The finnish folk metal band Ensiferum have climbed the ladder quite a bit the past two or three years, now doing big tours in especially America. And rightfully so, since they are belonging to the elite of the genre. If you are a follower of my reviews you know my preferences and therefore also know that this album is highly anticipated by me.
After the intro which rolls along in a true and familiar Ensiferum style, it kicks off in a fast pace, and the opening song is typical Ensiferum but a bit more orchestral than we are used to. I notice that they have broaden their music a bit. There is a bit richer sound this time around with more elements than before and it works very well, but it still sounds nothing less than Ensiferum at the end of the day.
Follow Twilight Tavern and here we have a killer. Brilliant leads and catchy as hell, this is Ensiferum playing at the very top of their ability. Heathen Throne is the first of two 10+ minute songs (the closing The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II) is the second one) and is naturally a more epic one with some mighty parts and strong choirs, and it picks the pace up during the second part. It does not really work the whole way, though, and they have done better epic songs.
Elusive Reaches is a standard uptempo Ensiferum song, nothing more, nothing less. It does not really contain any memorable parts and while still good, it's quickly forgotten when we reach Stone Cold Metal. A killer song with delicious melodies in the patented Ensiferum style. As ususal there is an abundance of great melodies and leads throughout the whole album, and the spaghetti western theme they have touched before on previous albums continues even more here, and is very nicely incorporated in the music and gives a nice touch to it, especially here in Stone Cold Metal which even contains a short section with banjo which fits very well.
Smoking Ruins is another standard song in mid tempo with nice melodies and sung entirely with choirs throughout the song. Normally a standard song from the band but it's very nicely arranged here. Tumman Virran Taa is just a very short intro to The Longest Journey, the second part of the Heathen Throne story. This one is a bit better than the first part as it has a bit more groove and a sligtly higher tempo. These two songs together take up close to 24 minutes of the playing time, and since they are not among the best, I can't help to think what they could have created instead and how the album then would have sounded.
There are less monster songs on this album than before. I can find only two, really (Twilight Tavern and Stone Cold Metal, with the title track From Afar not far behind) but the album holds up really well due to the good musicianship and melodies and good arrangements. It is safe to say that any Ensiferum fan will recognise the music and also appreciate this album, but I do not think it is quite as good as what I had hoped for.
While still a very good album once again, and Ensiferum stand steady on the top of the genre, it's not breath taking and I guess that is just something we are spoiled with when it comes to this band.