|Release Date||30 August 2019|
It’s not very often that a band that’s been around for more than five albums maintains a steady level of greatness in every release. I’m not just talking about a solid discography with album or two being considered “passable”, but rather a track record in which every album is, at the very least, great. It’s not unheard of by any means, and it’s ultimately contingent on whom you ask, but there are certainly some bands that are widely-regarded to just be really fucking good.
For us in the metal community, names like Iron Fire, Blind Guardian, Zeppelin, or Queen might make the cut. However, for myself, I would put Elvenking at the top of my no-less-than-great list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re my favourite band of all time (although, they are close), but it means that I think that they’re a band that is almost incapable of putting out something even close to bad; they haven’t yet.
So, it should come as no surprise that the folk masters’ tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic.
Aside from the songwriting and atmosphere, the instrumentation (obviously) is what mainly contributes to the difference in sound that you’ll find here compared to every album prior. There are huge choirs, such as in ‘Reader of the Runes – Book I’, and plentiful vocal tracks that seem to substitute what used to be rampant folk instruments. Additionally, the guitars have stepped up from the background right into the forefront as the driving force of the songs, even more so than the violin, acoustic guitar, string tracks, or drums combined. Speaking of the drums, Lancs‘ style is a lot steadier and heavier than the band’s previous patter-style drummer, Symohn, who parted ways with the band in 2017. This difference was obviously also present in Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, but it’s even more apparent next to the guitar’s new-found presence. Finally, the folk influences are dialed down quite a bit here, too, so the result of all of this is a heavier, more intense, more metal album.
In case you didn’t already assume, Divination has a bit of a variety to offer. Just kidding, it’s all over the fucking map. There are more typical tracks like ‘Heathen Divine’ (which is very Pagan Manifesto) and the laid back ‘Eternal Eleanor’, but there are also songs that stretch the boundaries a bit more, due to all the stuff in that big paragraph above. Most notably, however, we have ‘Malefica Doctrine’, which is drenched in melodeath and stands as the heaviest song in Elvenking’s twenty-plus-year career.
While I wouldn’t call this one Elvenking’s best (because that title would go to Pagan Manifesto), it’s still a killer album. The concept fits, it’s super dynamic, and it has a high headbangability factor. If you were hoping for a very folky album, you won’t get it here. However, I think that old fans will enjoy the hell out of Divination and newcomers will get hooked on it, too.
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