Elis – Griefshire (2007) Album Review

On a role today? Well I have to recover the time lost yesterday because of my tardiness and commodity. Yeah, if you were wondering why I did not post anything yesterday was because of my like of appropriate mood, even though I had material ready, my mind was lost into space longing for a change. Anyway, this is a special review made which will honor the band Elis. The band just disbanded yesterday to my surprise and I want to send my thanks to this impressive group that managed to pull out some pretty memorable records and splendid live performances in their almost 10 years of existence, marked with sorrowful events and a lot of turmoil. I am now wondering if the gothic metal scene is somehow cursed, Xandria wasting 5 years because of constant line-up instability, Elis coming to a depressive end because of the loss of one of its creators and the constant instability among the band members, Type O Negative a pioneer band that of this genre that has lost its mastermind, Peter Steele, one of the greatest and most overwhelming losses for the gothic metal community, the disbandment of another icon for the gothic metal scene, Theatre of Tragedy, a band that helped shape “The Beauty and The Beast” concept as a aesthetic of this genre, an aspect mostly governed by a combination between male and female vocals and the departure of Vibeke Stene in 2007 for Tristania, ending an era for the gothic metal scene.

Basically, the gothic metal scene is not like it used to be in its inception period back in the 90s. At that time, the support and the number of bands pioneering this genre was much larger than it is now. We had Lacuna Coil in their old gothic metal days, we had The Gathering with an amazing album, Mandylion (1995), we had After Forever, The Sins of Thy Beloved, Theatre of Tragedy with another reference album, Aegis (1998), Theatres des Vampires, a band that would take vampire themes as their main focus in their records or Moonspell which developed a much extreme side of gothic metal combining it with elements of black metal and several others, however these are the ones that dominated the gothic metal scene in the 90s.

The gothic metal genre rose in Europe and remained popular in Europe, reaching mainstream popularity status maintained even today. Elis is just one name among many that helped shape this genre. Founded in 2003 by Pete Streit and Sabine Dunser both being former members of another gothic band called Erben der Schöpfung. What made them special was the fact that this band was born in a tiny country with small population named Lichtenstein. You could think that the world is small, a thing that would be a subject of laughter for many, but for a country like Lichtenstein, the world is really small, considering that such a band was born there. I imagine how difficult would’ve been for them to search for member replacements in their own native country, since human resources there might’ve been a pretty serious obstacle, but they somehow managed to pull this through.

We find Elis in a period of turmoil caused by the death of one of its creators. Sabine Dunser died unfortunately on rehearsals because of cerebral hemorhage in 2006. When I think back, the band members stated when they released this album that she considered it her own baby, much to my relief was that she was able to rest for eternity after she gave birth to it. This could be considered her testament and the end of the legacy that she wanted to show to this world before ascending spiritually to another one. The name already tells what we will encounter in this record, the feeling of grief bestowed upon a shire (village). This is a concept album, unlike the previous ones, Sabine wanted to approach this album with a compelling and intriguing story. Basically she did all the work in this album, coming up with the concept and story, writing the lyrics and composing one song (track 10), so when the album was released one year after her death, the band members chose to release it in her memory.

This album depicts the sorrowful story of a family confronted with greed, power and misfortune, a story of manipulation and filled with ambition and lust for power. The atmosphere in this album is sober, sorrowful, depicting a funeral atmosphere much like the events that occurred not so long ago in the band, an album that predicted an unfortunate event. It is permanently dark, from the beginning until the end especially in the slow-paced ballads which are engulfed with feelings of sorrow.

The album features 6 protagonists: The Narrator which is a younger brother who suffers from a handicap since birth, a man that was bestowed with extraordinary intelligence but also has a weakness, he lacks confidence and faces problems with his inner struggles, The Narrator’s Mother, a wise woman with the voice of a witch that dedicated her life to guide people towards redemption, The Narrator’s Older Brother, bestowed with leadership talent but also being a pretty manipulative man that lusts for power and control over the village, corrupting the villagers to follow him as a sect leader, The Narrator’s Daughter, a young woman that inherited the traits of her grandmother and was raised by her father to serve only the good and, The Brother’s Wife, the wife of the older brother and the younger brother secret love and a collective protagonist, The Sect, the villagers corrupted by the older brother and the ones that follow him as a sect leader.

The album begins with the song Tales From Heaven or Hell which talks about the narrator’s daughter immediately after his death. She decides to fulfill his last wish to read his secret diary to discover the truth about her origin, and to shed his ashes over a small unknown town. However, governed by lack of confidence in her father’s words she is reluctant in doing what he last wished. The second track Die Stadt describes the town as it is after the death of the narrator and how it used to be when he was alive. Show Me The Way depicts the narrator’s mother and the formula that was bestowed upon him, the 3×3 notion which was said to cure every illness. It also reveals that some other people are seeking the secrets that are currently in her hands.

