(This review appeared July 1999 in Spicy Green Iguana E-zine)
Music Review from Hypatia's Hoard
By Elizabeth Barrette
All reviews are based on a 1 to 5 scale, 5 being Best.
***** (5 stars - Superlative in all regards; run out and spend your lunch money on this one).
P.O. Box 195751 Jefferson City, MO 65110-5751
Or Elvendrums@aol.com or http://members.aol.com/elvendrums Note: This was back before we got our domain name. - Nerethel
1999 U.S. $15.00 CD, total playing time 44:56
No company number given.
This fabulous album contains a blend of filk, folk, and Pagan songs touching on many different themes. The musical style can reasonably be described as 'AfroCeltic' and yes, the percussion is the driving force. Here at home I cranked the volume up all the way and stood in front of the speakers; I can't wait to catch this group live someday. Think of this stuff as high-octane brain fuel � I've been using it to keep me going while I do housework, and that's just about the highest compliment I can pay regarding energy level. Featured instruments include ashiko, conga, hand cymbals, chimes, bongos, guitar, Native American drum, rattles, djembe, bodhran, Viola da Gamba, and hurdy gurdy. Rich, resonant vocals do justice to the eloquent lyrics. Commentary on specific tracks follows.
"Rhymer" - I like the concepts that weave through this one, running towards things and far away from things, and the question of whether one has gone far enough or not � or entirely too far.
"Walking in the Woods" - As much fun as it is recorded, I suspect the true appeal of this one only comes out in the live performance. It's also the first of the dead-giveaway songs in terms of elven/fey motifs. Listening to it leaves one with the impression that the band members are � not entirely human. Given my own fey nature, that of course makes it a favorite. But heck, I love the whole album. These folks have a wonderful knack for capturing the mood of a performance and putting it into a recorded album, which is pretty difficult to do; they got a lot of subtle nuances in there, the feel of being surrounded by elves and magic and mystery. They capture the Faery reality-tunnel very well. The results are - what else? - enchanting. And it's a funny track, too.
"Stolen Child" - I've always loved the original poem. I'm most impressed by the Elvendrums rendition of this piece, since I already have a favorite version by Loreena McKennitt, which is nothing alike. This one is faster, more aggressive; hers is softer, more ethereal - two totally different modes of seduction, yet equally effective. This is the only track that borrows content from a pre-existing source; the other lyrics and all music are entirely original.
"The Dragon" - For top favorite, this one is neck-n-neck with "1-1-1" and maybe just a whisker ahead. The resonance is outstanding, the storyline is engrossing, and I about laughed my head off the first time I heard "Be careful what you want: it might want you!" because it is so true. Again, a wonderful job of capturing the characters' nature; this is dragon personality down to a T.
"Mask" - This track is downright dark-squared, accurate to the point of brutality. It skirts the border between reality, dark fantasy, and outright horror. Made my hair stand on end the first time I played it. Reality flayed with a very fine touch.
"Elvendrums Song" - Too many performers dispense with a signature piece these days, so I'm glad to have this. It's a neat showcase of the band's collective talent. I also like the blended Pagan/fey/fantasy motifs in the lyrics. Of course, it once again reflects the heart of fey nature: the fluidity of reality, and the compelling power of music. The whimsy and caprice of elves. The overall enchantment. < Much fun.
"1-1-1" - One of the best lead-ins on the album, and it only gets better from there. Mesmerizing, compelling, hypnotic, enchanting. The droning chant makes a fabulous backdrop for the lead vocalist's sweet voice, and those ghostly whispered phrases in the background are a shiversome delight. I love Pagan concepts in the lyrics, the overall unity-in-diversity message.
"Tir nAn Og" - A fitting tribute to the Land of Youth. The lyrics do a great job of weaving Mystery and experience, that which cannot be explained with the images that help reflect some sense of it. It's a fine explanation of how reincarnation works.
"Coolavin" - The basic plot elements (magic withdrawing, a warrior left behind to guard something, the yearning for home, and the magic's return) are familiar, but this is a wonderfully fresh rendition. It's got a wistful edge, yet overall it's a driving and upbeat piece. That's impressive. And I'm feminist enough to find it appealing that Mab's best warrior is not only female but a wee leprechaun as well. Heh. Diamonds and dynamite.
"Witches' Ball" - A good capsule description of Pagan beliefs and activities, and the sense generalizes well beyond Wicca, too. Nice job of weaving common sayings into the lyrics.
"Solindas" - Different mood than the rest, more Middle Eastern in the rhythm especially; just as appealing, though. It paints a lovely mental image of a desert marketplace in the evening, with lanterns aglow and tents billowing softly in the breeze, and dancers gathering by the firepits.
Overall, this is one of my all-time favorite albums, something I'll play frequently forever. The lyrics show a fine grasp of meter and especially imagery. The drumming is out of this world, in a very literal sense. This is music to lose yourself to � or find yourself. Fantasy and horror fans will love The Dragon, and science fiction fans may enjoy some tracks too. Most highly recommended.