READER OF THE RUNES: DIVINATION
Release: August 30, 2019
I'm the Reader of the Runes
I'm searching diamonds in the night
All the way across the firmament
Where stars paint fates aligned
There is no denying the fact that Italian folk metal band Elvenking have an impressive history, being one of the most important and arguably unique bands of the scene. Founded in 1997, the band soon established itself among the leading acts of Europe when it comes to powerful metal music with folk and pagan influences. On August 30, Elvenking released their tenth masterpiece: “Reader of the Runes – Divination”, via long-term label AFM Records.
This concept album is both magic and fascinating, not just because it’s an adventurous journey into a mystic world of runes, magic and ancient powers, but also because of the musicianship and flow of the songs that teleports the listeners into an alternate realm. Commenting on the album, the band states: “For the first time in our career we’ve created a whole world that will accompany the songs. We were finally ready to write a story that could embrace and contain the essence of this band, the concept of our message and the atmospheres of our music.
The misfortune of virtue
Diamonds in the night
Under the sign of a black star
Sic semper tyrannis
Warden of the bane
Reader of the runes – Book I
‘Divination’ is the first chapter of the ‘Reader of the Runes’ story that will continue and will be developed in our next albums. In this first chapter you will get to know the characters of the story, through the songs and the lyrics, through the runes and magic”.
After the intro “Perthro” sets the mood of the album, with a Capella vocalization and just a smidge of oriental rhythms, “Heathen divine” and follow-up track “Divination” get things rolling with fast-paced drumming and those folky undertones that Elvenking are known for. The drums and bass in these two songs are so high up in the mix, they really highlight how rhythmic and energetic the music (both instrumental side and vocal melodies) actually is, making it hard to keep still and not move to the beat. This is such an energetic way to start the album, though I am still not convinced that “Perthro” is a good intro, and low key wish it had opened simply with those acoustic guitar lines from “Heathen divine”. With “Silverseal” there’s a shift from the metal side of Elvenking, so as to enjoy some folky melodies and melodic guitar lines, while the chorus is as catchy as they come. Despite the gentle piano / guitar opening, “The misfortune of virtue” ebbs and flows between some death metal moments and softer, gentler sections, thus giving the album a nice balance and also a sense of momentum and dynamism.
In between Damna’s passionate vocals and Lethien’s beautiful violin (or is it harp?) melodies, the semi-ballad “Eternal Eleanor” again brings to the forefront the folksier side of Elvenking, with another earworm chorus to haunt your days and nights. The mysterious sounding “Diamonds in the night” is the acoustic piece of the album, and it gives us time to catch our breath and prepare for the second part of this album. And true enough, “Under the sign of a black star” is another upbeat and super hooky track, that will have you headbanging to its infectious rhythms in no time. “Malefica doctrine” has some wicked guitar melodies and harsh vocals that veer the track into melodeath territory, which I have to admit is quite refreshing to hear. “Sic semper tyrannis” is a straight-up banger, while the darkly melodic track “Warden of the bane”, keeps the momentum going, also boasting a short but sweet guitar solo. The epic 10-minutes “Reader of the runes – Book I” is quite a melodic piece, with some black metal influences, that brings the storyline of this album to a fitting conclusion, while also showcasing all the best aspects of Elvenking – the folk melodies are present but not overbearing, the chorus is simple but catchy, and the guitar melodies are majestic to say the least.
Despite the fact that these are all solid tracks in their one right, I can’t help but feel a sense of déja-vu towards the end of the album, as the music isn’t as varied or cohesive as I had hoped it would be. Nonetheless, “Reader of the Runes: Divination” is as melodic as it is heavy, with big melodies, folk tunes, and acoustic breaks along the way. Since this is the beginning of a new, epic tale, I am looking forward to the next chapters. Personal favorites: “Eternal Eleanor”, “Silverseal” and “Malefica doctrine”.
Rating: 9 / 10