Review Summary: Power metal with harsh vocals is still power metal. And this isn't particularly good power metal either.
I hate writing intros. Sometimes you write an intro and can’t think of anything interesting to write. In some cases, when you are bored like that, you end up writing lots of nonsense to pad whatever you’re doing. In my case that is a review. In Ensiferum’s case, it’s an acoustic intro. Did I mention I hate bands that use intro songs" Why write an intro that doesn’t even flow into the next song" This is pointless time wasting, and no, showing that you can twang the strings on an acoustic guitar does not make you cool. So, this band is a strike down before they’ve actually showed us an actual composition, rather than “look acoustic campfire atmosphere intro!” Damn, Ensiferum, that’s one point you’re missing at the end of this review.
Now they could salvage this album if they wrote anything of interest on it. But this is Ensiferum: they are from Finland; they have long hair; and they play guitars. You can guess what this sounds like: fruity power metal, with lots of solos and folksy lead melodies, and (thank ***) harsh vocals instead of clean vocals most of the time (there are some clean choruses, but they are mercifully not the typical balls-in-a-vice-pitch). Ensiferum need to be reminded, however, that power metal with harsh vocals is still power metal. In other words, this may not be as disgustingly over-the-top as Rhapsody of Fire, but it’s still pretty damn cheesy regardless. The la-la-la folksy melodies over the top don’t help the material at all, making the whole ordeal more irritating than catchy.
Now there are bands that play some excellent folk metal, even if it is fruitier than a banana tree (Turisas jump to mind), but these guys (meaning Ensiferum, not Turisas) have the sheer audacity to record a two-part song called Heathen Throne. Those songs are both epics, over eleven minutes long, and have… two modes: folksy twang and repetitive power metal with harsh vocals. And the audience is expected to sit through twenty-three minutes of this drivel" Boring is the word. The stronger moments on the album come from the shorter, less orchestrated tracks. Ensiferum can compose a concise (though average) power metal tune, as exemplified by Twilight Tavern; unfortunately the skill that made them do this, which made them good on the self-titled and Iron album, has seemed to disappear with the loss of Jari Maenpaa. Please, Ensiferum, focus on writing songs and working your trade, even if the trade you’re dealing in is an old, obsolete trade.
For the people who dig Ensiferum, and all their Finnish friends (Korpiklaani, Finntroll, and co.), this won’t change a thing. They will always sound like this: fast, typical speedy double bass work out, with folk-influenced melodic lead guitars and harsh vocals. They will always sing about the Kalevala and other really epic Finnish mythology and culture. They will always appeal to longhaired metalheads that play Dungeons and Dragons. There’s nothing wrong with that. That is their chosen niche. But I wish that if they choose this niche to play for once and forever, they would actually do it like they used to (because Ensiferum used to be good), and stop boring us with semi-aggressive, ball-less, and most importantly overlong compositions. Because in a genre that’s hard to make interesting, concise songwriting becomes even more important, and this album clearly shows that the Finnish boys need a collective fire up their backsides to get the awesome moments of “Hero in a Dream” or “Iron” back. It’s obvious Ensiferum need to get back to the drawing board and rethink their formula, because this one has grown awfully stale.
twilight taverns by the dividing streams inhabited by longhaired metalheads playing Dungeons and Dragons out of 10.