REVIEW: Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Rapture


In my recent SUOTANA review, I mentioned how every scene has its big names and its underdogs. When it comes to the Italian metal scene, names like FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, LACUNA COIL, and WIND ROSE come to mind easily. I’d argue that folk/power metal band ELVENKING should also be just as widely known and celebrated, as they have been around since 1997 and have released ten studio albums. Their eleventh offering, “Reader of the Runes – Rapture,” the sequel to their 2019 concept record “Reader of the Runes – Divination,” is set to be released on April 28th, 2023, through AFM Records

ELVENKING have a deceptively simple sound, mostly based on hooky vocal melodies, melodic and powerful guitar lines, and some folky elements for extra charm. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg, since there are layers of heavy metal, pagan metal, and even some melodeath backing up the main melody. This merger of genres makes “Reader of the Runes – Rapture” feel heavier, darker, and more nuanced than its predecessors, so as to match the storyline while still delivering enough melody and folky passages to appease both folk metal and power metal fans. With this album, it is pretty clear that ELVENKING continue to forge their own path in the metal scene and refine their sonic universe to the point where any given song is easily identifiable from the first few notes. With that being said, there is still room for plenty of surprises along the way.  

There’s a strong sense of drama and theatricality on display throughout the album that comes not just from the instrumental side of things or the intense vocal delivery of some words/lines, but also from the way the music waxes and wanes in intensity through various shifts of pace and ambiance, with the backing orchestrations enhancing these movements beautifully. If opening track and first single “Rapture” immediately sets a moody atmosphere with gentle acoustic strums and backing violin melodies that soon give way to a crushing guitar melody, pounding drums, and wonderful orchestration, it is “The Hanging Tree” that truly capitalizes on the drama factor by way of fast-paced drumming, a hooky chorus, and a darker ambiance that intensifies its lyrical content. The fact that such a song is followed by the light and catchy “Bride of Night” is fascinating, adding so much to the scope of the album’s storytelling and flow. The bouncy violin melody, sparse keys, and radiant refrain – to which Heike Langhans (REMINA, :LOR3L3I:, DRACONIAN, LIGHT FIELD REVERIE) lends her incredible voice for a lighter touch, overlapping perfectly with Damna’s vocals – make the song feel lively yet epic.    

Things take a heavier turn with “Herdchant,” “The Cursed Cavalier,” and “To The North,” a trio of songs that are as melodic as they are energetic and dynamic, boasting thunderous drums, aggressive guitar parts, and commanding vocals. Lethien’s violin lines manage to lift the mood a little and contrast with Damna’s sporadic growls, while a great sense of melody keeps the songs moving along at a brisk pace. Out of these three tracks, “To The North” is particularly aggressive with its death metal backbone of blast-beats and growled vocals, and may just be among the heaviest tracks in ELVENKING’s discography. On the other hand, “Covenant” has a beautiful oriental metal vibe going for it, with a more preeminent bass line popping up here and there and some distorted vocals that make the track feel more robust. The sense of drama and theatricality I mentioned earlier is again on display on “Red Mist,” especially around the chorus. It starts with vocals and acoustic guitar before the drums kick in and slowly build to a fuller sound with enough ebbs and flows and mood shifts to it to make it a stand-out.

I usually don’t like it when the drums take up as much space in the mix as they do on this album but Symohn’s drums come across as having a natural big sound and play off well with the rest of the instruments, never overpowering anything; it’s a delight listening to his drum work. These aspects are especially evident on melancholy “Red Mist.” The following two tracks – “Incantations” and “An Autumn Reverie” – are about as power metal as they get, with speedy guitar work, nice headbanging rhythms, and singalong chorus sections. “Incantations” is interesting in this regard, as it is an energetic song that halfway through slows down and gives way to a beautiful, atmospheric section before picking up pace again. Closing track “The Repentant” is equal parts melodic and heavy with a driving melody at the core that wraps up this part of the reader of the runes’ story on a rather epic note. ELVENKING have really solidified their songwriting and the mix of genres that spice up this album is a testament to their evolution both as musicians as well as a unit confident in its collective skills.

In conclusion, this goes to show you that complex concept albums are not a prerogative of the progressive metal scene, but of any band with a vision and a drive to execute that vision. With “Reader of the Runes – Rapture,ELVENKING deliver an album that is about as epic as it is dramatic, with big melodies hooking the listeners, while the guitars, drums, and vocals ground it with some seriously aggressive sounds. The fact that the eleven songs can be enjoyed both as part of the overarching concept as well as standalone tracks without losing their charm or feeling disconnected is in itself quite an accomplishment. On a personal note, I have to admit that I really enjoy this darker aura and melodic heaviness that the band conjured up for this album, it’s a welcome departure from the usual trappings of the folk/power metal genre.    

Written by Andrea Crow


  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


  • Damna – vocals
  • Aydan – guitars
  • Headmatt – guitars
  • Lethien – violin
  • Jakob – bass
  • Symohn – drums


AFM Records