Review Summary: Epic Folk Metal at its glorious, melodic best.
A high wind is being swept through a thin mountain pass. The sun is just peaking over the distant ridge, bringing first light to the stiff, cold night air. The desolate ground is devoid of any plant life, just the unforgiving bare rock and the cold embrace of a winter night's snowfall. At each end of the pass is a large force, gearing up for a bloody onslaught. War drums ring out across the pass, along with the chants from each opposing army. All goes still and silent for just a moment, the wind ceases, the sun seems to hang in place. A soldier rears back his blade and fires it forward, letting out a deafening scream. The two armies charge to a bloody, bitter doom.
Ensiferum is a Finnish Folk Metal band, crafting their sound from medieval lore and great battles, incorporating soft acoustic guitars, epic keyboards, and melodic riffing to craft a sound which is epic and foreboding, while still maintaining a very melodic tone. The lyrics sing of epic battles long forgotten and lost tales from another time. This all may sound cheesy and over the top (in a sort of power metal way) but I can tell you it is not. They take themselves and their sound very seriously, and try their hardest to portray this to their fans, and it shows. From soft female vocals to death growls, from clean singing to verses in another language, they incorporate everything you could possibly think of to make their music true to their roots in folklore.
A definite highlight to this album is the fantastic musicianship from each of the band members. Guitarists Jari Maenpaa and Markus Toivonen throw down some really melodic and catchy riffs and maintain their heaviness throughout the entire album. Their guitars are part of what make this album what it is, and riffs like the fantastic opening to "Into The Battle" show that they are capable of writing some of the best melodic riffs in metal. The guitar solos, while not very frequent or lengthy, are great and add some variety to a sound which can get old after many listens. The acoustic guitars are another factor which round out the edges to their sound, weaving the keyboards and electric guitars together, and providing some awesome folk-sounding tunes to each song. The opening to "Sword Chant" showcases some really fast guitar picking, and gives you a hint at what is to come, and the slow, pounding intro to "Lai Lai Hei" is just awesome to listen to. The bass, sadly, isn't very audible all the time, but the times when you can hear it bassist Jukka-Pekka Miettinen can play some great lines which fit in with the guitars well. Drumming is well executed, playing beats which keep the pace perfectly. They aren't afraid to use a lot of double bass drumming, which is obvious in many of the tracks.
Keyboards are a huge player in Ensiferum's sound, colliding with the guitar riffs to add to the medieval, folk-sounding style that Ensiferum has pretty much perfected. They are prominent in pretty much every song, but they don't overpower the guitars, something which bands like Summoning do. The opening instrumental "Ferrum Aeternum" features a lot of keyboard effects, as well as the title track Iron
. Jari Maenpaa's vocals are really good, he can do a very raspy scream and a very epic clean voice. The changes from clean vocals to death metal rasps are showcased in every song, and it's one of the few things on the album which doesn't wear off over time.
So with Iron
, Ensiferum take the sound from their S/T and refine it even more to create probably one of the best Folk Metal albums that I've heard. While this isn't perfect, it is a damn fine attempt at a very hard genre of metal to get completely right. Epic and heavy, fast and melodic, this will surely please many metalheads who enjoy a broad range of music.
+Great Musicianship All Around
+Some Fantastic Riffs
+Great Drum Fills And Double Bass
+Excellent Use Of Keyboards
+Awesome Acoustic Guitars
+Great Varitey In Vocals
-Not Enough Guitar Solos
-Some Of The Random Chanting Is Very Awkward