|Review: Ensiferum - From Afar|
Label: SpineFarm Records
Year released: 2009
Genre: Viking Metal
Review online: September 28, 2009
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.2/5 (84.05%) (74 Votes)
I really cannot believe how good this album is, and I have been spinning it for weeks trying to figure out how the space/time continuum got twisted up to the point where Ensiferum have produced such a damned fine album. I have had people pushing this band on me at the beginning, and while I liked their debut, after a while I found it shallow and not as entertaining as it seemed at first. Iron was a weak follow-up, and I thought Victory Songs was pretty damned boring. What I'm saying is that Ensiferum embodied for me everything that could go wrong with Viking Metal, substituting surface gloss for content and flashy playing for musical depth. If Skyforger are an aged, bronze-hilted Viking sword, Ensiferum was a big plastic one with VIKINGS emblazoned down the side in glittery writing.
But this album I can't argue with, finally this band has ditched the lame Children of Boredom ripoff songwriting and the hyperactive riffs and turned out a for-real Viking Metal album. This is like a whole new band. This time you get big, epic riffs lashed to genuinely powerful songwriting, producing not one, but two tracks over ten minutes long that are absolutely magnificent. "Heathen Throne" and the even more amazing "The Longest Journey" are what Viking Metal is supposed to be all about – breathtaking riffs, crushing heaviness, and far-north atmosphere that can freeze your balls off. In between we get more pagan hammers like "Twilight Tavern", "Elusive Reaches" and "Smoking Ruins", not to mention the blazing title track. Vocals switch between the standard growls and quite a lot of clean singing that works amazingly well. Rather than wanking all over the place, the keys add orchestral sweep and real scope to these songs. The only thing I have to complain about is the interlude in the middle of "Stone Cold Metal" where they launch into a folk reel beat that unfortunately sounds like they are about to play the theme from Rawhide. It's really out of place and stops the song pretty cold. But that's just one spot on an otherwise amazing album.
It seems like Ensiferum have finally grasped what Viking Metal is supposed to be about, and in the process they have graduated from a lame caricature band to a real bunch of Norse warriors. The performances are energetic and surprising, and frontman Petri Lindroos has really stepped up his game, sounding harsher and more violent than I thought he possibly could. If you are not a fan of Ensiferum, I recommend giving From Afar the chance to change your mind.
|Other related information on the site|
|Review: Ensiferum (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)|
Review: From Afar (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)
Review: Two Paths (reviewed by Bruno Medeiros)
Review: Unsung Heroes (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Unsung Heroes (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Victory Songs (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Video: In My Sword I Trust
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