Originally written by Erik Thomas.
2006 was a pretty dry year for mail clad, folk, pagan metal, yet already in 2007 we have albums from the genre’s mainstays: Moonsorrow, Finntroll and Ensiferum, with Turisas on slate for a 2007 album also.
Break out the chain mail codpiece.
After founding member Jari Mäenpää left to form Wintersun, I was curious to see how Ensiferum would follow up the excellent Iron, even more so as Norther’s Petri Lindross joined the band. Would Lindross, ‘Bodom up’ the band and take them down the same more commercial territory as the now rather lame Norther? (Who once were in the same breath as the above bands) Apparently not, as it looks like Ensiferum is now Lindross’ outlet for his more primal, heathen side.
Quite simply, Victory Songs rocks. The synth flocked Viking/power metal seems to have been given a swift kick in the ass, while still retaining the Finnish sense of pomp and cheese that Ensiferum and their peers do so well. Epic, choir filled, galloping, and rousing, Victory Songs is a tad faster paced than Iron, but still no less majestic. Tracks like the fantastic “Blood is the Price of Glory”, “Raised By the Sword” and particularly first single/video (and album standout) “Ahti” have blast beat-lite filled romps of pure grin inducing self indulgence. While certainly power metal at its heart due to some clean vocals of lone original member Markus Toivonen, the slightly blackened rasps of Lindross and the overall pace of the album while having appeal to fans of Dragonforce, Hammerfall, Rhapsody of Fire and such, has more of an extreme edge. It’s this balance between power metal and a more urgent folk flocked assault that keeps the album invigorating from start to finish. The folk element isn’t as ethnic as say Finntroll, but more sweeping and tinkling fantasy/music score sounding, as keyboardist (and former Finntroll tour member) Meiju Enho keeps things distinctly lively.
The melodic, enjoyable and upbeat pace of the tracks (i.e., the rollicking and appropriately titled “The New Dawn”), even when delivering a ballad like “Wanderer” or the ten minute epic closer “Victory Song” never seems to wane, as Ensiferum seem to be coping with loss of Mäenpää more than admirably, and the end result is an album that doesn’t miss a beat from the previous material. Now, let’s see what Turisas can do to answer this clarion call of metallic majesty.
Looks like my top 10 for 2007 will have a distinctly Finnish flavor.