Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes
Spinefarm Records
Failed Experimental Folk (and supposedly melodic death) "Metal"
11 songs (65'10)
Release year: 2012
Ensiferum, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Chris

I've taken way too much time to get into this album, I know, it's about time right ? :) Well, there might be a reason for that, more about this in the meaty part of the review

Let's make one thing clear from the beginning, From Afar, Ensiferum previous album, is a majestic melodeath masterpiece, and their best album since the debut, an era where Ensiferum lineup had Jari Maaenpa (Wintersun) in it. And to tell you the truth, before From Afar, I was mostly entertained by the band when it came to listening the self titled debut. But on From Afar the band proved they could deliver and stand on their own, I was psyched really, songs like Twilight Tavern are amongst my all-time best melodeath songs. But enough about the past, let's come to the present day. After a small folky intro, the band starts the album with In My Sword I Trust, and I where I expected a great song from its name, I got an okay song, but one where the choice of vocals (the particularly growly) weren't really to my taste to say the least. I find myself liking the clean vocals better than anything else in that song (and album really), and that's a shame cause I've always been a fan from Petri's vocals since Norther's early days (Dreams of Endless War is still one of my all-time favorite albums !). Other than that the song has a good tempo and it ends strong, even if the song never takes as much speed as I would have liked to. And here lies the biggest problem of this Unsung Heroes, it is mellow, and even painfully slow at times. Where are the galloping rhythm and furiously fast guitar riffs ? I don't know but there aren't many of them on the album, instead we get some slow folk melodies like the second song and title track Unsung Heroes. Don't get me wrong, if you like slow as snail mid-tempos, then maybe you will rejoice, myself I'm disappointed by how mellow this all sounds. I want more Twilight Tavern and less Unsung Heroes please (maybe it should have been left unsung... OK that's a cheap shot :) , or is it ?).

There are some nice moments in the album, but there are no wow moments, and in the end it's an okay album to have in the back, if you like Celtic folkish stuff with a bit of guitar work to make it "metal", it's fine, but that's not what I crave from Ensiferum, and I'd bet that the sales should reflect this as well, and maybe the band will have learned a valuable lesson here. Somehow I like the guitar melody and mood of Burning Leaves, and it's solo is also quite enchanting, even if on the easy side here and there. Celestial Bond is (sweet) female vocals on a folk background and minimalistic sound. It's cutesy and all, but didn't it say metal on the style somewhere ? OK that's cheap too, Rhapsody and even Blind Guardian have done this sort of things in the past, but usually it was in between two galloping shock wave of songs. With a name like Retribution Shall Be Mine, you'd think the beat will get up, and it does, THANK Christ ! A speed metal / melodeath beat, F-I-N-A-L-L-Y ! The riffs is furious, the beat intense, the vocals growly (somehow, something happened to the vocals, they changed but I don't think it's for the best, too much mediums and low growls for my taste, bring the COB like shouts back I say !), finally a good fast song. But even though the elements are here, the song is no masterpiece, it's a highlight, somehow (not a fan of the keys solo, the guitar one while short helps to compensate). Thne we get Star Queen which is Celestial Bond part II (give me a break !), another slow ballad type, this type with clean medium range male vocals. It is an okay song but it just serves to highlight my previous points. Two tracks later another cutesy folky track with some nice orchestration and choirs here and there, but again sloooooooooow. The last song Passion Proof Flower is maybe one of the thing that redeems the album (that is if you managed to stay attentive, or should I say patient until there), clocking at 17 minutes it has slow and faster moments, some Nightwish vocals (Tarja style) attempt around the 5th minute (and later on too) followed by some welcomed speed-up and nice distorted guitar riff that gives the song a bit of balls, something it desperately needed at this point. The song is epic at times, thanks to some great guitar work but is it too little too late ? I think so. The limited edition contains a cover song as a bonus track, and I must say that it's choice kinda highlight the weird choice the band decided to go with Unsung Heroes, Bamboleo ? Really ? I mean REALLY REALLY ? Okay :)... At least it's metal and fast, so there's that, but the piggish-style (or was it an attempt at monster) vocals are bad taste if you ask me... maybe a fun joke song to put at a party for a what the frak moment :), nothing more I'm afraid.

It really sounds like an easy, even lazy album somehow, and definitely not up to par after the fantastic From Afar (quite the let down if you compare those two). I'm not even sure I would have recognized Ensiferum if I heard it for the first time not knowing what I was listening. If you take it for what it is (or can be), a nice background music album with not many surprise or thrills and an inherent lack of tempo and metal : it can be decent at best while there are some really nice moments here and there, but they are too few. The folky mood is over present, and maybe too much of it this time around ? Don't get me wrong, I like me some folk in my metal, hte operative word being M-E-T-A-L, a commodity that is lacking a little too much for my taste here when there is the name Ensiferum on the cover. It just lacks two essential elements that any melodeath fan craves in my opinion : power and speed ! It has folk in spades, and hopefully will go down in the bands history as a "failed" experiment attempt. But when you compare this with both From Afar and Wintersun's Time, this is slow, soft and too mellow for the band. Fortunately it's quite digestible and though I'm probably a little too nice with my quoting, it reflects the step-back that this album represent in Ensiferum's career nonetheless. An album I have already forgotten, and for the soccer fans out there : yellow card to Ensiferum, you've been warned !

P.S : I really need to design a "disappointment of the year" Skeleton for the site, this one would get it

Killing Songs :
Retribution Shall Be Mine, Passion Proof Flower and I wouldn't call them killing but I like Burning Leaves and In My Sword I Trust OK.
Chris quoted 59 / 100
Milan quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Ensiferum that we have reviewed:
Ensiferum - One Man Army reviewed by Andy and quoted 76 / 100
Ensiferum - From Afar reviewed by Kyle and quoted 94 / 100
Ensiferum - Victory Songs reviewed by Cody and quoted 85 / 100
Ensiferum - Dragonheads (EP) reviewed by Kayla and quoted no quote
Ensiferum - Iron reviewed by Jason and quoted 96 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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