Release DetailsLABEL Napalm Records
RELEASED ON 1/16/2007
I'll be the first to admit, right away, that metals of the power and gothic cast are not my forté. While I do occasionally enjoy supping on the sugary sweetness of soaring operatic vocals and heedless gallopings, it is sometimes akin to a binge-listening compulsion, whose aftermath leaves me feeling funnily violated like my alcoholic comrades come morning. At its peak though, music of this vein can be as stirring and energetic as anything else I enjoy, and it is that rush I inevitably crave when coming to this.
Elis from enigmatic Vaduz indulge us with first track up, "Tales from Heaven or Hell" which opens on a lush folkish soundscape briefly, before excreting fairy twinklings and launching into a mildly syncopated, brackish heavy metal. Taking leaves from the tomes of early power and gothic leaning modern heavy metal in progressive riff structures, and laced with thick keys and noodling solos, Elis offer dramatic, neo-romatic power ballads for the eyeliner and black nail polish teen in us all.
With a plasterboard thin guitar tone barely containing the oompa-loompa grooves, it is both surprising but later obvious that this is only a shade less commercial than Evanescence. Although the band are doubtless still reeling from the misfortune of their vocalist's sudden death in June last year, I cannot be totally relenting, as Sabine Dünser's vocals here are both predictable and limited in range, an underwhelming voice in a landscape of overpublicised female 'metal' frontwomen. Rare accompanying male growls such as those opening the pacey "The Burning" do little to offer a genuine extra facet to their songwriting, or establish variety in a vocal duet style nailed back in '96 with Velvet Darkness They Fear.
Alternatively, if I fully submit to moments like the scenically rendered march closing "Seit Dem Anbeginn Der Zeit" Griefshire makes me feel like a warrior striding resolutely through a bleak, sorrow-sown landscape. This is music that may be successful on at least one important front: grand and gallivanting escapism, narrated by a despairing maiden i'm questing to rescue and romance. But it is the almost elegiac stylings of "Forgotten Love" that bring me back to ground. It offers a touching blend of understated piano and violin that suits the ideal range of Sabine Dünser's voice, and for one beautiful moment everything sounds sincere. What hurts is the forced entry of the limply mainstream pop beats, and the concomitant vision of Kylie Minogue performing this in a car-sized pink flamingo dress emblazoned with a billion sequins.
When I compare that to the admirably attempted thrash attacks intermittent on "Phoenix from the Ashes" and "The Burning," which nod ever so briefly in the direction of late 80's material from countrymen Sodom or even Kreator, i'm justifiably flummoxed. We can predict a sentimentality in this kind of music, but Elis surpasses the norm; it's tearful, heart-rending angst strong enough to send the impressionable youth of today in their droves to Hot Topic looking for validation. If it wasn't for the considered instrumentation evident in the music, this would be as soppily staunching an affair as anything you would picture on the market. But despite its commercial blandness, Griefshire at least achieves a workable symbiosis of traditional and modern metal sounds that Cradle of Filth seems to have sorely mislaid with their recent endeavours.