Tuesday, 19 August 2008

CD Review: Ensiferum, by Ensiferum (2001)


The debut CD from Finnish quartet Ensiferum is a long, 13-track journey that exposes both the band's strengths and weaknesses. Ensiferum are very clear about what they do: folk metal mixing traditional power elements with significant percussion and tunes that can only be set in the middle of a Viking forest with the company of either an army of swordsmen preparing for a battle or a band of merry goblins and elves dancing away. If this sounds strange, it is, and on some tracks it works well.

Five of the songs on the CD achieve a combination of good quality song-writing and effective melody. Windrider is probably the best of the pack, but Hero in a Dream, Token of Time, Treacherous Gods, and Battle Song are also quite good. The weaknesses start to emerge with the CD going on and on; the song list would have survived very nicely had Abandoned, Eternal Wait and Goblins' Dance been jettisoned overboard, and there are still four more tracks that are merely OK or just above average.

Ensiferum try a couple of power ballads (Abandoned and Eternal Wait), but almost by definition, folk metal and power ballads do not mix very well, and the band comes across as quite amateurish on these efforts. Jari Maenpaa's rather limited vocal range is painfully exposed on these tracks; he does much better when mixed-in with the myriad of other percussive sounds on the faster songs.

Ensiferum add an enjoyable streak of colour to today's heavy metal. There is a lot to like about this record, and although none of the tracks soar to greatness, there is enough on this CD to make it worth a listen.

Band:

Jari Maenpaa - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Markus Toivonen - Guitar
Jukka-Pekka Miettinen - Bass
Oliver Fokin - Drums

Song list (Ratings out of 10):

1. Intro - no rating (short instrumental)
2. Hero in a Dream - 8
3. Token of Time - 8
4. Guardians of Fate - 7
5. Old Man - 7
6. Little Dreamer - 7
7. Abandoned - 6
8. Windrider - 9
9. Treacherous Gods - 8
10. Eternal Wait - 5
11. Battle Song - 8
12. Goblins' Dance - 6
13. Into Hiding - 7

Average: 7.17

Recorded by Tuomo Valtonen
Mastered by Mika Jussila

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