At one time, Elvening was the heir apparent to the pioneers of folk metal, Skyclad. Now, Elvenking has transformed that original style and morphed it into something unique and fresh. With groundbreaking albums like "The Scythe" and "Era," the band tested and expanded the boundaries of the subgenre, throwing in some hard rock and modern elements which caused some grumbling from the part of the fanbase that desires everything remain precisely the same on every release. With "Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire," the band draws a bit more from its own folk metal past, but adds a few surprises and surprise guests, which enhance the overall experience, keeping the band fresh, relevant and forward moving.
First off, fans of the amazing previous album "The Pagan Manifesto" will be happy to hear that "Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire" retains the feel. The creepy intro to "Invoking the Woodland Spirit" sets the tone for the entire album and once Aydan's guitar kicks in with pure speed, pauses and Damna puts down his patented vocal stamp, its as if the band summoned all the elements of the past in one big rush. This time it feels like Avantasia just got all folked up - its big, its full, its wonderfully singable. Even if you didn't know it, you can easily deduce that the production came via Simone Mularoni since it is mixed perfectly.
Throughout the album, there is a heavy dose of power and folk, with Lethien accenting Aydan and Rafahel's guitar attack. Even in those glorious melodic moments, there is a shroud of darkness that overlays the entire "Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire," which mostly comes via the brilliant backing vocals of Witchery's Angus Norder. No where on the album is this more perfectly displayed that on "The Voynich Manuscript" and "Draugen's Maelstrom." The other guest - Mr. Snowy Show - lends his vocals to another album favorite "At The Court Of The Wild Hunt," a song perfectly befitting Shaw's quirky yet wonderful style.
Most notably, "Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire" features what is arguably the subgenre's newest folk anthem "The One We Shall Follow," which already rockets up the list of the band's best. Its rhythmic and entrancing pace sounds like it should appear on Skyclad's "Jonah's Ark" book-ended by the classics.
Even though the band reinforces its folk elements, don't think for a second that those hard rock elements are no where to be found. Damna's brilliant hard rock band Hell in the Club shows its influence in songs like "Straight Inside Your Winter," "Summon The Dawn Of Light" and especially "A Grain Of Truth," the latter of which could be a lost b-side of Hell in the Club.
Everything about Elvenking is top notch. Here is a band that took a solid foundation and never ceases to put out the freshest and most relevant folk metal in the world. Where the world has been treated to a plethora of viking/folk styles, driving that form into the dust with supersaturation, Elvenking quietly goes about reinventing itself on every album - always drawing from its strengths, but expanding and testing boundaries. Elvenking never stops being exciting. The band is truly the heir of Walkyier.