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Viking origins, Part 2. - 88%

hells_unicorn, May 27th, 2008

As a general rule, I tend to regard listening to demos as an educational pursuit meant to better understand the roots of a band’s sound, rather than an experience meant for pure enjoyment as would be the case for me and a professionally recorded, full length studio album. But a handful of bands in the power, progressive, or Folk/Viking style of metal have caused me to occasionally bend that rule. Ensiferum is one of those bands who, even at their most primitive stages on their first demo recording, were able to put together something entirely on their own that can basically pass for a professional job.

This demo, which is the second of three independent efforts by the Finnish Viking metal pioneers, marks the beginning of Ensiferum’s characteristic sound coming forth. With the exception of the short instrumental intro, which is thematically almost identical to “Little Dreamer”, everything on here ended up being used by the band later on after they had been signed with Spinefarm records. The folk elements have been merged completely with the melodeath and power metal influences, rather than dispersed on separate songs like the first demo.

The cleanness of the production on here is quite impressive, particularly the vocal tracking. The scream and growl tracks are 100% audible and crystal clear, as are the cheesy spoken lines. There are some noticeable flaws in the choir vocals that occupy most of the chorus, probably owing to the limitations of the equipment use and a little too much prominence on the vocal tracks. The drum and guitar sound is also amazingly clear, particularly during the faster parts of melodic speed number “Warrior’s Quest”. Everything sounds just as it does on Ensiferum’s classic self-titled debut and near equally amazing follow up “Iron”., and the 2 songs that later ended up on “Dragonheads” sound far superior with Jari doing the vocal work.

The only unfortunate aspect of this demo is that finding a hard copy of it will prove extremely difficult for completists and collection enthusiasts. The band briefly sold a self-released compilation of all 3 of their demos, but not in many years. But if you love this band and want to get a taste of how they sound without the aid of a major label and the slick production of a professional studio, this and the rest of the demos are readily available for download. It is somewhat sad that most of this lineup is gone now when you consider what they were capable of even without the aid of label support.