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Hailed by the band's fans as well as many folk metal heavyweights as a classic of the genre, Ensiferum's 'Iron' is now by many standards; a classic album. Although some have gone on to prefer the Wintersun project that band frontman Jari Maenpaa would do after leaving this band, there is no doubt that Ensiferum have left a great mark on folk, or pagan, or viking, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it metal with this album. Basing their act around their historic culture, as well as broader subjects concerning things like fighting, folklore, nature, and fighting, it is clear that this Finnish act have carved out a very particular niche for themselves,and their speed-oriented brand of folk metal is also established very firmly here. While Ensiferum clearly knows what they want to do here, and do it well at that, the result still feels like an album that- while barrels of good fun- could have been a great deal better, given a little more moderation.
Keep in mind that this is a relative outsider to the world of pagan metal speaking, but there is no doubt that Ensiferum is a band that aims to go over-the-top with virtually every aspect of their sound. Whether its the speedy rhythms, bombastic folk interludes, or belted vocals, everything about Ensiferum exudes this vibe of overindulgence. For the most part, this works well and is alot of fun. Going into a pagan metal album, one knows quite well what to expect, and Ensiferum does deliver that much; a collection of upbeat, epic-sounding metal tracks with a handful of folky segments to provide a great soundtrack to some beer-fueled pagan party out in the wilderness somewhere. The metal parts have some good energy to them, and the folk parts often feel like more than a gimmick; as is especially evidenced in the first track on the album, they are not afraid to let the folk elements take hold for a little longer than your average folk metal band's necessary interlude. This is something I can respect Ensiferum for.
While Ensiferum has got some great things going on for them, it feels to me like the way they are organized and put together could still use alot of work. While we have this over-the-top sound and upbeat folk, that is really all there is to 'Iron', no middle ground, no substantial moments of build-up, nothing but this small handful of different sounds. It is like driving a car that will only allow you to rocket ahead, or inch along. While Ensiferum do get the 'epic' vibe across that I am so sure they were aiming for, the total lack of moderation and dynamic in their sound makes the wild sound feel pretty tame after its been rocketing along for around forty minutes. When I first listened to the album, I was even thinking that the version I was hearing could have been sped up; at times, things sounded like Ensiferum were content to trade off musicality for speed, when I feel some of these tracks could have benefited by being toned down a notch, at least here and there.
'Iron' is a good album for folk metal, and it is very indicative of legions of bands who opt to play this upbeat and energetic style of music. While I do like what Ensiferum have done here, my thoughts about their music here are more mixed than anything, and despite the enjoyment that's been had here, I can't be but a little disappointed, when a few things could have been improved upon to make for a much more powerful experience.
My affinity for folkish type metal lies more with black metal bands that play the style in moderate quantities. Otherwise, I just cannot get into bands like this since Iron seemed like as good a place to start as any when giving Ensiferum a shot. It’s chock full of melody and vibrant transitions that makes it seem overproduced. Iron also sounds like a very colorful record. These bright colorations just flew at me but I wasn’t too impressed at all. On the nice side, I will give these guys style points. The songwriting and playing is epical and ripe with energy of power metal which this essentially is. There’s an enthusiasm that reminds of a Renaissance Festival. I imagine a lot of Ensiferum fans can be found at those gatherings after listening to this. How many fans are at the Ostrich Festival has yet to be determined but they probably don’t have to share the beer garden with as many over-the-hill Tull fans.
Ferrum Aeternum is the instrumental prologue to start the album. It’s a decent one with a soft gallop that has an Ennio Morricone like epic feel. The title track has that typical classical music structure all around it. It’s fast paced and goes down with another melodic breakdown after another. That synth on the song must go. It was pro forma and crummy. Flemming Rasmussen mixed and engineered this album so it was no surprise that so many of these needless elements were crowding each other. I guess it makes sense for this type of metal album to have everything heard with sharpness at all times but I don’t care for it. Everything is too rich and upbeat. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Iron had a Nuclear Blast budget. The only thing I liked about Sword Chant was the vocals. That Rob Halford-ish singing was quite cool along with the beats going down on the main verse. It’s too bad the Lemonade choir part was in there because that just kills whatever momentum the song was building.
