Ensiferum: From Afar
The whistle blowing Vikings from Ensiferum have unleashed another slice of pagan metal upon us heathens. I always like the imagery of big bad Vikings in war armour playing songs on flutes and acoustic guitars around a campfire. It's so fitting. Not! You'll soon forget this imagery after the Fins from Ensiferum put the pedal to the metal after the first instrumental opening song. Terms like heroism and honour come to mind when digging further into the album. It also sounds pretty refreshing from your standard metal album.
My sincere interest is purged very quickly though. After one or two regular songs into the album, it all start to sound very cheesy and one sided. Why am I complaining anyway? I guess this is what their fans want. Ensiferum produce a Rhapsody type of fantasy power metal full of predictable lyrics about testosterone fuelled clansmen. You could consider it to be a mix of Rhapsody power metal with a Manowar attitude and Viking metal lyrics. The thing that does distinguish them from the likes of Rhapsody is that they mix clean vocals with grunting. So after my musical dignity is trampled to pieces by Ensiferum's Viking feet, I finally get a sense of relief when I hear the great experimental song called "Stone Cold Metal". Their trademark folk metal differs from the main road here and incorporates bluegrass-banjo-type sounds and even a hint of Ennio Morricone film scores. Great stuff! The follow-up to "Stone Cold Metal" is an anthem like song called "Smoking Ruins" and does not deviate much from the other songs on offer on this disc. This song, however, is worth mentioning thanks to the great chorus. "Live your life bravely my first born son. On battlefields fight, don't run." Argh! There's also a Viking in me obviously.
For the people who really adore folk metal and Viking metal, this will surely rock your boat, because this is classic Ensiferum. I'm afraid I need some more diversity to my music than this. The endless rambling of the double bass, just doesn't cut it for me. I really enjoyed the two songs that I mentioned. Too bad I can't review just those two songs, because then my rating would've been considerably higher.
1. The Dividing Stream
2. From Afar
3. Twilight Tavern
4. Heathen Throne
5. Elusive Reaches
6. Stone Cold Metal
7. Smoking Ruins
8. Tumman Virran Taa
9. The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)
Added: December 13th 2009
Reviewer: Christ Arts
Related Link: Band Website
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Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-12-13 11:58:56
Ensiferum deliver another stab of energetic Viking/Pagan metal on From Afar, their latest release and first for SpineFarm Records. Not much has changed as far as the Ensiferum formula goes-From Afar is chock full of symphonic, speedy metal, with just enough Finnish folk elements to keep things varied and ethnic sounding. Of all the bands that troll in the 'folk-metal' spectrum, Ensiferum are certainly the most symphonic and epic sounding, evident in such solid fare as the raging title track, the 11-minute "Heathen Throne", the 'raise your beer glass' "Stone Cold Metal", and of course, the closing "The Longest Journey", a tune that mixes Viking metal and folk with movie soundtrack bombast . If you really want to get to the essence of Finnish folk, look no further than "Smoking Ruins", a real fun tune that will quickly get you on your feet and dancing the huumpa.
From Afar is a real fun listen, with plenty of heavy riffs, huge keyboard orchestrations, clean & growling vocals, and epic arrangements. It's easily one of the better offerings in the Viking/Pagan/Folk metal sub-genre you'll hear this year.
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