Parken, Copenhagen, DEN - 14/5
Written by: MST on 11/09/2012 19:37:02
Ensiferum have been spewing out quality folk metal albums for over a decade. Members have come and gone, but lead guitarist and only remaining founding member Markus Toivonen has kept the band together and made sure that the band released a new excellent album every 2-3 years. Following the critically acclaimed "From Afar" from 2009, the Finns present to us their 5th studio album, "Unsung Heroes", an album that has had a somewhat tough reception upon its release.
As an Ensiferum fan, it is immediately clear to me why some people dislike the album. Naturally, most of the band's sound is the same as always: great guitar melodies, epic choruses, orchestal music in some of the songs and the obligatory lyrics about great battles and heroic warriors. One thing is missing though: the energy. "Unsung Heroes" is remarkably slow compared to any other Ensiferum album. Instead, Ensiferum have chosen to rely on their amazing guitar melodies and heavier use of clean vocals courtesy of Markus Toivonen, bassist Sami Hinkka and an array of guest musicians including opera choirs and a female soprano opera singer.
The result is an album that, had it not been released by Ensiferum, would have received a lot more positive reviews. But because everyone expects Ensiferum to write energetic songs, this album just feels wrong at first. If you're able to get past that though, you're in for a treat. The riffs and melodies are some of the best that Toivonen has ever written, and the song structures and clever use of clean vocals make the songs catchy as hell, although the clean vocals are used slightly too often for my taste. The two songs that were released before the album's release, "In My Sword I Trust" and "Burning Leaves", showcase the album the best with their mid to slow tempo drums, clean vocal choruses and powerful guitar-driven verses. The album isn't completely without energy though, as "Retribution Shall Be Mine" and "Pohjola" are slightly faster overall and even contain short sections with blasting drums. But then, the three ballads, "Celestial Bond", "Star Queen (Celestial Bond Part II)" and "Last Breath" bring the overall tempo and level of aggression further down with both male and female clean vocals and slow, melodic guitar play.
Album closer "Passion Proof Power" is a 17-minute epic divided into several parts, bringing every single part of the album together in one final massive track. All the different vocal types, drum tempos and moods are mixed together perfectly in one hell of a climax. Other reviewers have said that "Unsung Heroes" will leave you with no desire to listen to the album again, but I beg to differ. Sure, "Unsung Heroes" isn't perfect like the band's debut and doesn't mix epic guitar melodies with energetic aggression like on "From Afar", but if you're able to accept that Ensiferum are trying something new, embrace this album without expectations and let it overwhelm you.
Download: In My Sword I Trust, Burning Leaves, Pohjola, Passion Proof Power
For The Fans Of: Turisas, Suidakra, Wintersun
Release date: 27.08.2012