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Monday, December 21, 2009

Ensiferum: From Afar

Year released: 2009
Official website: www.ensiferum.com
Label: Spinefarm Records


1. By the Dividing Stream [3:50]

2. From Afar [4:51]

3. Twilight Tavern [5:38]

4. Heathen Throne [11:09]

5. Elusive Reaches [3:26]

6. Stone Cold Metal [7:25]

7. Smoking Ruins [6:40]

8. Tumman Virran Taa [0:52]

9. The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part I
I) [12:49]


Y'know, these Nordic languages really have some flair to them. Ensiferum sounds wayy cooler than "Sword-bearer" doesn't it? I bet they've got a much cooler name for "metal music reviewer" too. I really must go find out. But I digress. From afar, one could pretty much already see the awesomeness of this Finnish folk metal band (ok bad pun) and this latest album of theirs definitely shows that they are back on track again as a cohesive and creative group after former frontman Jari Mäenpää had left them to form Wintersun. Petri Lindroos reprises his role as Jari's replacement for a second album while From Afar marks a milestone for keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen as she had only officially joined Ensiferum as a full member during the recording of this album.

Despite an ever-changing line-up during the course of their not-that-freaking-long history, Ensiferum's quality has mysteriously never quite wavered, and this album is no exception. A very delicate balance of epic-ness and catchy melodies sums up the core of this work and its very pleasant to listen to. There is heavy use of keyboards, which might not be to the liking of some people, but if you've been reading zetalambmary long enough, you'd know I have a thing for 'boards and the only lady of the group plays her part very well. Fast songs like "Twilight Tavern" and slower ones like "Smoking Ruins" are equally enjoyable as far as I'm concerned. I've never been fully appreciative of long-ish songs but "Heathen Throne" was actually quite excellent for its changing tempos and its atmospheric effect. The heroic viking feeling in me was quite amusing after the song ended but I cherish the fact that I wasn't bored at any point during the song, which is rare for such of its length. "The Longest Journey", on the other hand, was much less interesting, particularly for its dreary 4-minute plus end of soft instrumental playing, which made for a rather disappointing end to the whole album I think.

The quirky "Stone Cold Metal" is probably the song that sticks out a bit but I personally liked it if not for the sheer amount of stuff it contained, from whistles to epic sounding monologues and is that a banjo I hear playing? Overall, I feel the awesome thing about From Afar is that so many instruments were involved and most of them managed to shine, so bass wasn't very prominent (sorry Sami Hinkka..) but that's what makes the album so melodic.

From left to right: Markus Toivonen (guitar, backing vocals), Janne Parviainen (drums), Emmi Silvennoinen (keyboards, backing vocals), Sami Hinkka (bass, backing vocals) and Petri Lindroos (guitar, harsh vocals)

Overall, this is quite a strong effort from Ensiferum and the music is simply astounding. And that's the good thing about harsh vocals, you can't really make out what the dude is singing the first time round without reading the lyrics. So if you're feeling kinda weirded out by the whole folk influence, all about magic and war and what not, then hey, don't read the lyrics. I personally didn't really put too much concentration into what was being sung, I just like the fact that Pete's growls sound stronger than most of the times I've heard him in Norther.

In fact, here's 2 videos. The Lord of The Rings setting one (which I really think needs some work on. This sorta thing looks really crappy without that magic epic touch to it) and one taken with live footage from one of their performances.

Verdict: 9/10

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