There are a lot of “fierce” ballads on Iron as I knew there would be but the drumming is just unspectacular and undistinguished. This just contributes to the false atmosphere of the production even more. Tale of Revenge showcases the most predictable aspect of it. The drums are fast standard fare while rhythm guitar just go through the motions and harmonize along with everything else. And as for the bass on this album, well you can’t get anymore sterilized than this. I’m not a philologist but I think Jukka-Pekka Miettinen is Finnish for Jason Newsted. That is all to be said of the very un-special nature of the six-strings on here. Lost in Despair is a melancholic ballad of sweeping scope with some light harsh vocals. It’s a sing-a-long muster for the epic metal masses but Amon Amarth does that type of thing heavier and better. Slayer of Light is rather thrashy in a power metal sort way à la Iced Earth. I will let Ensiferum admirers decide if that is a good thing or not but for me not. Lai Lai Hai is speedy too but in a more atypical fashion of what the band is suited for. At least it wasn’t ruined by any choral cheese that marked Sword Chant. I can see why the song Tears might be a disappointment to fans of the band’s previous albums but I actually didn’t mind it too much for some reason. Maybe it’s because my passing interest is just casual. I would have thought the band would have closed the album on a heavy song but here they instead insert an epilogue with something you would find in Blackmore’s Night.
When I got this album, it came with the bonus track cover of Battery. Let me nip this little ass fuck in the butt right now: If you come across this album and have to pay a little higher price as a result of this extra, do not buy it. I have my own opinions of the original itself but I didn’t need to hear this folk-y faux pas much less pay extra for it. Let’s just say it makes any Apocalyptica cover sound good. Despite the fact that this band is classified as folk/Viking metal, I would not suggest you pick up this album if you are interested in hearing that sound. Not even as a starting point. I haven’t heard too much of their other output but I can tell you that you will be mislead. It is folk-ish but more in a Euro power metal way. It has some speed metal parts here and some aggressive vocals that might push it into a lot of melodic death type territory but that’s about it. I suppose this is good for a casual listen on a slow night if you want some decent metal listening and like all things epic and might. Other than that, this is a mighty letdown.
Ah, Ensiferum seem to have mastered their sound on this album, except for one little track: Tears. I don't like it. Plain and simple. It is a minor flaw to an otherwise perfect album. Let's look at the other factors of this work of art that makes it so divine.
The guitars are masterful. The rythms are fast and tight when they need to be, and slower in parts of Lai Lai Hei and Tale of Revenge. The solos are wonderful. They are creative and interesting, so it isn't like your typical thrash or death solo: a whole bunch of notes played ridiculously fast and in no particular order.
The drumming isn't particularly spectacular, but it has it's moments and gets the job done. Jari's vocals are great and always hit the spot when I want to hear something powerful. The synths are perfectly placed and provide excellent support for the guitars.
There something about this album that always gets me really pumped. In songs like Into Battle, Sword Chant, the title track, Lai Lai Hei, they all make me do something along with the music, be it headbang, do a silly jig, or sing along to some of those ridiculously catchy coruses. It's just music that puts me in a good mood.
Now let's return to that one minor flaw that made me take away 9 percent from my review. The ballad, Tears, has nothing special about it. Not even the female vocals make it any more bearable. In fact, I think they take away from the experience. It's not one of those ballads that makes you think " Aww, this is really nice", it just plain sucks.
To wrap this up, get this album if you don't already have it. It will make an excellent addition to your collection. Juts skip Tears when it comes around.
The subject of Vikings and their dual sense of adventure and barbarism is the perfect template upon which to build a metal album that challenges existing standards of triumph and glory. Combine with that an eclectic yet tempered mixture of harmonious styles, both melodic and extreme, with rugged aggression, a will untouched and untainted by the desire to please any particular crowd and you will have the essence of Ensiferum. The only thing bolder than the epic subjects that they pen to their lyric sheets is the unfettered audacity of the music that they place around them.
If there is any real divergence between their utterly flawless debut and this near equal masterpiece, it is that the majesty has taken on a more musically grandiose, as well as progressive feel to it. Although still largely present, the epic choruses have backed off a little to make room for more musical and lead vocal development. The melodeath, power and folk trifecta has opened up to invite some mid 80s thrash into the fold, effectively ratcheting up the riffs to the point of standing face to face with the acoustic and melodic tendencies of the formula. The ultimate conclusion of this updated mixture is something that is faster in pacing and even more compact than the first album.
