ELVENKING – Reader of the Runes: Rapture (Album Review)

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After devoting an entire musical career to exploring global pagan lore with impressive results, Italian metal band Elvenking began to be subtly besieged by a previously unknown ethereal manifestation. Little by little, the degree of interference of this strange being on the band would become more latent to the point of claiming life for itself through the album “Reader of the Runes – Divination” in 2019.

Once the Reader of the Runes manifested corporeally in the real world, a single adventure would not be enough, so Elvenking is about to publish “Reader of the Runes – Rapture”, the second installment of a trilogy that aims to cover the story of this strange being.

Hundreds of bands dedicate their work to portray themes about mythical creatures, consequently an album with these characteristics could quickly go unnoticed and become one of the bunch. Nonetheless, Elvenking presents a record that encloses a lively and appealing story, where every track is essential for the story’s development, and that should be listened in its entirety to properly experience it.

The concept album the Italians have prepared, takes us into an ominous story full of mystery, affliction, and thrilling encounters with dark magic and vicious characters in which different musical approaches converge to provide a soundtrack that positions the band as a reference in the fusion of metal sub-genres such as pagan, folk, heavy, power, and melodic death metal. “Reader of the Runes – Rapture” will dazzle power/folk metal fans with its terrific orchestration, catchy choruses, countless melodic hooks, killer guitar solos, and the precise use of harsh vocals to imbue the record with darkness and heaviness. Although the intention is to enjoy the album as a whole, some songs stand out on their own merits by having some of the best musical passages on it.

Such is the case of the opening track “Rapture”, a piece that begins subtly with a pleasant guitar line that gradually gains intensity through an outstanding orchestration, an interplay between heroic riffs and the evoking sound of the violin. It also encloses different shifts that sum to the record’s dynamics, where the acoustic guitar takes the lead in a delightful bridge that sets the mood for the potent guitar solos yet to come.

The album quickly takes on a darker tone with the introduction of “The Hanging Tree”. With a rampant start marked by a piercing drum pattern and crushing riffs, the Elf King shows his claws with a menacing atmosphere that dominates the track, which includes an anthemic chorus ready to resonate in the throats of all those who gather in front of the band in future live performances.

“Reader Of The Runes – Rapture” Album Artwork

The ominous vibe and the sorrowful essence of the album deepen with the story of the grieving “Bride of the Night”, a cut that features special guest Heike Langhans in vocals. Unfortunately, the opportunity to have the former Draconian vocalist becomes only anecdotal because her presence is limited exclusively to the choir, preventing her voice from standing out as it should have. Although the track has great hooks  and a memorable chorus, the truth is that Heike‘s participation feels somewhat wasted.

Elvenking shows why they are masters of folk metal with tracks such as “Incantations”, oozing festive violin and orchestrations, that will have all the taverns singing the Reader of the Runes’ spells. The track is not limited to being a mere folk song but finds more dynamism with a musical section that allows the interplay of violin and guitar to take over the music to present later a subtle and bewitching passage that allows vocalist Damna to demonstrate the scope of his vocal range.

The closing track, “The Repenant”, seeks to wrap the album potently. It does so with an increase in intensity and heaviness, progressing from melodic segments to heavy passages – the heaviest on the album – closing the story with a bang by employing a gloomy and anguishing atmosphere, accentuated with blast beats, crushing riffs, and a piercing guttural scream.

With the second installment of the Reader of the Runes story, Elvenking proved their evolution with a more energetic, violent, and dark tale than its predecessor. The successful mix of musical approaches succeeds in telling the story of this fearsome creature, while the path is prepared for the third and last act. Judging by what they have shown us thus far, the conclusion could only be downright epic.

Released by: AFM Records
Released Date: April 28th, 2023
Genre: Heavy Metal / Folk Metal

Musicians:

  • Damna / Vocals
  • Symohn / Drums
  • Aydan / Guitar
  • Jakob / Bass
  • Headmatt / Guitar
  • Lethien / Violin

Reader of the Runes – Rapture” Track-listing:

  1. Rapture
  2. The Hanging Tree
  3. Bride Of Night
  4. Herdchant
  5. The Cursed Cavalier
  6. To The North
  7. Covenant
  8. Red Mist
  9. Incantations
  10. An Autumn Reverie
  11. The Repentant

Pre-order Reader of the Runes – Rapture” HERE.

8.5 Excellent

Elvenking delivers a fantastic record with a broad spectrum of musical approaches, including melodic death, heavy, folk, and power metal. With a clear evolution behind them, the band demonstrates its ability to mix styles, turning this album into one of their finest hours

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 8.5
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