Album Reviews: Unsung Heroes by Ensiferum

One thing I really appreciate in music is when a band uses an album title that really fits with what is contained on the record.  Such is the case with Ensiferum’s new release, Unsung Heroes.  Throughout all of Ensiferum’s previous releases my favorite tracks off each album weren’t when they turned the speed dial to 11 and galloped forth with abandon.  It was when they slowed down a bit to a mid to fast-mid pace and really took their time to let their killer melodies sink in.  Songs like “The Wanderer” off of Victory Songs or “Smoking Ruins” off of From Afar only came as a few on each record, but always shined as the unsung heroes on their respective albums amid all of the blistering quality songs surrounding them.  While there are some classic, lightning speed tunes on Unsung Heroes there is also a definite homage paid to those mid paced, anthemic songs that really made their past albums stand out.

Along with paying respect to those battle ballads the album title also reflects on Ensiferum’s sound as a whole.  I can think of no better word to describe this band other than ‘heroic metal’.  Apart from the usual fast and harsh vocals there is a lot more baritone singing and huge choral vocals on the album this time around.  Paired with lyrics about heroes, their journeys, and huge battles this aspect really helps personify that gallant mood the band has more or less perfected.  When they bellow “In my sword I trust” on the track of the same name, you really want to dash for your steel and dive right into the fluster of battle.  Also benefiting from the use of extensive clean vocals, songs like the beautiful and melancholic ballads “Last Breath” and “Star Queen (Celestial Bond Part II)”.  With nothing against the thrashy harsh singing peppered throughout the record, having the cleans exclusively on these songs allows the listener to sit back and appreciate the delicacy of these particular tunes.

“Last Breath” also makes full use of orchestral music as a backdrop to create a larger-than-life atmosphere which reminded me of the way Blind Guardian used them on their 2010 album At the Edge of Time, albeit with much more subtlety.  Just about every track makes use of this orchestration to not only help paint detailed pictures in the slower jams, but also to add to the drive and urgency of the record’s more fast paced tracks.  “Retribution Shall Be Mine” gets a huge punch from adding the sound of a brass section in the mix among the accelerated guitars and galloping rhythms turning it from essentially being a trash metal song into an awesome musical representation of The Battle of Agincourt (note: not the actual lyrical content, but what my mind imagined up while listening).

Unsung Heroes also boasts an extensive and varied use of the bright, memorable melodies that have pervaded all of Ensiferum’s previous records.  Through electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, and in the orchestration each song contains multiple strong melodies that make every song stand out and force their way into your head.  A great example is “Burning Leaves” as it dances from an infectious guitar lead to infectious guitar lead and then pours catchy vocal lines and choruses topping it with a lively guitar solo.  Even songs like “Celestial Bonds”, a dreamy, medieval flavored ballad featuring female vocals for its entierty, makes excellent use of a plethora of instruments and sections playing various melodies.

When the album reaches the end of its monumental closer “Passion Proof Power”, Unsung Heroes leaves the feeling that you’re covered in sweat, blood, hair, and honor and that you are ultimately the hero of the day.  This record has a lot more diversity to offer when compared to their previous records with the inclusion of the ballads, epic tracks, speedy thrash tunes, and mid paced sing-a-longs.  My only gripe is that I would have like to hear more of the excessive guitar solos that graced their previous works.  The superfluous solos are here, but they didn’t pop up as much as I would have liked.  If you dug their Victory Songs and From Afar records, especially the slower paced anthem driven songs, you’re going to find the same quality here and I definitely recommend picking Unsung Heroes up.  For those that never delved into the heroic Finnish quintet and bands like Turisas and Týr do your fancy, this isn’t a bad starting point to start working your way back from.  Peace Love and Metal!!!

P.S. The limited edition is worth picking up as the bonus track “Bamboleo” is filled with salsa tinged death metal goodness.

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About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on 2012-08-28, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great review! :D
    As much as I miss the old Ensiferum (by old Ensiferum, I mean more folk-ish elements), this album really proves that Ensiferum has improved as a band after so many years. It is a fact that they have changed and they are not the same anymore but this is not a bad thing ; as you mentioned, the tracks are full of power and they leave the listener fight for more with swords and all :D I also think their genre has changed from finnish folk metal to “heroic power metal”. Hail Ensiferum!

  2. I really can’t wait to hear this album. What exactly is the release date? I haven’t seen it on iTunes yet…I willl order the CD if I have to. This song is just amazing, I have tried to refrain from listening too many time so I can absorb the album all at once. This is really a great review, it sounds like an awesome album I look so forward to hearing it.

    • The album is out in Europe. It’s through Spinefarm records, who have a track record of being very hard to get outside of European regions. I think it took Moonsorrow’s latest almost a full year to get released on Itunes and Soen had to pull some strings to get around Spinefarm’s lazy distribution. I’d say ordering it from Amazon UK or running to a record store is your best bet for getting it as fast as possible. It’s worth it!

      • Sounds like i am going to have to do that. Maybe I will pick it up in Norway this weekend. New Katatonia is smashing….will be up on the site this week :)

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