Ensiferum - _Unsung Heroes_
(Spikefarm Records, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
I was giddy with pleasure when I saw the album art for Ensiferum's fifth album _Unsung Heroes_. Like some allegorical pagan painting, the cover depicts an elder warrior gesturing under a crimson nightfall. The now famous graphic designer Necrolord has used the combination of bearded figure, sword and shield that has been used on every single major Ensiferum release since the early '00s. While the covers could be considered slightly silly and generic, they act as a beacon, guiding listeners into records that boast some of the most fun and anthemic metal in recent memory. I was told to bring my battle mail.

A few weeks ago I expressed my budding love for folk metal. In that review I also admitted how I still held the sound as a genre where certain rules and regulation would be followed. I know what I am getting into when listening to folk metal; and unlike black, doom, or even death, it is a sound which offers little surprises, yet high adventure if administered correctly. _Unsung Heroes_ is less of an album and more of an escape into the landscapes of sixth century Europe, aboard a longship and flanked by brothers in arms. I expected little from _Unsung Heroes_ and in return was awarded a lot.

Ensiferum has not seriously changed their style since their inception more than a decade ago. This dedication to sound contrasts sharply with the fact that only one original member remains, with former musicians contributing branches to a growing tree of Finnish metal. Markus Toivonen remains, and now in his early 30s, sees the release of a new record for a new decade. It is times like this, that tradition and steadfast commitment breathes life into albums.

I enjoyed _Unsung Heroes_ more than other Ensiferum records. This is strange because the sound of each record is nearly the same. Despite the presence of folk interludes, grand narratives and tendency to focus on battle themes, _Unsung Heroes_ feels competent and far from ever tiring. "Burning Leaves", in terms of singles, feels to the same classic standard as "Guardians of Fate" from the band's debut. I cannot tell whether the band is getting more accessible or I love nearly everything they do.

Even a low point like the sixteen minute closer "Passion Proof Power" has a genuine charm that supersedes odd fitting dialogue and crescendos. Ensiferum has an ability to take ballads and simple war songs to the level of heroic myth. There is a reason why this band is popular in terms of melodic death and folk metal: Ensiferum has a sound which people identify with. It is fun, engaging and optimistic. There is little I can say because I cannot stop smiling.

(article published 13/8/2012)

5/2/2015 J Semprich 7 Ensiferum - One Man Army
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