Ensiferum
From Afar


4.0
excellent

Review

by Magnus Altkula STAFF
September 8th, 2009 | 296 replies | 21,257 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: From Afar might not be as mind-blowing as Ensiferum’s self titled was, nor is it as catchy and easy-to-get-into as Victory Songs, but what it is, is a superbly composed and musically near flawless folk metal album.

Ensiferum has had a very successful career. They started out in 1995, released their critically acclaimed self titled album in 2001 and have been on top of the so called "Viking metal" sub-genre from there on. Even though they lost their frontman Jari Mäenpää in 2003, Ensiferum quickly found a replacement in the face of Petri Lindroos (ex-Norther). Although a lot of people have said, and are still saying, that Petri will never live up to Jari's potential, the brutal truth is that Mr. Mäenpää, while inarguably being a true master of his craft, is overrated. Petri Lindroos is a good replacement and a great frontman (he had already proven that in Norther). The albums Victory Songs and From Afar are great examples of that as while they might not be as frabjous as Ensiferum's self titled was, they are still damn good Viking metal albums.

From Afar, being the band's second full length with Petri, doesn't exactly bring anything new to the table regarding the style/overall feel of Ensiferum, but it does have some minor changes compared to Victory Songs. First of all, From Afar is more bombastic than Victory Songs was. It is much more grandiose and while the epicness that goes hand-in-hand with every Ensiferum album may be a little over the top here at times, it still completes its objective of giving the album a very powerful atmosphere. Secondly, this is the first Ensiferum album that doesn't appeal right away, aka it's actually a huge grower. When one only gives this album 1-2 spins, he or she might think this record just blows. The long, epic songs "Heathen Throne" and "The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)" take a while to sink in as they have countless tempo, rhythm and melody changes along with rather technical solos and neat guitar-work. Other songs like "Smoking Ruins" and "Stone Cold Metal" are also growers that might not appeal on the first listen but when giving the whole album repeated listens, grow immensely. To be honest, the only straightforward songs on From Afar are the title track and "Elusive Reaches". “From Afar” is a typical Ensiferum song - epic keyboards, double-bass drumming and galloping guitars dominate the track - and "Elusive Reaches" is a speedy folk song which has Petri singing in an up-tempo manner.

The album itself starts with an acoustic intro as all Ensiferum albums do (on From Afar the acoustic intro track is called "By The Dividing Stream"). This set’s the mood for the rest of the album and tells right away about the large folk influence the band has as Ensiferum uses acoustic guitars frequently and always has a very folky feel to their brand of Viking metal. The intro is followed by the already described title track after which there comes "Twilight Tavern" that has once again all the usual characteristics of an Ensiferum song: double-bass drumming, galloping rhythm, gang-vocals by the whole band and a very catchy chorus; the song’s breaking point being the steady acceleration at the end of the track. Above mentioned "Heathen throne" and "Elusive Reaches" are followed by "Stone Cold Metal" and no, it isn't about the genre. What's remarkable about that track is the middle part that sounds like a clip from one of those 1950-60's comedy shows. It showcases a quiet snare drum and piano tone circa a 1950-60's style accompanied by a wild-west (well in this case, wild-Finnish) type atmosphere. There also seems to be some use of Banjo during a small part which last's from 6.10 - 6.25. After "Stone Cold Metal" there is "Smoking Ruins", possibly the best track on From Afar. Great clean gang-vocals and a really solid rhythm section drive this song. Acoustic parts in the pre-chorus and during the end of the song enhance the atmosphere and provide a neat bridge for the chorus to kick in. Low tuned solo in the middle of the track is great and to be honest, there isn't much more to be desired from a folky Viking metal song.

The Last two songs, “Tumman Virran Taa” and “The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)”, end the album in a style, with “Tumman Virran Taa” being a prelude sung in Finnish, to the following epic 12 and a half minute closer. “The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)” starts off low-paced and with a heavy wall of guitar. After about a minute, the vocals and guitars stop, leaving only the marching drums and orchestration playing. That lasts about a minute and after that the solo-ridden epic really starts off. Many twists and turns are found in that song that was most definitely created as a counter to "Victory song" off Victory Songs to end From Afar in a truly monumental manner.

