Album Reviews : Ensiferum – From Afar
Folk metal divides the heavy metal genre. Metal fans either love it, or ridicule bands proclaiming such a label. Regardless of any individuals stance on the topic, the genre from formed in the 90’s with bands such as Korpiklaani, Finntroll and (early era) Moonsorrow some of the founding members, however while the aforementioned founders all have their dedicated fans, one band – Ensiferum – tend to stand out from the pack as the most consistent performer. And now we have the band’s fourth full length album to devour – From Afar.
Holding a more mature feel, From Afar moulds symphonic elements into its established folk metal foundation. Going through a ‘settling in’ period since the departure of front man Jari Mäenpää, front man Petri Lindroos’ Bodom sounding vocals are inherently more suitable here than on Victory Songs, with the increase of cleaner vocals balancing out his death metal vocal cords. Surprisingly though, the further departure of founding keyboardist Meiju Enho seems to have had a extra positive affect on the band. Although many male fans may protest that the farewell to the elflike player as a good thing, new member Emmi Silvennoinen and producer Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish, Amorphis) additions to the band make sure his nicely constructed keyboard compositions are more often than not at the forefront of the listeners’ ears.
An Ensiferum album – or any folk metal album for that matter – wouldn’t be complete without an acoustic introduction, and while it’s no Ferrum Aeternum, the opener By the Dividing Stream delivers in and epic, mood setting way. Twightlight Tavern introduces the atypical ‘chant segment’ whereby all music ceases and the beauty of female voices in unison take over. And then we have the quite diverse Stone Cold Metal, with its spaghetti western/folk medley mash up succeeding the introductory folk rampage.
Perhaps the only area this album doesn’t match or better previous Ensiferum albums is the lack of a classic. Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but there is no Token of Time, no Victory Song, and certainly no Lai Lai Hei on this album. And while it also doesn’t match the consistency throughout that the self titled and Iron had, it is a step up from their previous and does attempt to introduce some new facets into their repertoire.
The fans will like it, and as long as they like the oft cheesy melodies of folk metal, new listeners will appreciate it too. It’s like folk elements of Finntroll met the symphonic Nightwish in a bar, but both their fathers were Ensiferum. A fucked up family for sure, but one that feels so right! 7.5/10
Album: From Afar
Genre: Folk Metal
Origin: Helsinki, Finland
Label: Spinefarm Records
Australian Distribution: Red Eye Records
1. By the Dividing Stream
2. From Afar
3. Twilight Tavern (Reviewers Choice)
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)