It’s often said that Ensiferum need no introduction, and it’s true. If you were having a small soiree or bijou shindig one evening, you’d just know they’d arrived. The long-boat dragged onto the front lawn is an obvious clue, as are the discarded shields, swords and cloaks by the front door. But upon glimpsing the group of face-painted long-haired warriors over by the drinks table, you just know your boss’s wife would lean over and whisper “Oh dear, who invited Ensiferum?? They didn’t even wipe their feet…” But I’d have invited them – ME! Because what self respecting Metal fan wouldn’t? With their own fabulous blend of Melodic Death, Pagan, Viking, Folk and Power Metal there wouldn’t be a metaphorical bash anywhere that Ensiferum’s presence wouldn’t enrich. Besides, you just know that after a few Proseccos, your boss’s wife would be totally trying to cop off with the drummer…
Of course it’s meant that they need no introduction musically, and this is also emphatically true. If you’ve heard Ensiferum before and you hear a new track it will become clear very quickly exactly who it is. They’re are not a one trick band and they mix up their styles, their vocals and their influences, but at it’s core, it’s always utterly Ensiferum. They are known world-wide for their own style, which is possibly more instantly recognizable with the harsh vocals, which are as angst-ridden and venomous as ever on “Two Paths”, with choirs and clean vocals reserved for impact on memorable chant-along parts. This style is captured perfectly once more, especially on high-octane tracks like the rousing ‘For Those About To Fight For Metal’, the total power-trip of the title track and the speed metal gallop of ‘King Of Storms’, each one peppered with double-kick drums, urgent rhythms and intricate, lightning-speed guitar-work. Every Ensiferum album is bursting at the seams with these excellent types of song and is almost a given.
But that’s just one side to Ensiferum, and as with previous albums, I’ve found that it’s on the songs where the band push the clean vocals to prominence, that the band in turn push their own boundaries further, trying different vocal approaches and giving that Ensiferum treatment to tracks with slightly different influences. For instance, there’s a hint of Eluveitie in the folk-laden ‘Feast Of The Valkiryes’ with it’s lead female vocal having an Anna Murphy-ness to it…although the the chorus is bordering on Running Wild type joviality! There’s a bit of classic Skyclad to ‘Don’t You Say’, especially in the jaunty tempo and vocal lines, then with all three vocal styles utilized, there’s a real Battlelore-edge to ‘I Will Never Kneel’.
There’s some great violin touches, as well as accordion on “Two Paths”, which although it’s now expected with Ensiferum, the traditional instruments always bring an added edge to some of the slightly more Nordic-folk orientated songs. There’s further evidence of the two vocal sides to Ensiferum with their choice to include alternate versions of ‘God Is Dead’ and ‘Don’t You Say’ – the “alternate versions” are actually predominantly harsh vocalled and ooze classic Ensiferum, showing once more how the band shy away from doing what is expected. By the way, both versions of each song are just as good as the other so I can totally see why they included both – they simply had to!
There’s no denying it, this is another resounding triumph for this genre-straddling tag-defying Metal band. Ensiferum manage to please long-term fans and invite new ones with constant ease. They deliver each song in their own style, full of power and aggression, mixed with melody and above all fun. Too right Ensiferum need no introduction, they let their music speak for them – They are Ensiferum.
(9/10 Andy Barker)