From Afar is also not just a compilation of songs, it is an album that flows together very well. None of the songs seem out of place and there aren't any special standouts that make one go "ohh, I love that song, so I’ll skip the few before it". The guitar-work is as good as ever, same goes for the drumming and Petri's vocals have actually gotten better since his last album with Norther, where they were much weaker than ever before. Petri's rusty screams are rather original and while definitely not appealing for everyone, they do fit Ensiferum's music very well so it's nice to see him recovering and putting out a good vocal performance this time around (comparing the vocals to the aforementioned N album).

From Afar might not be as mind-blowing as Ensiferum’s self titled was, nor is it as catchy and easy-to-get-into as Victory Songs, but what it is, is a superbly composed and musically near flawless folk metal album. With this release Ensiferum doesn't push any boundaries of the genre, nor do they progress it anyway, but they do create a thoroughly enjoyable folk metal record that both fans and the band themselves were looking forward to.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album must be out in asia as it is the 9th over there so I assume there shouldn't be a problem regarding the date.

EDIT: also, i didn't cover the bonus track in my review as it is just a limited edition one or something like that.

KILL
September 8th 2009



71372 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review! i need this badly, and yea screw these bitches who say this is better than self titled, NEVER!

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks man. yea this is a great album

LisbonGirls
September 8th 2009



832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hmmmm....i'm starting to get more into folk, I'll give this a go. Oh yeah good review bro.

Ponton
Emeritus
September 8th 2009



5790 Comments


Definitely can't wait for this . . .

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you pre-ordered your copy Observer?

yeah give it a go Lisbon

Nagrarok
September 8th 2009



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

doesn't exactly bring anything new to the table regarding the style/overall feel of Ensiferum

As was expected.

I also think Jari is overrated, but I still prefer him to Petri (although I don't listen a lot of Ensiferum anyway). Review's good, but I feel it sometimes doesn't flow very well. Can't quite go for that pos yet.

Zip
September 8th 2009



5312 Comments


yo

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I also think Jari is overrated, but I still prefer him to Petri (although I don't listen a lot of Ensiferum anyway). Review's good, but I feel it sometimes doesn't flow very well. Can't quite go for that pos yet.
dude I think that is because of your personal preference as I even had little help with proofreading and DAnny (fireaboveicebelow) said it was good.

Yo zipper


Nagrarok
September 8th 2009



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

oh than its probably just me. I wasn't in a mood for reading, think that that is it. I was just curious for the review, but I'll check again later.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ok, will do

pizzamachine
September 8th 2009



12571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I pos'd this review, but man you have long paragraphs.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's my personal preference pizzamachine, I just like medium - long paragraphs more than the small ones

Nagrarok
September 8th 2009



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Yes, that's probably the reason why I felt it didn't flow very well. I would definitely split the 2nd and 3rd ones up.

LisbonGirls
September 8th 2009



832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thats why you hate my reviews right?

Nagrarok
September 8th 2009



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I don't recall reading any of yours, but who knows, I could be wrong.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I considered doing that Nagrarok, but in the end, it just seems much better with the 2nd and 3rd paragraph intact

Nagrarok
September 8th 2009



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

take a while to sink in as they have countless tempo, rhythm and melody changes along with rather technical solos and neat guitar-work. Other songs like "Smoking Ruins"

Split there at least. Honestly, it would improve the review.




Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Secondly, this is the first Ensiferum album that doesn't appeal right away, aka it's actually a huge grower. When one only gives this album 1-2 spins, he or she might think this record just blows. The long, epic songs "Heathen Throne" and "The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)" take a while to sink in as they have countless tempo, rhythm and melody changes along with rather technical solos and neat guitar-work. Other songs like "Smoking Ruins" and "Stone Cold Metal" are also growers that might not appeal on the first listen but when giving the whole album repeated listens, grow immensely.
can't really do as this really talks about the one and the same thing - the album being a grower. So it would be really weird for me to split it up from the middle of it.

Phantom
September 8th 2009



8930 Comments


well written, pos'd



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