Ensiferum- Victory Songs (Review)
Album: Victory Songs
“Another Great Release from Ensiferum”
Ensiferum have always been my favorite folk metal band, ever since hearing their debut (which was my first full folk metal album and one of my favorite metal albums in general). They have never released a bad album and are one of the most consistent modern metal acts. “Victory Songs” is certainly not an exception to their trend of greatness. It’s furious and everything an Ensiferum fan should want. The album is a huge improvement over the EP (“Dragonheads”) that came before it, and that wasn’t a bad release in any sense of the word. I’m not sure that I enjoy it as much as their other full lengths, but “Victory Songs” doesn’t disappoint in any way. It’s essential for an Ensiferum fan.
The instruments are more reminiscent of straightforward melodic death metal on “Victory Songs” than they are on the debut or on “Iron”. This is not a bad thing by any means, but they’ve lost a little bit of their uniqueness. Something that has improved, however, is the acoustic/folk guitar work. On earlier releases, their clean guitars weren’t very memorable. This is vastly improved on “Victory Songs”. Maybe it’s because they incorporate it a lot more here, or maybe they’ve just gotten better with age. Either way it’s a noticeable improvement. The guitar riffs are a lot better than on “Dragonheads”; they are much more memorable and better written. There are also tons of great guitar solos to be found on the release, some of the best they’ve done. Overall, I’m very impressed with the guitars on this album.
Petri’s vocals sound great, as well. He is an absolute beast on this album, a huge improvement from the EP which was his first release with the band. The dual harsh vocals on “Ahti” really stand out, as the bassist is a good harsh vocalist himself. He and Petri mix very well together, I’m glad that they made a song like this. The clean vocals are definitely better than on “Dragonheads”, perhaps because they’re used more sparingly here. They’re still not at the level of Jari’s vocals, but I enjoy them a lot more than on “Dragonheads”. These clean vocalizations sound very good mixed in with the harsh vocals.
The bass work is really good, too. I love the little bass/guitar bit during “Deathbringer from the Sky”. It’s audible enough, but not super loud in every song. Since this is a folk metal album, I’m especially glad that the bass pokes its head out from time to time… so many folk metal band forget the bass in favor of keyboards or traditional instruments. The drums are respectable, but don’t exactly stand out to me in particular. They’re moderately technical, and I recall a few interesting parts on the album. The keyboards provide the melodies and backdrops needed, but they aren’t too flashy. I’m not always one for super prominent keys, so this is a good thing. Overall, the instrumental work is great though not as technical as on their previous full-lengths. Also notable is the great production. It’s not too polished sounding, which is great (especially for a modern album). The instrumentation is very audible. The vocals and guitars, in particular, sound very good.
The songs are also generally much faster than what was shown on the EP, though some of them keep the relaxed vibe showcased there. This is something that I really respect about “Victory Songs”; none of the songs sound the same. They are linked together by that folk metal catchiness that Ensiferum have always been good at. There’s also no messing around on this album (which I love, of course). The songs race out of the starting gates, and know just what they’re doing. They aren’t muddled in boring riffs or generic intros. It’s a very well written album.
Now we should definitely talk about the individual songs themselves. The intro, “Ad Victoriam”, works really well with the true opener “Blood is the Price of Glory”. It is an excellent song, and one of the most furious on the release. “Deathbringer from the Sky” is one of the more popular songs, and for good reason. I’ve already mentioned the cool part with the bass guitar, but that’s the best part of the whole song. The chorus is really good, with a combination of clean and harsh vocalizations. “Ahti” features a harsh vocal duet. I like it a lot, and it stands as one of the most unique tracks on the album. “Wanderer” is another unique song. Most of the singing is clean, and there is a lot of acoustic/clean guitar work. “One More Magic Potion” is another great one; the lyrics are absolutely ridiculous. Nevertheless, it’s a great song. I love the folky intro. “Victory Song” is the grand epic of the release, and it’s a good one for sure. The two songs I didn’t mention, “Raised by the Sword” and “The New Dawn”, are both excellent as well. None of the songs are even close to being bad.
Overall, “Victory Songs” is an excellent release in the folk metal genre. For a newcomer to Ensiferum, I would recommend their debut or “Iron” over this one. They’re both better releases to me, but I’ve seen several people who prefer this album. Therefore, it’s not really a bad place to start. Instrumentally, it’s more of a traditional melodic death metal album than their earlier work (excluding the EP). The clean guitar work is absolutely incredible, much better than on any of their older albums. Folk metal fans will probably really enjoy this one. It’s a great album, and one of the best in the genre. I’ve given it a great score of 94/100. It’s not really as good as the full-lengths that came before, but it’s still great. I’d probably rank “Victory Songs” about equally to “From Afar” (the album that came afterwards). I hope they continue their trend of greatness, and I’m anticipating their next album (crossing my fingers that it comes out this year!).
Best songs: “Blood is the Price of Glory”, “Deathbringer from the Sky”, “Ahti”, “One More Magic Potion”, and “Victory Song”. The others are good, too.
There aren’t any real negatives.
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This review was originally posted by me at: http://theheavyreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/ensiferum-victory-songs.html