Review Summary: Iron is a great metal album that incorporates both folk and power metal. There isn't a bad track here, but it's extremely repetitive, making the replay value very low.Ensiferum – Iron
Ensiferum on this album is…
Jari Mäenpää – Guitars, Vocals
Markus Toivonen – Guitars
Meiju Enho – Keyboards
Jukka-Pekka Miettinen – Bass
Oliver Fokin - Drums, Percussion
is one of the folk metal subgenre’s gems, presenting you with music that you can both headbang to and imagine dancing to in a Finnish bar of the Viking ages. The musicianship on this album is incredible. Jari’s vocals, guitars, and songwriting are top-of-the-line as always, Markus compliments him perfectly, Enho sets the stage with epic symphonic keys, Miettinen accomplishes his duties as the low-end (though rarely heard), and Fokin shows a display of fantastic drumming throughout the album. What more could you ask for?
I got this album at the same time as Wintersun’s
self-title, and I’d have to say I prefer Wintersun
over Jari’s work with Ensiferum
simply because it shows more of the progressive side. Iron
does have the added advantage of beautiful folk melodies, however. The folk interludes on Iron
are beautiful, and they are what make this album well-rounded. I would call this folk metal’s version of Opeth
, because there are many unexpected turns. I absolutely love how Jari can make a lightning-speed power metal blast drop everything and kick into a jumpy folk melody, and it still works magnificently. I haven’t found many bands that can pull this off without sounding overly cheesy (factor as to why I rarely listen to power metal).
I now present to you a cliché track-by-track. Hooraaaay!
– The album begins with a mostly instrumental folk piece, complete with acoustic guitars, flutes, and strings. It sounds like it would be in the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings until about a minute in, when some upbeat marching drums enter, setting the song to a galloping pace. The song closes with female and male vocals singing in the background. This is a good way to kick off.
– A quick guitar riff, symphonic keyboard fill, and pinch-harmonic guitar lead, and we’re off! This song is very fast-paced, and filled with several awesomely addicting guitar riffs. Jari’s menacing growls front the assault and choir-sounding (for lack of a better word) backing vocals team up with the keys to make the sound all the more epic. The drums keep a steady double bass beat throughout. The song stays true to its folk roots, also.
– This is one of my personal favorites from this album. It starts off with a quaint folk melody and then kicks into another well-written riff, which seems to be a main factor for every song. Sword Chant tells the tale of a mythical sword falling from the sky and men battling for possession of it.
Who dares to play with death
Who smells the dragon's breath
No grief for the fallen ones
The search for the sword has begun
The song features some great time changes, solid drumming, uplifting chants, and Jari’s splendid clean vocals, as well as a fantastic ending. This is an excellent example of the many things Ensiferum can accomplish in less than five minutes.
Mourning Heart – Interlude
– This is what it is titled… an interlude. It’s simply a minute and a half of a melodic acoustic guitar and atmospheric keys. It works pretty well as a segue into the next track.
Tales of Revenge
– For the most part, this is set at a slower pace than the previous two “real” songs, until it picks back up later in the track. At about 1:30 we hear some of Jari’s more epic sounding vocals, thus resulting in another epic song. Funny how that works, eh? There’s a short little section reverting to the sound of the interlude, but as soon as everything is smoothed out, it throws you back into the upbeat part of the song.
Lost In Despair
– The tempo decreases once more on this track, but the unrelenting power does not. I get the feeling of ascending into the sky when I listen to this. The music is rather uplifting in comparison to the lyrics. Jari sings cleanly throughout the song’s entirety. There are many changes to acoustic sections, which sound much like a clean folk-tinged Opeth
, as I mentioned earlier. The song climaxes with Jari wailing “So tell me it’s a dream!”
Slayer of Light
– For any of you who have checked out Wintersun
, this is Iron’s Beyond The Dark Sun
, minus the incredible shredding solo, which is one thing this album is lacking, and desperately needs. This song is very fast-paced and contains many extraordinary riffs and great singing as usual, but it is just screaming “I need a power metal solo, now!”
Into The Battle
– This one can easily be described as progressive metal. There are plenty of changes to feast on, which is probably what makes this my favorite track on Iron
. Another positive is that we get to hear some beautiful solos, which are a rarity on this album. The operatic vocals at the song’s beginning and end are absolutely lovely, and in between are many beautiful vocal harmonies. The drummer’s best fills are presented here, all executed with perfection. This is one of the best uses of six minutes I can think of.
Lai Lai Hei
– This is in the same vein as the previous song, being the album’s longest track at 7:15. It starts with a folk tune, and the song speeds up as it progresses. The first and last verses are sung in their native language, which is a nice touch of diversity. The rest is your typical handful of riffs, and a small solo, and chanting to finish it up. It’s pretty repetitive, though. This is the album’s low point.
– This is pretty much the first track with added female vocals. It’s a nice piece, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere. The vocals are pretty at times, but I find them rather annoying. There really isn’t much to say about this one. It does, however, bring the energy that has been churned up to rest.
is an enjoyable listen for the first week or so, but it is weighed down by its repetitiveness. It’s often hard to distinguish between tracks due to the sound. The folk melodies that throw you off the first few tracks become much more predictable as the album progresses. However, what you do have here is a collection of fantastic riffs and singing (this is Jari we’re talking about, after all). There’s also a good deal of great song/lyric writing, usually following the theme of most power metal. Though having only a few standout tracks, the ones that do stand out will certainly blow you away. This isn’t saying the rest is bad, the other tracks just aren’t as memorable.
Interesting folk melodies
Into The Battle
Terrible replay value
The interesting folk melodies become less interesting as they appear
Each song follows a fairly similar structure
Lacking in the solo area
– Into the Battle, Iron, Sword Chant, Tales of Revenge