What is it this year with folk bands making albums I actually like, instead of my usual response of telling them to ingest the hot bumsmoke of Satan? First Korpiklaani tried it, and now Ensiferum; a band who I’ve not given a single iota of a shit about since Petri Lindroos joined and destroyed the perfection of Iron with Victory Songs. Which I still gave a 7 way back when, but hey. So, while you dirty Jari fanboys wait for Time, let me tell you why you should pick up Unsung Heroes instead.
It seems that it’s not only the power metal bands that have decided to scale back the sound in recent years. From Nuclear Blast’s complete and utter cull of anything that sounded like power metal from 1999, Ensiferum have seemingly followed suit. However, instead of the magnificent quality crash we’d come to expect, Unsung Heroes is some of the best work Ensiferum have ever produced and easily the best with Petri on vocals, who has now completely melded into the band’s framework. Last Breath’s drunken dirge is almost a beacon of the grass-roots sound that the band have picked up for this record. There’s less aggression and more of everything else. Sure, there’s the huge growls of Petri in the opening In My Sword I Trust countered with clean vocals of Markus Toivonen and the Turisas-esque backing choirs so you’ll not be short-changed for vocal magnificence.
I said earlier that there’s less aggression to this record. Compared to the overproduced and earsplitting clusterfuck that was From Afar, it’s refreshing to hear what the band can actually do. The melancholic melodies of the title track are backed up the wandering bass lines and the driving rhythm guitars that once would have just made everything fuzzy. While the closing track is seventeen minutes in length, and we’ll get to that in a second, the thunder of Unsung Heroes is well and truly stolen by Celestial Bond and Star Queen, a duo of songs with angelic female vocals of Emmi Silvennoinen which slowly builds up to the electric, funereal finish at the end of Star Queen is nothing short of brilliant. Quite why the classic Ensiferum sounding Retribution Shall Be Mine is sandwiched in between is anyone’s guess.
Passion Proof Power is the epic closer mentioned previously. Suffice to say, it’s the previous forty-five minutes of record, in all the various aspects of the genre it touches smelted down into seventeen minutes that goes from the folorn SuidakrA-esque crescendo in the intro to the heavenly choirs you won’t find many places this side of Rhapsody record in the finale.
Unsung Heroes might just be the best thing the band has ever done. I don’t throw around these kind of scores easily, but for once a band has earned it.