Wednesday, 12 November 2008

CD Review: Iron, by Ensiferum (2004)

As an example of how good folk metal can be, it is difficult to find a much better album than Iron by Ensiferum. On just their second studio CD, Finland's masters of the folk metal genre pull all the elements together to deliver a masterful collection of songs that will likely always be held up as a benchmark.

It is clear that producer Flemming Rasmussen, who worked on CDs such as Metallica's Master of Puppets and ...And Justice For All, provided Ensiferum with a professional polish that significantly raises the quality of the material.

Track 9, the appropriately titled LAI LAI HEI (yes, all in CAPS) encapsulates all that is good with the band and the CD. A mixture of slow and fast tempos, a majestically and memorably haunting melody that develops into numerous variations, gradually building to an epic chorus. No matter the sub-genre, melodic heavy metal does not get much better than this.

Most other songs on the CD achieve similar lofty heights. Opener Ferrum Aeternum is a shortish but weighty instrumental that casts Ennio Morricone in metal. Title track Iron introduces a battle-ready anthem that recalls the best of Manowar. Lost In Despair demonstrates the beautiful power that Ensiferum can deliver at a slow tempo -- a terrific sign of maturity. And Into Battle introduces a galloping pace and a good build-up that seems to be content until it explodes into an extended jaw-dropping sonic solo that entirely redefines just how good the song is.

Unfortunately, someone saw fit to throw in the un-listenable Tears into this CD, in a stunningly misguided attempt to introduce smarmy vocals and a lame ballad into the mix. It is a miserable failure, made all the more apparent due to the overwhelmingly good material throughout the rest of the CD.

At least the 2008 re-release version of the CD removes the bad taste by including Track 11 as a Bonus Track, a cover of Metallica's Battery. There is little that anyone can do to reduce the impact of this song, and Ensiferum respectfully give it a faithful and slightly amped-up treatment that hits the spot -- just like the rest of Iron.


Jari Maenpaa - Vocals, Guitars
Markus Toivonen - Guitars
Oliver Fokin - Drums
Jukka-Pekka Miettinen - Bass
Meijo Enho - Keyboards

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Ferrum Aeternum - 9
2. Iron - 9 *See Audio Clip Below*
3. Sword Chant - 8
4. Mourning Heart - Interlude (no rating, short interlude)
5. Tale of Revenge - 8
6. Lost In Despair - 9
7. Slayer Of Light - 8
8. Into Battle - 9
9. LAI LAI HEI - 10
10. Tears - 4
11. Battery - 10

Average: 8.40

Produced by Ensiferum and Flemming Rasmussen
Mastered by Mika Jussila

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.

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