Ensiferum - Dragonheads (EP)
Spinefarm Records
Melodic Viking Metal
6 songs (25'55)
Release year: 2006
Ensiferum, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Kayla

I’m just going to set one thing out right now: Petri Lindroos (Norther, Ensiferum) is not Jari Maenpaa (ex-Ensiferum, Wintersun). As anyone who has heard any of Wintersun or Ensiferum’s other releases knows, Maenpaa has a distinctive voice, one that suited Ensiferum’s style of music very well. Lindroos is a perfectly good vocalist, and does quite well in Norther, but doesn’t quite match Maenpaa’s impact.

Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, let’s move on to the music. Unfortunately, it seems that Maenpaa didn’t just take his vocals with him to Wintersun. That frenetic quality in Ensiferum that resulted from the combination of fast, ascending and descending riffs and liberal use of kickdrums is missing in Dragonheads. In fact, if you listen to Iron, Dragonheads and Wintersun in succession, it becomes blatantly clear what elements of Ensiferum’s sound came directly from Maenpaa. Dragonheads steps up the folk elements, and instead of relying on the riffs for a sense of epicness (look ma, a neologism), it relies instead on synth melodies much higher in the mix than before, and a greater prominence of keys, brass and strings (there’s even a harp on the title track). The riffs and guitar melodies themselves have also been slowed down and made much milder than on previous Ensiferum releases as well. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, when compared to a masterpiece like Iron, it doesn’t quite measure up. It ends up feeling more like a Ren Faire dance circle than a Viking horde.

Things begin in much this manner, the opener and title track attempting a grand entrance into a marching riff with a heavily acoustic melody floating over top. However, it sets off at a fairly sedate pace, and although things pick up at a bridge about two-thirds of the way through, it suffers the most from the Ren Faire atmosphere. Warrior’s Quest and White Storm are valiant attempts to recapture the aforementioned frenetic quality, but ultimately fail in their endeavor. The effect is too soft and mild; there’s no edge to them the way there is to songs like Goblins’ Dance or Sword Chant. Kalevala Melody is akin to the mostly-acoustic breaks found on their other two albums. Into Hiding is a strange song. It begins with a short, fairly nondescript intro, then Lindroos bursts in with a deep death growl, and suddenly we hear a riff that could best be described as doomified Nile gone Viking metal. The Egyptian touch goes away for a while during the verse, then comes back in the chorus, where it, plus the contrast between the deeper death vocals and a harmonizing clean chorus, puts me in mind of Moonspell a la The Antidote. The last track, Finnish Medley, seems to be just that – a medley of traditional Finnish folk tunes, though I’m certainly no expert on the subject.

This is not to say, of course, that Dragonheads is bad, by any means. Listened to on its own merits, it’s a decent piece of work. Warrior’s Quest and White Storm are fairly solid, and Into Hiding is interesting and enjoyable, even if it doesn’t really sound like the Ensiferum we’ve known previously. That’s really the caveat here – taken as some random folk/Viking band putting out an EP, it’s not a bad piece of music at all. However, if you’re expecting anything like what can be found on their self-titled or Iron, you’re in for a disappointment. If you can forget the name attached to it, this one’s worth your time. If you can’t, wait for Wintersun’s next album instead.

Killing Songs :
White Storm
Kayla quoted no quote
Other albums by Ensiferum that we have reviewed:
Ensiferum - One Man Army reviewed by Andy and quoted 76 / 100
Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes reviewed by Chris and quoted 59 / 100
Ensiferum - From Afar reviewed by Kyle and quoted 94 / 100
Ensiferum - Victory Songs reviewed by Cody and quoted 85 / 100
Ensiferum - Iron reviewed by Jason and quoted 96 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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