Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is, according to medicinenet.com, ‘characterized by the presence of at least two clear personality states, called alters’. These alters may have different guises and emotions and can even conflict with each other. There is some debate as to whether DID actually exists but, if it does, one thing is for certain; it can count Elvenking’s seventh full length album, Era, among its sufferers.
The first symptom rears its head within mere seconds of the album commencing, with frontman Damna trying his damndest to convince us all that he can’t sing – certainly an odd tact, especially when we know that he can. As if this weren’t enough, his efforts are continued on second track, ‘I am the Monster’ and at regular, and sometimes rather jarring, intervals throughout the album. It’s a clear personality trait of the release’s gritty, rock-oriented alter, which pulls the album reluctantly towards stadiums. Despite this, the first two tracks (the aforementioned ‘I am the Monster’ and ‘The Loser’) both possess looming choruses and infectious melodies.
Step in alter number two – the folk metal alter. Largely informed by the sporadically deployed medieval melodies led by Elyghen’s violin, they are much more noticeable than on 2010’s very power metal/rock-focused Red Silent Tides. But, as playful and ridiculously catchy as they may be, they appear to be more of an afterthought as opposed to an integrated part of the music, with the notable exception of ‘A Song for the People’, which is fuelled by medieval tendencies. It is, arguably, the worst song on the album, not because of its folk elements, but because it is quite possibly the cheesiest thing outside of France, with male and female vocals that crest and fall and lyrics that smack of unintentional parody.
It does, however, lead nicely into the album’s central trio of songs (unquestionably the best on the record) – ‘We, Animals’, ‘Through Wolf’s Eyes’ and ‘Walking Dead’. Just excuse the odd industrial-dance intro to ‘We, Animals’, which is a remarkably uplifting song, building in intensity towards a defiantly triumphant chorus. One can’t, however, help but raise an eyebrow at the refrain’s final line, “Yeah, we’re just fucking animals”. I’ve heard a lot of odd confessions contained within lyrics during my time as a music reviewer, but this has to top the lot. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy bestiality just as much as the next guy, but there’s a time and a place. Keep it on the hidden ‘Finance’ folder on your hard drives next time, eh guys?
‘Through Wolf’s Eyes’ is the other song on the album with a folk metal core at its heart. It’s a charming retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and, no doubt, an ode to Jane Lindskold’s book of the same name. No sooner than the last chord has finished ringing out, the stadium rock alter takes over again for ‘Walking Dead’, which is no less enjoyable, featuring a teeth-rattling breakdown and some pretty nifty footwork from new drummer Symohn.
The album’s third alter is the one that seems the most misplaced; the power-ballad. It’s most noticeable on ‘Forget-Me-Not’, which drips with hyperbole. With its male-female harmonies and epic crescendo that builds over a runaway guitar, it would be right at home on any one of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell albums. It’s far from being a bad song, but it sticks out like a sore thumb, though on an album full of sore thumbs you could argue that it’s right at home.
The rest of the album consists of mostly filler – another two unremarkable slabs of stadium rock, another sappy power ballad and the utterly impotent instrumental outro, ‘Ophale’ – and this is one of its main flaws. If they were to consolidate the strong tracks into one release, they’d have a thoroughly enjoyable EP. As it stands, Era needs to take some meds and figure out what the hell it wants to be because, truth be told, Elvenking command all three of these alters with reasonable proficiency. It’s just that they constantly conflict with each other and pull in different directions, ultimately pulling the album apart.