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Elvenefris

Czechia Country of Origin: Czechia

Elvenefris
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: October 31st, 2000
Genre: Death, Progressive, Technical
1. Land Where Sympathy Is Air
2. To Become Shelter And Salvation
3. Bringer Of Elvenefris Flame
4. Flowering Entities
5. To Give
6. On The Way Home
7. Shine Of Consolation
8. Sadness And Strength
9. A Step Closer
10. An Old Man And A Child
11. Walking In The Garden Of Ma'at


Review by Lawrence Stillman on March 23, 2024.

Death metal: when you hear these words, what sounds does it conjure within your mind? Usually it is filthy, raw, and catchy riffs with lyrics about either evil, gore, or horror. What if I tell you that you can make an album full of uplifting riffs, positive messages, and happy vibes, and the album will still be considered death metal? Well, Elvenefris is one such album that will make you rethink what it means to be a death metal album, full of sunny, fuzzy warmth that makes death metal purists scream in confusion.

The first thing you hear in this album is an Egyptian-sounding folk melody that makes the album sound like a Nile rip-off, but that is where its similarities with Nile end, as the song proceeds to a slow, uplifting section that sounds closer to an atmospheric/shoegaze album before coming back to a brutal death section. This is going to be a recurring theme throughout the album as the juxtaposition of uplifting melodies and brutal riffs keeps having a harmonious yet chaotic dance with each other that sounds cohesive and beautiful. And this is what I think is the album's strongest point, as the balance between both sides is what keeps the album engaging and fun to listen to while keeping the trademark complexity that prog and tech albums possess.

While the album's harsh vocals and drums sound way too similar to Blasphemy Made Flesh-era Cryptopsy, the album gradually becomes increasingly atmospheric and shoegaze-y, along with the inclusion of clean vocals (with a heavy Czech accent), which also has the side effect of making the album sound more and more cheerful, which led to listeners nicknaming the album "happy death metal." Purists might think this is a travesty towards the genre itself, but I think that it only enhances the genius of the album because of how easily the combination can go wrong (looking at you, melodic metalcore). But instead, the happiness of the riffs and melodies didn't make the album sound worse, and in fact, it sounds better because the brutal sections serve as a buildup to the happy sections themselves and thus serve as a reward for persevering with the harsh soundscape.

Instrumentally and production-wise, the quality of the mixing and instruments sounds like any other tech/prog death album of its era, being quite sterilized for the most part, but the inclusion of synth keyboards is quite unusual considering they are mostly used as an enhancer for the atmosphere instead of a centerpiece of a song like how Dream Theater uses them, so it can keep its brutal sound while still making the album sound rich and colorful. The guitars here play something closer to shoegaze or atmospheric metal than actual death metal, and while it usually won't fly for death metal albums, it works superbly well here. The bass also benefited from the atmospheric playing of the guitars, as the lower registers are now empited up, allowing the bass to make its presence known instead of being drowned out. The drums are what I like the most here, given that I'm a fan of Cryptopsy. The drums here sound similar to Blasphemy Made Flesh (the drummer himself admitted that this is the sound he was aiming for while recording Elvenefris), which gave the album the brutal sound it really needed to shine. The harsh vocals do sound quite generic and same-y for brutal/tech death, but the cleans provide the album with a much-needed change of pace considering how monotonous the harsh vocals sound throughout the album.

Elvenefris is a once-in-a-generation album that cannot be replicated easily, and as a result, it is easily one of my favorite albums that I've ever come across. Even if you are not into death metal, I will still recommend this album because of how different and avant-garde it sounds. This album embodies the spirit of creativity like no other, so it is only appropriate that any metalhead give this album a chance.

Highlights: The entire album, even the last instrumental ambient track

Rating: 10 out of 10

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