Jari’s presence in the band has taken on the form of a true front man, as his vocal and keyboard work bring a cold yet dense atmosphere to an ironclad metal machine riding on a massive dragon boat. In addition to the prototypical melodeath barks and husky, quasi-James Hetfield baritone, he sports one wicked high range that equals that of Neil Turbin in sheer power and perhaps only slightly sits behind it in stratospheric height. The vocal delivery on “Sword Chant” is often criticized as being out-of-character for this band, but by contrast, succeeds in emulating the vocal aspect of the power metal side of the hybrid, which is the most downplayed in the melodeath style, perfectly. What kind of power metal influenced album would be complete without a helping of Painkiller anyway?
Though equally as epic in sound and character, the bulk of the songs on here are shorter in scope and emphasize the faster character of the debut more. Fast paced, harsh vocal steeped songs such as “Tale of Revenge” and the title track take on a character mostly resembling “Hero in a Dream” and “Into Battle”. The former has a cold, keyboard heavy atmosphere to it that gives hints of the Wintersun project that Jari was simultaneously contemplating, particularly during instrumental breaks. The title track cooks even faster and heavier than its predecessor “Hero in a Dream” and puts forth one of the greatest presentations of a triumphant, galloping verse line conceivable.
The musicality also shows increased evolution during instrumental and ballad numbers, as heavily present string sections and additional plucked string instruments have joined the Kantele. The result is a longer instrumental prelude that sounds very close to the film score character that many epic power metal bands such as Rhapsody and Fairyland are known for. The closing song “Tears” also exemplifies the same character with a feminine voice to close off a solidly testosterone loaded album. The quiet sections of the album’s major epic work “Lai Lai Hei” have a strong “Imaginations from the Other Side” era Blind Guardian tinge to them, both in the vocal presentation and the surrounding instruments, although the total presentation of the song differs greatly.
The biggest surprise on here is the shortest full length metal song “Slayer of Light”. Somewhere between all the power, folk and melodic death metal influences going on within this album Jari and Markus somehow managed to throw in an all out, thrash your skull in, riff monster. You can hear bits and pieces of 80s Metallica, Kreator, Dark Angel and Anthrax in this 3 minute speed fest, in addition to melodic vocal and keyboard work that once again draws comparisons to the Wintersun debut. It is up for debate whether the rock elements of “Guardians of Fate” or this song’s influences are the greater testimony of the band’s unrelenting yet ingenious eclecticism, but this song and the epic number “Lai Lai Hei” definitely pull ahead as this album’s biggest highlights.
In the final scheme of things, there is only one thing that makes this album inferior to the debut, and that is that it’s too damn short. Something that is this epic and far reaching musically simply can’t be through after a mere 43 minutes, and you’ll definitely wish there was more after your first listen. This otherwise excusable Persian flaw testifies further to the continued perfection of sound and style that this band has consistently put forward since the debut. If you own the first album or the Wintersun album, this is the next logical purchase. Once you’ve entered the halls of this album’s music, you’ll understand that in the world of Ensiferum, iron can surpass steel.
Ensiferum are really a band that have taken a sound and made it their own. This began with their self titled debut and was perfected on 2004’s Iron. Every time I listen to this album it remains fresh and original, and we all know, this is a rarity in many bands these days. There really is great diversity within the sound though, avoiding repetition and boredom. Comparing Iron to the debut is difficult because they both, more or less, carry out the same sound. To me, though, Iron is where Ensiferum peaked in perfecting their music.
If you have heard of Viking metal, then you have probably heard of Ensiferum. Although Ensiferum aren’t fully Viking metal, they are probably the best known modern band among the genres of folk/Viking. However unlike many huge names at the top of other genres, Ensiferum are also among the best. This is due to their combination of folk instruments, pounding guitars, chanting/harsh vocals, and at times, aggressive speed.
