Elane – Blackvale

Folk is a genre that I have only just begun exploring, even though I love the sounds and imagery.  So, I’m very happy when I discover a band I do not know, and sometimes I’m puzzled as to why I don’t know them already.  Elane has been around for a long time, but I just discovered them a month or two ago.  They were getting ready to release a new album, Blackvale, which they did on November 11th.

The band comes to us from Germany.  The lineup right now seems to be Joran Elane on vocals and tin/low whistle, Nico on keys and vocals, Simon on violin and viola, and Skaldir on guitars, bass, vocals, tin whistle, keys, and percussions.  I’m finding their style to be quite diverse and interesting.

When I first happened upon them, I assumed incorrectly that Elane is another symphonic metal band.  I’m not sure why I thought that.  So, I expected to hear something akin to Nightwish or Epica, but, in reality, the band plays something more like a fantasy-soaked Mostly Autumn.  There are slight metal portions here and there, as some of the members used to be in metal bands, but the mix of genres here is quite palpable as we hear a blend of folk, rock, metal, and pop. 

The band leans heavily into the folk sound, though, and also into the fantasy themes.  The theme here is the dark abyss that each of us much cross in life as we search for happiness and fulfillment.  Therefore, the lyrics are full of doubt and questioning, but I also find them quite whimsical and beautiful.  The music follows suit, too, with fanciful portions sharing space with darker auras.  The violin comes in particularly handy for this as it can either have a playful, light sound or an eerie, haunting visage. 

Here’s the thing: there are a bunch of folk bands out there, especially fantasy or medieval-themed ones, but Elane stands out for me.  Joran’s vocals are unique and emotional, and she does the dark, evocative ballad thing really well.  Their songwriting is varied and feels rather modern, even with the swords and sandals approach.  So, some songs will feel deeply Celtic, while another might feel like a pop ballad, while another might feel more metallic.  This causes the album to flow by naturally and quickly, and I savor every minute.

I have a few favorites here.  “Sternenwind” is an excellent opener; it feels mighty in percussion and majesty, but there is an eerie sort of synth used here, too, that adds so much character.  I love it.  “Searchlight” is another great one with its catchy chorus and rhythmic ending.  “Scarborough Fair”, “We Walk Hand in Hand”, and “An Angel Reappears” are three dark ballads with lots of texture and shadow.  They are rather mesmerizing and ritualistic in their sound, and I really think the band excels in this style.

Two of my favorites are “My Guardian of Dawn” and “Something Else”.  The former has an edge to it and a truly immense chorus that is marvelous and larger than life.  I love how it soars and takes my mind with it.  “Something Else” is a slow burning track full of hushed vocals and mysterious corners of the mind, but it ends with a great guitar solo, something this album doesn’t typically do.  I love the interplay between the guitar and violin, especially. 

Blackvale as a whole is a genuine and beautiful experience.  Elane is obviously well-seasoned in songwriting and poignant ideas, and each song seems lovingly and expertly crafted.  This is a great album that I think a wide variety of listeners can appreciate. 


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