Ensiferum have never been known as a band that spit out material in a large amount but when they do release something it is without exception of high quality. A while ago we got a taster in form of the mini cd Dragonheads, which sounded promising but not spectacular. But with the new full lenght album Victory Songs, containing a fresh set of completely new songs, they show that there is no need for worry. They keep on delivering the goods.
The main formula is the same as before and hardly anything has changed in the musical area. If anything, it sounds a tiny bit fresher and spacier in the sound picture. A quick overview of the album would be: An astounding beginning and middle part, a bit weaker second part and a magnificent ending. The music itself is traditional Ensiferum; mostly uptempo, great riffs and melodies, strong refrains and choirs and everything spiced with a great deal of folk music elements, even though the latter is not as strong and frequent occuring as on previous albums.
The production could have been a bit more juicy, but it is ok as it is, pretty much on par with Dragonheads and Iron. The vocals are another story, and what can I say; I will always associate Ensiferum with ex-singer Jari Mäenpäa, but Petri Lindroos (also Norther) is doing better and better for every release and is actually doing a perfectly ok job here.
A little more in-depth: The opening four songs leaves me completely knocked off the floor. Blood Is The Price Of Glory (fast, great riff and a nice chorus, nice breaks), Deathbringer From The Sky (uptempo, a magnificent main riff, great chorus and one of the best songs on the album), Ahti (good groove, nice melodies and chorus), One More Magic Potion (the outstanding previously released single track with all ingredients from the first three songs mentioned in it).
After this follows a slow bit in form of Wanderer. Good mood and a catchy chorus and the song helps maintaining the very high level of quality on the album so far. Unfortunatly that level drops a bit with the two following songs (Raised By The Sword, The New Dawn). Despite quite good riffs and leads, shifts in tempo, and even catchy vocal lines, the songs never take off. They are in general quite good and partly enjoyable while listening but as soon as they are over, I can't even remember how they sounded. They just don't quite work as whole songs and have to be considered as something in between "just" good and fillers. Everything is rounded off with the great title track, Victory Song. A long atmospheric intro is followed by a good uptempo groove, a brilliant feel-good chorus and also a great harmony solo part, which I would have liked to hear more of on the album. In this song we hear not so much folk elements but instead almost a western movie vibe. It works great and gives a nice touch to it all.
Overall, a very good effort again by Ensiferum but the album feels a bit too short and has a few too many weak moments (read: songs) to be able to reach the real good heights. If released as a mini cd with 5-6 songs, this would be close to a maximum grade.