Welcome to Bizarro Metal World, where the reviews are made up and the scores are reversed! Just kidding, but seriously, Angry Metal Guy himself was set to review this album. However, time being what it is during the holiday season (and AMG being as angry as he is), he didn’t get around to it. As luck would have it—at least for Elvenking—while I’ve heard tell that AMG was quite disappointed with this album, I am not!1 In fact, after numerous listens, I would go so far as to call Secrets of the Magick Grimoire my second favorite album in Elvenking’s extensive and wildly varied catalog of releases.
Because of the band’s musical ADHD, nearly everyone I know seems to have a different favorite album based upon personal preference (“Too raw! Too much growling! Metalcore! What, are they even metal anymore? This one’s too AOR!”). Secrets of the Magick Grimoire continues the band’s musical evolution, wherein the boys essentially took the orchestral and power metal elements of The Pagan Manifesto and cranked them through the roof – to delightful effect upon my ears.
Secrets of the Magick Grimoire picks up the heavily orchestrated, woodland storytelling approach of its successor and hurls itself forward through the usual Elvenking steps: big choruses, energetic (if sometimes uneven) songwriting, and smart genre-blending (we get the band’s precedented light touch of melodic death, as well as a surprise black metal-inspired ending to “The Voynich Manuscript”). No songs stray into the near-epic-length territory of “King of the Elves,” but the average track length is a little longer, and while not all songs feature pleasant structural surprises, enough do to keep things refreshing. The tempo bogs down a bit during the middle of the album (“Straight Inside Your Winter” is completely skippable), but as a general rule, speedy hooks are sprinkled liberally throughout.
The special edition also boasts at least one quality bonus track in “Petalstorm,” a straightforward blend of soft violin-carried verses and bursts of power. “The Open Breach,” on the other hand, while it features a very good solo section, is hampered by a messy chorus and vocal work that sees Damnagoras trying to spit out too many words, too fast. Discounting these tracks for core analysis, however, Elvenking’s latest offers an almost back-to-back run of solid to exceptional songs that have the highest standard of consistent quality I’ve heard since Heathenreel.
Yes, the songwriting choices are occasionally bizarre; yes, the band is still riding the vacuous, trendy neo-pagan gravy train; and yes, some of the harder metal elements (especially rhythm guitar) have been pared back, but for those of us enchanted with Elvenking’s particular fusion of folk inspirations, metallic energy, and sheer melodic buoyancy, Secrets of the Magic Grimoire is a worthy successor and welcome entry in the band’s ever-colorful discography.
Tracks to Check Out: “Invoking The Woodland Spirit.” “The One We Shall Follow,” “The Voynich Manuscript,” and “At The Court Of The Wild Hunt”
- In actuality, “disappointed” is an Yngie Malmsteen-solo of an understatement (“How can less be more?”). I found this album to be so trite and painfully mediocre that I literally could not bring myself to write a review of it. I am genuinely shocked by the words that follow in this TYMHM, because you didn’t miss anything. Woof. In fact, I was saving you from hearing this festering pile of centaur droppings. Secrets of the Magick Grimoire is such a huge drop off from the previous album, that I’m surprised the band didn’t get chronic neck problems from whiplash. – AMG ↩