REVIEW: ENSIFERUM – “Two Paths”
The primary objective of listening to music is to have fun. True, there are several elements that bind us to the phonographic art like relatability or the emotions that are triggered by certain sounds. But nothing beats the simplicity of enjoyment through musical exposure.
Ensiferum is a band that you have most certainly heard of, so I won’t go into listing band members and say that they are one of the most prominent bands to come out of Finland; or blab about how they are the coolest jocks in the epic folk metal school. They are precious for playing plain, simple, and fun folk metal most of the time, with some glimpses of Viking here and there for the sake of those serious bits. So even if you don’t care for the genre or aren’t familiar with these guys, you should at least have a laid-back, straight-forward experience listening to them anyway.
The band’s latest campaign through the mythical forests, heroes tales and… well, metal, ‘Two Paths’, continues their legacy of being epic, energetic and true to their roots. Right from the first seconds of intro “Ajattomasta Unesta”, you get to feel the aura the group is trying to illustrate. And when “For Those About to Fight for Metal” kicks in, it becomes absolutely imperative that these guys know how to create fun, catchy and bombastic experiences. This – I dare say – is one of the best compositions in Ensiferum’s history, being not just a ton of fun, but also surprisingly grandiose. I kid you not: this song sums up every feeling and cultural nuance that make metal the beloved and rich genre that it is. From the colossal choirs accompanying the verses to the blood-pumping chorus, it is a perfect song and becomes more and more heart-warming every time you listen.
As the name suggests, the album basically takes two different paths in terms of songwriting. There are the epic portions, which tend to turn to the Viking/Pagan side of things, with Petri Lindroos leading the band with his harsh vocals and the sounds being more aggressive and “in your face”. Examples are the already mentioned opener, the dauntless “Way of the Warrior” and the relentless, yet sorrowful “I Will Never Kneel”. And then there are those times where the Finnish go full-on folk like the Skyclad-esque “Don’t You Say”, the magical “Feast with Valkyries”, and “God Is Dead”.
The songwriting is as good as any album from Ensiferum. While the amount of energy is high enough to feed an entire small town, the lyrics often hit a brick wall of creativity. The production value seems decent, but there are some parts where some riffs sound bland or the vocals are mixed in a strange way. But there are no visible problems when the unorthodox folk segments – like when Netta Skog’s accordion is more evident – come to light; which is, of course, the main proposal here. The core of what Ensiferum represents is maintained and still intact in the entire effort, but much like its predecessors ‘One Man Army’ and ‘Unsung Heroes’, it still slips in some occasions, mainly when it drastically changes from an epic and aggressive badassery to a joyful and medieval fair-like soundtrack, and vice-versa.
‘Two Paths’ is a good album in the same way that ‘Lethal Weapon’ is a good movie – when you have this amount of action and this blowing-up in your ears, you don’t need much story and complexity. Always true to their fanbase and their winning formula à la Sonata Artica-meets Children of Bodom-meets Turisas, Ensiferum didn’t create a mind-blowing, erudite form of art. Rather, they chose once again to just make you want to grab that drinking horn, fill it with mead and get drunk with some kick-ass epic folk metal.