pen tales of fantasy and enchantment could easily draw comparisons to Blind Guardian. In issuing this darker, heavier effort, the hope was that Elvenking would aspire to even loftier heights. Admirers of Elvenking's earlier works may experience alienation when confronted by The Scythe's heavier darkness, although the full length will appeal to a fresher audience.