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A feast for the ears - 100%

doomknocker, April 16th, 2011

I'd like to thank these wacky Finns for opening my eyes to the wonders of folk metal. Straddling that fine line between uber-seriousness and uber-fun, there's much to behold and enjoy within the ranks of dorsal-Finned folkdom, where one can picture his/herself striding down the warpaths of eras gone by, bloodstained sword in one hand, swinging beer stein in the other. It's nothing if not majestic.

And if it were up to me, I'd hold these guys at the top of the heap.

The way I see it, Ensiferum have always been the more somber-grace espousing within the folky spectrum, straying from the fun-loving path with hymns of battle lore (no band reference here) the likes of which would make Erik the Red do a jig while degutting a heathen. Still holding true to their wintry medieval war-chanting with a dash of melodic thrash riffing, the group storm across oceans wide to give us quite possibly the most amazing album of 2009, taking a symphonic metal approach into a dimension so few bands are able to even gaze upon, bordering on manic with a touch of class, thankfully missing the pompousness that comes with the genre. Throughout this disc I fought many an urge to pick up my broadsword and conquer my next door neighborhood under the guise of the Finnish flag-strewn banner, as the palm-muted guitar tandems, blasting drums, orchestral intervals, massive choirs and blackened screams mix into a churning backdrop for the storming of all sorts of foreign shores. From the blasting speed-of-light metallic masterworks of "From Afar" and "Elusive Reaches" to the slower dirges of "Heathen Throne" and "Stone Cold Metal", this album teems with more imaginative ideas than a number of modern acts cascading from mainstream society, and helps prove that frozen Scandinavian country is one of the leading forces in the metal world. And with good reason.

So at the end of the day, "From Afar" is, simply put, one of the best albums 2009 has to offer. Things seem to be coming up roses for the Ensiferum horde, and here's hoping that they'll continue their upward trend for years to come.