When you first put this gem into your CD player you’ll here a beautiful instrumental build up to a massive kick to the balls. That’s right, the title track hits right where it hurts, in the best way possible. We get some epic riffs before bursting into a viciously fast and awesome track. You’ll be replaying that one more than once. Sword Chant offers some vocal variation as Jari switches it up from harsh vocals to chanting quite nicely. Next up we have a soft melodic short prelude into one of my favourite Ensiferum songs. Tale of Revenge is an amazing melodic journey into a folk masterpiece. The opening riff is nothing short of captivating and we also hear a clean vocal passage for a moment which is really nice. Very catchy tune. At this point you might be asking, “Can it possibly get better?” Oh, the best is yet to come. My favourite Ensiferum track, LAI LAI HEI is just something else. Lyric-wise it pays tribute to the bands Finnish roots (some verses are actually in Finnish) and the amazing LAI LAI HEI chant makes for great drunken participation.
Whatever you’re in the mood for, this album has it all. Slayer of Light is a fast headbanger while Lost in Despair makes for a great epic ballad. If you’re a fan of epic metal in general, you could do a lot worse than checking out Ensiferum’s Iron. I don’t have much more to say except if you’re in the mood to take out your broadsword, grab a pint of mead and destroying everything around you, this is the perfect soundtrack!
A passing reference to Ensiferum was given to me on an internet forum about two or three years ago. I was asking for metal bands (I wasn't quite new to the genre per se, I have metal parents, but at the time all I really listened to was Metallica, Pantera, and Megadeth... I blame it on my young age), and somebody said I'd probably enjoy a certain brand of viking metal and recommended Ensiferum, Asmegin, and Wintersun among others. I dismissed it and assumed it would be stupid. Ensiferum is the band that proved my young ears wrong, and essentially turned me into what/who I am today.
Why review Iron first? I was going to review Victory Songs to try and convince people that it isn't as bad as they make it out to be, but Iron is a very sentimental album to me and I feel that there is no better place to start. From the ethereal introduction of Ferrrum Aeternum, to the blistering fury of Tale of Revenge, to the melodic Finnish lines of Lai Lai Hei, to the almost power metallish stylings of Sword Chant, this album does very few things wrong... in fact, the closing ballad, Tears, Slayer of Light, and Lost in Despair are the only tracks that aren't almost perfect to my ears. The remaining 8 tracks are glory incarnate. Ensiferum seems to be one of the few folk metal bands that don't throw in goofy folk instruments purely because they can, almost everything they do fits the songs wonderfully.
Let's address the band members for a second, this album has the man that everybody seems to love, Mr. Jari Maenpaa. He is indeed a wonderful vocalist, but am I the only person who hates his clean screaming on Sword Chant? It's technically atrocious, but he somehow makes it a ton of fun and you find yourself not caring that he sounds like Corpsegrinder trying to imitate Rob Halford (that's all speculation though, for all I know George has a wonderful falsetto, but it's a pretty safe assumption that he doesn't). Anyways, Maenpaa is a masterful songwriter, and this seems to be his last hurrah before he got a little too self indulgent with Wintersun. Tale of Revenge and Into Battle are beautifully crafted and actually epic... they are years ahead of some of the faux epic pap he'd later write.
Anyways, other than maybe the other guitarist, Markus Toivonen, nobody in the band is really noteworthy. They are all great and fit the sound perfectly, but nothing spectacular really.
But when you think about it, that's what makes a band great. Bands like Dream Theater fail to hold my interest, despite the fact that all of the members are gods of their respective instruments. When a group of musicians can come together and write amazing music, it ceases to matter how technically proficient they are.
On the subject of the music, it's hard to say. It's hard for me to actually list the qualities that make them so great. Could it be the insidiously catchy folk melodies? Could it be Maenpaa's sinister snarl? The intensity? The hookiness? You can throw pretty much any positive quality in the air and it would doubtlessly land on Ensiferum somewhere. So to avoid constant repetition, I'll point out some of the downfalls.
All I can say about Lost in Despair is.... you're doing it wrong. It's slow, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't work. It is the only song that is not memorable, not to mention it is needlessly overlong, and I believe the album could be infinitely better if this was cut. And as if to make up for the ploddingness of that one, it is followed by Slayer of Light, arguably the fastest song on here. While it is a noticeable step up from the previous track, it doesn't seem to do as much as the first few songs did. It's over quickly, which usually wouldn't be change anything, except it doesn't seem to do what it wants to do. It's like the album's redheaded stepchild. "Hey, can I go out and party with Lai Lai Hei and Into Battle?" "No, fuck you kid, go wash the dishes". Keep in mind it's a very minor step down, but a step down nonetheless.
