Review Summary: simplistic albeit memorable nuggets of Folk-inspired Power metal
I think we all remember the days back when Ensiferum were headed for bigger, brighter things in their career. It all started with a fresh vocalist who ensured his appearance would guide Victory Songs
and From Afar
to becoming every bit as important to the band's career as their first two albums. That said, it was a reaffirmed belief amongst the majority of the core fanbase that the band could go further and be braver with their output, even with Jari's disappearance still a clouding factor. What wasn't expected after From Afar
was a steady decline in inspiration, something which resulted in three half-hearted albums and eventually rendering Ensiferum as a less remarkable band in the Folk/Power metal sub-genres.
It's thankful then that Thalassic
sees the band returning to their comfort zone and somehow releasing the most inspired set of songs they've collectively written in just over a decade. Immediately, you get the sense that the band are simply at ease with their output here, the none-too-serious opener “Rum, Women, Victory” galloping along with renewed vigour and accompanied by a fan-bolstered video which reminds us all to make the most of 2020's dire global situation. Not only that, but it's a damn fine rhythm section at work here. Whilst nothing here sounds particularly different to what we heard pre-2010, it's done so with 100% and doesn't give you the impression of a band ready to call it quits. Such is the excitement of the speedy “Run from the Crushing Tide”, the call-to-arms experience of “Andromeda” and the brevity of “One with the Sea”. All done with instrumental flair, but also reminding us each and every (socially distanced) band member has a smile on their face.
One thing which does stand out on Thalassic
is the usage of vocal delivery. Whilst it's never exactly been one of Ensiferum's strongpoints (neither has it been a disadvantage, it's just been there
), here newcomer Pekka Montin gives off one of the most memorable vocals performances in any
Ensiferum album. Sure, the fact that his voice has been pushed to the forefront during “Andromeda”, “For Sirens” and passionate closer “Cold Northland” means that the accompanying instrumentation seems pushed aside at time, but it's also hard not to singalong with a silly smile on your face as the striking choruses unfold. It's simple fun, but it's integrated in this way for a reason, and that reason is to make the listener enjoy the experience tenfold. A song which sticks out like a sore thumb however is “The Defence of the Sampo”, which to begin with is too slow and slumberous for its own good and demonstrates such an abrupt vocal change that you'd be pondering if it's even the same band that wrote the song. It's not so much a folksy jig as “Midsummer Magic” is, nor does it run on the momentum produced by the much stronger “Rum, Women, Victory” and “Andromeda”, but it doesn't even seem to try. The earthy vocal work has proven questionable, even amongst the fanbase, some even going so far as to make Turisas comparisons which, at this point, makes you wonder if Ensiferum were reaching for a little inspiration. Alas, for one song it would seem pointless, and surely you'd rather have another version of “Andromeda” or “Midsummer Magic” in its place.
Ensiferum haven't exactly been top tier over the last decade, and the band are probably aware. Yet with a fresh face in clean vocalist and keyboardist Pekka Montin, each member seems revitalized and refreshed and it's clear just how enjoyable the songwriting comes across. There's a general fluency in most songs here that render them simplistic albeit memorable nuggets of Folk-inspired Power metal to enjoy. Thalassic
may herald Ensiferum's return to the throne, and hopefully the next album will ride on its momentum.