Metal Monday: Unsung Heroes Ensiferum Return

posted in: Reviews & PlaylistsRock

When thinking of folk metal bands, a handful of names likely come to mind, but certainly no band that has been as consistently great or well-known as Ensiferum. Although Moonsorrow and Eluveitie are fantastic, they still rank far behind Ensiferum. Recently Ensiferum released their fifth full-length album, Unsung Heroes. How does it stand up against the band’s previous four releases? Surprisingly well, actually. And what a rare feat it is in metal’s pantheon for a band such as Ensiferum to put out five albums in eleven years and not have one weak album among them.

For those unfamiliar with Ensiferum, their sound is best described as music for modern-day vikings (who probably also listen to Amon Amarth) with influences from Celtic and Medieval folk music styles applied to a more extreme version of power metal.  Flutes, recorders, fiddles, kantele, and more”the diverse instrumentation help folk metal bands like Ensiferum incorporate more than just the musical aspect of folk music. They also do so in regards to textures. But please don’t forget the metal parts. Even though there’s a heaping serving of folk in Ensiferum’s mix, they still shred. Most of the songs feature pretty quick tempos and guitar riffs for days.

Ensiferum’s new effort, Unsung Heroes, is no different. The album offers more songs about triumph, fighting for what you believe in, and wondering about the afterlife. There’s even the one song in Finnish, which is no surprise for the Helsinki band. Lyrically, Unsung Heroes seems to follow a storyline of a warrior amongst his many conquests in battle (“Tyrants and cowards for metal you will kneel / In my sword I trust / ’til justice and reason we’ll wield / In my sword I trust“) who was forgotten not long after his heroic achievements (“Unsung heroes / Forgotten valour / Unknown soldiers / Entombed in time“), left to ponder his choices in life (“Where to find the truth? / Questions linger through time / Unbreakable will and inquiring mind / Have always been the seeker’s guide“).

The biggest change for Ensiferum on this album is the quality of the recording and production. Previously most of their albums were a bit more more noisy and rough (but still sounded great). They’ve smoothed out the sound a lot with Unsung Heroes, to create a much smoother and more dynamic blend between the folk instrumentation, metal instrumentation, harsh vocals and clean vocals”striking an ideal balance in the mix for each of the major elements involved. For those that love the more savage nature of Ensiferum’s older recordings, this album will most likely not sit well and could even turn off some longtime fans.

All in all, Unsung Heroes is another solid album from one of the premier folk metal bands around. It’s a perfect soundtrack to conquests, fighting dragons, viking adventures, or simply watching Lord of the Rings. Due to the newer, slightly more polished sound this time around, some old school fans of their might not be so enthused about the album. Fortunately, the band will likely garner a bunch more new fans in return. If you’re curious, the lead single’s official video “In My Sword I Trust” is streaming below”grab some mead and sing along!