Ensiferum
Unsung Heroes

You are going to have a hard time believing this, but there was a time when I was actually questioning whether I should review the latest release from Finland’s epic folk metal stalwarts Ensiferum. You see, I actually seem to have soured a bit of folk metal in 2012, (I know, I know, its like going off blowjobs and boobs). I’m not sure why, but no folk metal this year really struck me and Ensiferum‘s fifth album was no different. Maybe it was the hype, wait, tease and ultimate let down of the new Wintersun, the high if familiar bar set by From Afar, or just me getting old.

However, things seem to be back to normal, and a couple of things may have reawakened my inner Viking — first the latest album, Rastlos from German act Finsterforst, is about as epic as anything you’ll ever hear, triggering my folk metal gene into action.  Second, on a recent crisp fall evening I was running naked through the woods with a pack of wolves, howling and covered in blood from a fresh kill (OK, I was walking my dogs), when “In My Sword I Trust” came on my iPod, and before I knew it, I was belting out the climatic final orchestral chorus at the top of my lungs and I realized Ensiferum are still as good as they ever were.

Even though the band’s formula is rigidly in place; polished, bouncy power metal with harsh blackish vocals, sweeping folky synths and soaring choruses, leading to criticism that the band is recycling the same album over and over, the fact is, the band simply deliver that style perfectly. Even in their post Jari Mäenpää (Wintersun) era, the band has succeeded is delivering that sound, and on Unsung Heroes, expect no less as this is Ensiferum.

Ultimately, readers have probably purchased Unsung Heroes or not already, and my review certainly isn’t going to convert any Ensiferum haters or deter the band’s fans. However, I should make both aware that amid all of the rather typically, enjoyable if samey Ensiferum-isms (“In My Sword I Trust”, “Burning Leaves” , “Retribution Shall Be Mine”, etc) contained on Unsung Heroes, a few moments jumped out at me. Emmi Silvennoinen once again makes her vocal presence felt, as well as her synths, with a very nice little clean ditty called “Celestial Bond” and a duet with Petri Lindross on ballad  “Star Queen”. She brings a soothing element to the normally high octane pace of the band and elegance that’s tangible. Also, believe it or not Ensiferum,  5 albums into their career somehow mange to deliver  2 or the most epic tracks of their discography.

First, the full on choirs of “Pohjola” are simply rousing as fuck (and they also make an appearance to spruce up an otherwise dull ballad in “Last Breath”) and the track also features a regal voice actor who appears to be the Finnish equivalent of Max Von Sydow. Second the closing track, the oddly named “Passion Proof Power” is the longest track the band has ever penned and is also the most epic they have delivered, and might be the second most epic folk track of 2012 behind Finsterforst‘s “Ein Lichtschein”. It’s 16 friggin’ minutes long and is just ridiculous in its stirring scope and majesty starting with a steady Viking sway teasing a restrained ballad type track, then takes a big deep, relaxing orchestral breath  before exhaling with a surprising but cool, proggy Amorphis tangent and finally an expected shred filled gallop and symphonic climax.

Ultimately, Unsung Heroes, for all its worth is another solid Ensiferum album, nothing more nothing less. If you don’t like their particular brand of cheese, this album won’t change your mind, but, if you’re like me and you find them to be one of the top bands of this style around, then you’ll find Unsung Heroes another quality addition to their familiar sound.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 1st, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Storm King

    Wait, I’m allowed to be let down by the new Wintersun? Sweet!

    Agree with this review. If you like Ensiferum, you’ll like this. But unlike From Afar, which totally sold me on the band, if you don’t like them, this won’t make you run out to buy their CDs. The definition of a solid album.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    this makes me want to go home and play Skyrim


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    the orchestral/symphonic elements here are genuinely moving too. really impressed.


  4. Commented by: Deepsend Records

    Finally, someone feels the same way I do about folk metal. This same thing happened to me this year as well. I also think the new Wintersun was a let down. It’s really hard to believe that was the best had to offer after 8 years. Although, I did hear that they lost entire albums multiple times during the recording process. All this new Wintersun is is power metal masquerading as a folk metal album.


  5. Commented by: DK777

    You nailed it, brother. Within this genre, Ensiferum is among, if not the, best… but this album doesn’t challenge any high water marks they might have established.

    Of course, I’ve seen them live, and they’re fantastic on stage. Would go see them in a heartbeat, even if their latest album was shite!

    And don’t get me started on Wintersun. From roaring to boring in eight short years!!!


  6. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Great album.


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