I’m a bit late getting around to reviewing this album, which was released on the excellent French traditional/true metal label Inferno Records in the fall of 2014. I fear that it did not initially receive the acclaim it deserves, so I’m doubling back now to put in my two cents about Elvenstorm’s ‘Blood Leads to Glory.’ This is the French quartet’s second album, its predecessor being 2011’s fine ‘Of Rage and War’ opus. ‘Blood Leads to Glory’ is an unambiguous step up from the band’s debut in terms of quality, and should be mandatory listening for devotees of pure German steel along the lines of Running Wild, Stormwarrior, ‘Walls of Jericho’-era Helloween, and foreign offshoots of the style such as Lonewolf, Rocka Rollas and Blazon Stone.
Elvenstorm specialize in high-speed, highly melodic numbers characterized by galloping guitar melodies, that distinctive Rock’n’Rolf superfast picking style, and buckets of double-bass drumming. The guitars of Michael Hellstrom sound positively enormous, and are guaranteed to provide a bountiful headbanging feast to those who worship at the altar of acts like Lonewolf and Stormwarrior. The Lonewolf comparison is particularly apt, given that Elvenstorm’s drummer is none other than Felix Borner, ex-Lonewolf himself and brother to Lonewolf’s main wolf, Jens Borner. (Jens even contributes choir vocals on this album.) Come to think of it, the Stormwarrior comparison is most suitable too, considering that ‘Blood Leads to Glory’ was mixed by Stormwarrior’s leader, Lars Ramcke, who also plays a guest guitar solo. In contrast to the aforementioned bands, Elvenstorm have a female singer, Laura Ferreux, who may make or break this band in the minds of some listeners. Ferreux provides Elvenstorm with a distinctive edge, as one wouldn’t expect to hear a feminine voice over this macho, chest-beating, turbo-charged Teutonic steel. Ferreux sings from the heart and you can tell she puts her all into it; unfortunately, her voice is not as powerful as the music and her accent renders her difficult to understand. I can’t help but wonder if Ferreux would be more comfortable and confident singing in her native tongue, which French bands like Killers, Hurlement, Sortilege and ADX have been doing to great effect for many years.
The production and songs on ‘Blood Leads to Glory’ are uniformly excellent. Tracks like opener “Reign in Glory,” “Ruler of the Night,” the Borner-penned “Black Hordes,” and “Mistress from Hell” (featuring guest vocals from Crystal Viper’s Marta Gabriel) are all ripping speedsters and simply outstanding examples of the Hamburg school of heavy metal done right. On a couple of tracks (“Temple of the Sun” and “Where Angels Dare to Die”), Elvenstorm wisely slow the tempos and let the songs breathe a little, lending some much needed (and well executed) dynamics to what would otherwise be a relentless high-speed 50-minute sonic beatdown. Oh, and in an exceptionally cool gesture, the album ends with a splendid (albeit with noticeably rougher production values) cover of Savage Grace’s “Into the Fire,” a true ‘80s speed metal classic. To these ears, ‘Blood Leads to Glory’ is a triumph and fans of the style would be wise to cast their lot with the mighty Elvenstorm. Better still, I understand the band have a new EP coming out soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~