Brother the 4th track depicts the relationship between the two brothers, the narrator and his older brother. The lyrics tell that although the narrator was handicapped since birth, his older brother never gave up on him, deciding to not abandon him. In this song the older brother is described as a person with exceptional leading skills that everyone follows. It also features an “eternal vow” made by the two brother in front of the grave of their mother, swearing that the will always be together no matter what obstacles they will encounter in life. The next part of the story is included in the mini-CD Show Me The Way, released separately. The track Salvation shows the younger brother facing a delicate problem that he feared the most, his older brother becoming a sect leader and the townspeople blindly following him, promising redemption as a reward, thus claiming to be a God. In the song, Seit Dem Anbeginn Der Zeit the narrator tries to find ways in order to stop him, reminding him countless times about the promise they made in front of their mother’s grave.

 

Remember The Promise depicts a heated discussion between the two brothers. The narrator urges his older brother to stop what he is doing before it is too late, trying to convince him that he could not keep his promise to the townspeople, that fact that he could not bring them redemption as he pretends. Phoenix From the Ashes stands as the firm response made by the older brother and frustration and negativism showed towards the younger brother. How Long is the track where the wife of the older brother comes to know the secret behind her husband’s work and wonder for how much longer this act will unfold. A feeling of insecurity governs her, fearing that she will be hurt if her husband won’t stop. Because of these fears, she is unable to leave him, thinking that she might be able to persuade him to stop if she is near him rather than apart from him. However it is unknown if this is her own decision or an influenced one (she had a little daughter after all who might’ve been used as a persuade subject in order to keep her around him). Innocent Hearts talks about the decision that the wife made, however she is still not sure if the decision was correct hoping that her husband will remember the happy times they spent in the past. These Days Are Gone depicts the wife clinging to the days long gone, hoping that those times will once again come back.

Forgotten Love takes place one year after the crucial decision. The narrator decided to leave his older brother. It is a time when the narrator thinks about his first love (his older brother’s wife) and wondering how the situation developed in the town. He is covered in nostalgia, remembering his lost dreams and the joyful moments spent in the village together with his brother. The Burning is the climax of the story featuring the narrator, who witnesses the town hall engulfed in flames. He rushes to town and manages to save the older brother’s daughter who he will raise her as his own. Later he found out that the flames were set by his older brother, because of being unable to bestow redemption upon the villagers. The villagers also realized that he was nothing more than a perpetrator, that he wasn’t the redeemer that he claimed to be, and that nobody actually could be a redeemer (reference to the birth of atheism). The narrator decided to raise her by himself in order to teach her to only serve the good so that his brother’s mistakes will not repeat.

Ten years after the unfortunate incident in the town, the daughter, after reading the entire diary left behind by her father (the younger brother, aka the narrator) realized why her father was so vehement about teaching her to server the good. In the end, she respected her father’s decision and spread his ashes in the ruined town. The phrase “Ashes to Ashes” has a special meaning, representing the calling of the lost souls that died in the town ten years ago, calling the last two souls that were able to survive. The girl realizes that one day, her ashes will also have to be spread among the ruins of this town, in order to bring peace for the souls of the dead people. The  track, A New Decade shows that the story did not end, with the lyrics “This is not the end of this story / This is just the beginning of a new decade of solutions”. The last track (actually featured on the Show Me The Way mini-CD), In Einem Verlassenen Zimmer talks about the place where that young woman discovered all the truth about her origin, and specially what was about to happen after that. The song is taken from a poem of the same name by Georg Trakle.

Musically speaking, I think that this band was suited to sing in their native language the most since the best tracks of this album are the ones sung in German, rather than in English. Sabine Dunser proved to be different than other vocalist, with a fairy like voice. Phoenix From The Ashes is the heaviest and darkest track featured on this record, The Burning the most aggressive, an adjective that fits the climax song of this album and several outstanding ballads that might be an obstacle for the average gothic metal fan, How Long and Forgotten Love, these are though pretty memorable songs. The list is completed with other splendid performances in songs such as Brothers, Show Me The Way, Tales From Heaven and Hell or Innocent Hearts. Elis fans might be reluctant when listening this album because it is slightly different than the previous works. However, those that loved the voice of Sabine Dunser and her performances will no doubt enjoy this record. Unfortunately, her death stole the chance to see a sequel to this beautiful story.

Overall Impression: 96/100