And the only other downpoint would be the closer, Tears. I honestly don't know what they were thinking with this one. It never gets cool, it never gets catchy, it's actually not even that beautiful. I don't know, this one doesn't evoke the feeling that I'm listening to masterful art like other slower songs do, you know?
On the plus sides, the two instrumental numbers are awesome, the title track destroys and is a blast to sing along with (I swear he says DOOM 2 SUCKS ASS!! at about 1:22), and the same goes for Sword Chant. You haven't lived 'till you've heard a room full of drunk folk scream along with that one. Into Battle is pretty much the perfect song, it's fast, catchy, furious, essentially the quintessential song for the fast speed/folk school of viking metal. The epic Lai Lai Hei is a monster as well, and let's not forget the perfection that is Tale of Revenge, which, after the somewhat shaky start, becomes one of the best Ensiferum songs ever.
Wow, I was sure this album was going to earn an A, but the extreme shittyness of Lost in Despair and Tears REALLY bogged down the average. I hate to do this, but as an objective reviewer I feel I must... this album gets a B+. But really, it'd be a 98 according to my calculations if those two songs were removed/ignored. So, either utilize the skip track button, or use them as fuel to prove why you think Ensiferum sucks so much, it all really depends on if you are a fan or not.
Back in 2001, the release of their self-titled debut album had rendered Ensiferum one of the biggest hopes of European heavy metal. Everyone applauded the way these young guys from Finland masterfully combined melody with aggression and longed for the coming of their second attempt. After a period of about three years, which seemed to have lasted longer than it actually did, Ensiferum released their second album, simply entitled “Iron”.
During these three years, the most important change that took place within Ensiferum was the fact that Flemming Rasmussen, a famous and highly acclaimed producer, became responsible for the sound of the band. As a professional, Rasmussen had grown accustomed to working with bands that embrace large audiences, like Metallica and Blind Guardian. Consequently, the main effect of his influence is that Ensiferum’s music becomes, not exactly more commercial, but more approachable to a wider public. More specifically, the guitars, though still heavy an aggressive, don’t sound as cruel and lethal as they used to, clear male vocals, which were relatively rear in “Ensiferum”, now become more evident, while the melodic parts now acquire an even more central role (the closing track of the album is a wonderful ballad with female vocals). Furthermore, the rhythm guitar every now and then develops a touch that is reminiscent of Metallica - check out “Slayer Of Light”.
Nevertheless, it should not be assumed that the employment of Rasmussen totally deprived the band of its distinct identity. All the unique and familiar elements of Ensiferum’s music can easily be found in “Iron”. The album, in its entire duration, is dominated by heroic, epic lead guitar riffs, a forward - into - battle atmosphere, and the bloodthirsty and remorseless lyrics and vocals of Jari Mäenpää. In addition, the band appears to have matured and succeeds in avoiding some parts that sounded little childish in their first album.
When it comes to the songs themselves, “Iron” includes a number of very good and enjoyable compositions. As always, the band displays an excellent ability to encompass different types of metal music. “Slayer Of Light” is a vicious thrash anthem, whereas “Tale Of Revenge” and the title track of album are epic metal hymns that make you wish to grab a sword and slay as many enemies as possible. “Ferrum Aeternum” and “Tears”, on the other hand, constitute the ideal soundtrack to relax and contemplate your strategy before the dawn of battle. The only slight disadvantage of these songs is that, even though remarkable, they don’t seem to gain the listener’s trust as easily as the masterpieces of the past, like “Token Of Time” and “Windrider”. Indeed, one needs to listen to “Iron” a couple of times before realising the value of the album.
In short, “Iron” is a worthy, perhaps a little bit more melodic and sophisticated, successor to “Ensiferum”. The band from Finland has perfectly succeeded in respecting the high standards it had set with its debut record. On the other hand, the element that separates these two albums is that “Iron” isn’t as catchy and straightforward as “Ensiferum”. The latter could captivate the ear and the mind of the listener within just a few minutes, while the former requires higher amounts of time and focus to achieve the same result. In any case, both albums are excellent examples of modern European metal.
