Review: Elffor “Age of Blackness” [GS Productions]

Review: Elffor “Age of Blackness” [GS Productions]

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Score 90%
Summary
90 %
User Rating : 4 (2 votes)

Elffor is a fantastic band that I have neglected for far too long. I purchased the re-recorded version of ‘Son of the Shades’ in 2017 and was perpetually amazed by the album. It quickly became one of my favorite albums and I quickly added the rest of Elffor’s discography to my wishlist, but oddly never bought another album for nearly three years. This turned out to be the right call once the announcement of this box set was, well, announced. This 12 CD set was an amazing opportunity for a fan such as me to procure every album effort Elffor had masterfully crafted up until that point. The ability to go through every album and listen to Eol’s mesmerizing compositions while noticing trends, changes and patterns as years of music flew by me in a matter of hours was a privilege.

Now a complete retrospective of Elffor’s discography is too much to cover for a single review, but what I can comment on concerns the evolution of the band, as well as issues revolving around the meta of this box set. I will say that I favor the first four albums of this set than the later ones. This is the set of albums you can categorize as the re-recordings of the band’s earliest work. These albums are mostly within the taxonomy of ambient dungeon synth, with epic/atmospheric black metal becoming more and more apparent as time goes on. To me, Elffor’s strength always lied in the beautifully vivid soundscapes they could create through dungeon synth laced with wispy riffs of black metal. These first four albums are mystical journeys through icy, winter-starved forests cultivated with synths blessed with dark, unholy magic. And while I’ll always favor the immaculate, rich dungeon synth aspects of these albums, the black metal portions and songs do add to the atmosphere, wailing in the foggy distance like a persistent flurry of sorrow.

Then comes the trifecta of predominately black metal albums. Though none of them tickle my black metal fancy in most ways, they still all have Eol’s charm and marks of quality musicianship. Objectively speaking, the production on these album’s is much better than the previous ones and less objectively, there are a decent number of superb metal tracks complete with non-metal interludes. Another aspect I appreciate about these albums is the Spanish folk influences and how Eol incorporates it into his more metallic moments. Worth checking out, but not as great as his earlier work. (Might as well through ‘Impious Battlefields’ into this category as well). The last few albums are the ‘Dra Sad’ trilogy and the bonus CD ‘The Ritual of a Dead Dawn’. These albums are all entirely dungeon synth and consist of larger, sprawling compositions lasting 8-16 minutes each. These albums feel like movie soundtracks, focused on telling stories of medieval epics that are more heavy-handed. Despite these albums sounding cleaner than their ancestors, I believe there was a lot of charm in the older synthesizers’ sound. However, this quadrilogy is still an abundant source of chilling ear candy, delivering delightful tales of darkness and the dank. Holy moly, 12 albums in two paragraphs? That’s gotta’ be a record.

Now, here comes the selfish, self-centered and honestly totally uncool question I have about box sets and compilations: how could’ve it been better? I find this uncouth, as delivering bevies of quality content only to be met with someone wanting more is at the very least, impolite. With that attempt to save face in mind, I digress. If I could have it my way, I would have included the original recordings of the first four albums. If the differences between these albums was material enough, it would have been an absolute delight to have both version at my disposal and I’d pay extra for it too! Another suggestion would’ve been the inclusion of split and unreleased tracks on that bonus CD. There are only four tracks that fit this description and their absence on what seems like a comprehensive discography set is a tad bit annoying. Finally, I find it bizarre that this set came out only for there to be a new album released a mere month afterwards. I applaud the efforts of a prolific artist, but it just comes off as odd to me to do something like that. Oh well, maybe this set just delineates 25 years of evocative and impressive music, with (hopefully) another 25 to come. The bottom line is that Elffor has provided an amazing opportunity for fans and non-fans alike to procure their almanac of unique music all in one place. The set is a near 11-hour trek through darkness and mountains alike, brimming with striking images of a dreary cold. A cold that will haunt your ears for years to come. Hail Elffor!

Release date: March 23rd, 2020

elffor.com

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