Black Messiah
The Final Journey

The Final Journey is a definite continuation of the First War of the World. The band obviously was quite happy with how that turned out. Finland’s Ensiferum have moved pretty fully toward the power end of metal though the black part of their name still resonates deep down with their black viking metal origins, and I don’t really see too many power metal purists latching onto this band. If you feel folk metal should be bouncy happy drinking songs stop reading now. (I’ve long forgiven them for “Sauflied”).

Machine like drumming, relentless double bass, clean folk vocals and gang vocals (I don’t think of it as a chorus because they are not singing). Harsh blackened vocals. ‘Folkish’ triumphant melodies, heavily from the keys. ‘Epic’ fiddle playing and rhythm guitar with enough meat to it to be called metal. Add in extended instrumental breaks that are key ingredients to the sound pared with repetitive riffing and sharp quick vocal cadences.

This is mostly a showcase for melodic leads and solos and is at heart happy bouncy folk music (I know, I said stop reading) which is a far cry from their early albums, the ones that brought me on board, but their evolution makes sense, not just a we’re not making it as a black viking band, lets go mainstream, it seems more like this is where their heart is, and was, and they genuinely want to play this way. They keep just enough harshness to turn off most folk metal fans (remember I told you to stop reading) and to keep the contingent of loyal fans they have carried along.

Which brings me to “Into the Unfathomed Tower,” one of my all time favorite Candlemass songs. The most triumphant doom song ever is a pleasure to listen to here. Their cover is loyal to the original and passionately crafted into the current Black Messiah sound. It is this song on the track listing that caught my eye when I first got the promo. What is great is that it does not feel like a tacked on bonus track. Equilibrium would have loved to have done this. Next comes the much more somber re-recorded “Feld Der Ehre” from Oath of a Warrior, one of their best, with harsh singing throughout this time. I prefer the hauntingly epic clean of the original, otherwise a fine update. I generally like to hear a band update their older songs into their current style, but the original was / is quite wonderfully done, leave it be.

“Lindisfarne” is a brief holding pattern until we transition into The Nagelfar Saga, this album’s epic concept story in four movements. It is a much less ambitious attempt at what they did last album with First War of the World. I will not get into the accuracy of their tale because just like First War, they are telling their own story inspired by the Eddas, not a literal narration of the poems.

Movement one, three and a half minutes. It starts off with narration setting up the story accompanied by a lengthy tranquil guitar and violin piece that makes me visualize Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton. Movement two, five and a half minutes. Then the story starts with “Mother Hel,” baritone operatic singing quickly departs for harsher pastures and blackened shrieks and growls accompany blastbeats, totally appropriate for a discussion of Hel, and the baritone voice provides the main storyline along with clean female vocals. Movement three, six and three quarters minutes. “On Board” the more intense side with an extended melodic break as well. Movement four, six and a half minutes, has us “Sailing Into Eternity.” The ship of nails is under way and the crew is fulfilling their destiny. “Now the time has come I’m on the ship, sad and full of grief.” Guitars shine on this part, bringing back to your mind that Unfathomed Tower, flashy and fast. And of course it can’t end without creaking boards and wind. Twenty two minutes meant to be listened to as one string of music, these are not stand alone singles.

Overall a fine album that will appeal to most all of their fans that offers nothing new to their style and no great improvement in musicianship, just another solid album from an under recognized band. I do not know how available it is but I recommend anyone that enjoys the current albums go back and listen to Spectre of Black Knowledge so you can hear how much they have progressed. I still remember listening to that album for the first time when it came out, and most every part of their current style could in some fashion on that release, demonstrating why I’m still on board as a fan, history is important to them. They predate Ensiferum and should get at least as much attention as their Finnish kissing cousins. Visit the website for the official video.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
May 30th, 2012

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