Ensiferum has become, almost instantly, the classic folk/viking metal band. With only 2 albums, their combination of folk riffing, use of folk instruments, simple and catchy songs and both clean and growled vocals have made them as the kings of the genre. They are probably the most listened folk metal band, along with Finntroll. And fuck, they deserve it. Their debut showed us what they were capable of, and most fans see that as the pinnacle of the band.
But to me, Iron is better. It's shorter, yes, but that doesn't mean it's worse. Shorter albums have less chance of having something wrong. The songs are much different from each other. In the debut, the three first songs were very similar. Then we had 3 ballads, together. Most people think song order doesn't matter, but I'm rating albums. When I rate an album I think of it putting on the CD player, from the beginning to the end. And in that way, Iron obliterates the debut in every way.
First the opener. Holy shit. This may be the best opener I've ever seen on any album. It's that good. Are you sad? Listen to this song, and you'll be happy again. It's probably the most 'in your face' song on the album, and one of the best Ensiferum songs. Probably one of the best folk songs ever.
But the album always has the same quality. See how each song has much more personality than the debut. "Sword Chant" is really cool, with Jari changing from clean to growled vocals a lot. "Lost in Despair" is another highlight, and the first ballad of the album. It may match "Old Man" as my favorite Ensiferum ballad (and song). "Slayer of Light", on the other side, it's as brutal as Ensiferum can be.
You want more? "Into the Battle" has the best Ensiferum solo, and one of the best solos I've ever heard. Check the 3:30 mark. It's also insanely epic. Then, the longest Ensiferum song, "LAI LAI HEI", begins as a ballad, but then it picks up, and shows insane riffing. The 'lai lai hei' part it's also very uplifting.
As you can see, each song has something that makes it special and different from each other. That's what makes it better than the debut, where some songs were so similar it was no funny. But anyway, if you are going to try this band, check any album of theirs. Both are insanely good, catchy and funny. One of the best ways of getting into folk/viking metal. Now I hope their next album with the new singer doesn't disappoint me...
Finally, the waiting is over! ENSIFERUM have returned with their sophomore album Iron, and even though the road has been rocky and steep, the outcome is more than one dared to hope for. If you have read my review of their self-titled debut album, you know what I am talking about. The first album blew me away, period. Incorporating that special Finnish sound into their blackened folk metal, I could do nothing but surrender and listen in awe of this young troupe of skilled musicians. And now they're back. The recording process of the new album has been very tricky, to say the least, according to the band, and the album has been delayed several times, originally intended for a January 2004 release. And as if that wasn't enough, shortly after completing Iron, vocalist and guitarist Jari Määenpä left the band to concentrate fully on his solo project Wintersun. Bad luck, anyone? Although Iron doesn't reach the same heights as its predecessor (which may have been nigh on impossible), it is still a damn fine album, and more than a worthy step in the musical direction ENSIFERUM have forged.
Opening track Ferrum Aeternum is an instrumental intro, that builds up the mood quite suggestively. Somehow reminiscent of movie soundtracks the likes of Braveheart and Lord Of The Rings, the track sets the tone for the grandeur that is to come. Next up is Iron, title track and first 'real' song of the album. It blazes away furiously, with double-bass drums and glorious guitar leads, and when the vocals of Jari kick in, everyone who ever doubted this band is put in their place. The band couldn't possibly have written a worthier opener for the album! Sword Chant continues the set path, with some very folkish acoustic guitars opening the song, and some very crazy background vocals to accentuate another great tune from these Finnish gentlemen. Towards the end of the song, there are more chanting choirs, before the song picks up speed again, and blazes off. Mourning Heart - Interlude, is just that; an interlude, that paves the way for Tale Of Revenge, the first single off the album, and another favorite. I really don't think words can do this song justice. The tune has this grim feeling written all over it, and is very progressive in the way that it wants to tell a story, interpreted by the harsh vocals of Jari, who really does a top-notch job here. The song is beautiful, heavy and haunting, and even has some very bombastic 'Bal-Sagothic' passages! Lost In Despair comes next, and this is a song that really grows on you. Sung almost entirely in clean vocals (except for a short passage in the chorus), it is a very sad song, and showcases perfectly the melodies that the band has become so good at incorporating in their music. Give it time, and it will grow on you. I did, and I didn't even care for it particularly in the beginning. Now it is one of my favorites, and the album wouldn't be complete without it. On the heels of this cleanly sung, beautiful piece comes Slayer Of Light with its non-stop full-on chugging guitars and bombastic choirs. You got to love the drums in this track, people! If I had to pick one song off the album, it would be this one (or maybe Tale Of Revenge). It's short and sweet, and has an EXCELLENT chorus. Damn, I can't really convey my feelings towards the song here. Just listen do it, dammit! Into Battle has a very epic flavor, beginning with some beautiful snare drums and a lovely guitar soloing away. The song then escalates into a typical ENSIFERUM track, with vocals alternating between harsh and clean passages. Lai Lai Hei is the longest track on the album, clocking in at over seven minutes. Taking its time, it starts off with some very folkish guitars, building up the mood carefully, before the vocals kick in. And, ladies and gentlemen, this song is sung partly in Finnish! I don't understand shit of what Jari's singing, but somehow it fits perfectly anyway. The choruses on this one are made for live play (and chanting). Typical ENSIFERUM and very epic/folky/Finnish. Tears ends the album, and is sung entirely in clean vocals, by a woman, whose voice reminds me a lot of Sabine Edelsbacher of Edenbridge. It's a good way to close an album that has pretty much everything you could want, even though there could have been a little more of it.
So why don't I give Iron 10 out of 10? Simply because I think it is too short. The first album had 11 songs + intro. Iron has 8 songs + intro (I don't count the interlude as a complete song). Also, and I realize I may seem very spoiled here, some tracks are great, but not mind-blowingly great, like ALL the songs on the debut album were. I am sure those songs will grow on me, though. All in all, those are minor quibbles, however. There is really nothing here I can say that is going to change anyone's mind. If you like ENSIFERUM you got to have this. If you like atmospheric, folky black/speed/power metal, you've got to have this. The rest of you should give this album a spin too. Iron is a great album, (even when measured by ENSIFERUM standards), and I cherish it dearly.
Originally written for http://www.nocturnalhall.com
Ensiferum released their second album 3 years after their debut. Luckily, the quality is still here. Their first album was really a bomb. It was nearly perfect. Well, Iron isn't as good, but it comes pretty fucking close. The cast is the same and so is the music. Well, there are maybe some more acoustic and not as much of the relentless riffage, but it's more or less like the self titled.
The vocals are even better here. The harsh ones are even more understandable (they still manage to stay brutal and interesting) and the clean ones have a better tone to them. Guitar work is good. As said, there are some more acoustics, which isn't a bad thing. Riffs are totally out there. There is some more double bass used on this, but it isn't overused, which is cool. Bass is audible, but it doesn't play an important role. There are also some keys on the album and they work fine.
As on the first album, the highlights are again the first songs. Ferrum Aeternum is great. Some nice galloping (no, it's not thrash :P) and a great atmosphere maker. It also works great as a live intro! (yeah, bite me, I've seen Ensiferum live ;)). Iron is a great song. The best on the album. It's the closest you get to the first album on this record. Fast as fuck, catchy and overall crazy. It also has great lyrics and it's a great headbanger. Sword Chant is just pure fun. A true epic with some ''happy'' melodies.
Other songs are also on the level of the album. Into Battle is furious, Lai Lai Hei succeeds to stay interesting for it's entire 7:17 and Slayer Of Light even has some thrash riffs in it.
Iron is a great album and it's definitely worth buying. It brings some fresh ideas and it's a great follower to Ensiferum.
I really liked the first Ensiferum album, with its great melodies, great vocals and lyrics, so I decided to pick this up. This one is a bit different compared to their other release, I mean more acoustic parts, and less electric guitar riffage. This doesn't mean it's not good, though.
The album's first song, "Ferrum Aeternum", is an acoustic song. No vocals, just melodies on top of a acoustic rhythm guitar. This track is good, but nothing impressive, it leaves me wanting some guitar riffs. Now the second song, "Iron", starts with an electric guitar riff, a great one. It sounds a bit too cliched, but it's ok. It reminded me of the last Ensiferum album. They should change things up a bit, since this is starting to sound "old". On the third song, "Sword Chant", things start getting more and more interesting. This song has a generic structure, everything sounds really simple and straightforward, but it's just good. Great heavy riff in the verse, great melody in the chorus, and very memorable(I'm still singing the chorus).
Right after that song we have "Mourning Heart", an interlude. Grr.. this wasn't the time for an interlude. It's the album's 4th track, and at this point all I wanted was electric guitar riffing, not some acoustic stuff. Sure, this is a great emotional track, but we just want some fucking metal right now. Ahh.. there we go, "Tale Of Revenge" is next. This song is a bit slower, but it's still very melodic. Nothing
new at all once again, but it's good to see another song that more electric guitar oriented. The same applied to "Lost in Despair", another song that's on the slower side, however this one feels a bit more epic, and the vocals aren't screamed.
"Slayer Of Light", #7, is a song that sucks you right in. It's a fast and brutal song, with agressive vocals, and that's what exactly what I needed. Next up is "Into the Battle", my favourite song off this album. By far the most memorable song, with a mix of brutal verses and melodic chorus, and the riff at 0:54 is probably my favourite viking metal riff of all time. This song in particular raised the final rating
of my review up 4 points. The part that stand out the most in this song (other than the riff i mentioned before), is the solo. Wow. Fast and melodic, just when we think this song can't get any better, we get an harmonic guitar that kicks in. Only this I didn't like was the fact that it was a bit too short. The two other songs on the album are nothing too impressive though. The same old melodies which start to get boring. However, in "Tears", a girl is singing, and it adds a lot of variety to the song.
Overall, this is a good album, with its ups and lows, and too many acoustic parts. However, I recommend this album to those who liked
their first album. Have fun and enjoy!
Let's start off with a fact: Ensiferum is really a unique band and I haven't heard of anything similar. The self-titled debut was in many places praised highly and for me it's probably one of the Top 20 metal records ever. Three years have now passed since the release of the debut and I must say that the wait has been worth it.
Iron starts with a nice folky and very Finnish intro, which gets a nice cowboy-feeling in the end though. Off to the title song, which is by the way in my opinion maybe the best song on the record. The verse goes on with a cool galloping drum rhythm and overally the song sounds a lot like the first Ensiferum-record but you can hear the development amongst the band. Iron has also a nice interlude before the solo and the final chorus.
Next up is maybe the weakest song of them all, Sword Chant. Not to say that it would be anyway bad though, but I just don't fancy the power metal influences that dominate parts of the song. A well-constructed song, but as I said, not exactly to my taste. The acoustic interlude in very cool though.
After Sword Chant the album slows down for a minute, as Mourning Heart is heard. A very nice and melancholic interlude, which kicks off to the single-track, Tale of Revenge. Tale of Revenge has all the elements of Ensiferum nicely combined into one song. What can I say, a very good track, just a little bit too much repetitive. Tale of Revenge also has a nice interlude, this time played with kantele.
After Tale of Revenge we get a really melancholic song, Lost in Despair, which is, as far as I know, the oldest song on the album. You can really hear that the song has matured for some years and it is really well polished with great vocal performance by Jari Mäenpää. Then comes Slayer of Light, which in contrary to Lost in Despair, was only done a few weeks before the band entered the studio. A raw and a tad thrashish song with a great guitar melody heard throughout the song. A good song but unfortunately it just lacks a little something.
Next up we get two very good songs, first Into Battle, which is a typical Ensiferum-song in a good sense. The song has many great and different parts and also a very nice guitar solo. Then starts LAI LAI HEI with an acoustic melody which goes off to the same parts played with distorted guitars and then again the same acoustic parts. BUT, then we get something really nice, the first ever Finnish lines by Ensiferum. It really warms my heart as I'm a Finn myself. The song then actually starts again with a totally different part, but in the end we get to hear the same part one last time. The album ends with a ballad, Tears, which has guest female vocals sung by Kaisa Saari. Truly a worthy ending for the album with really emotional singing.
Overall, the album is really good and so far one of the best albums of 2004. Still, the album lacks just some magic which made the self-titled debut so excellent. I can't say what it is though. The album also lacks clear "hit-tracks", but I don't see that as a problem, but more as a strength as the songs are really equal in quality and you just don't have a few good songs and the rest would be fillers.