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A Commendable and Praise-Worthy Effort - 85%

zaebangad, April 25th, 2010

After Jari departed Ensiferum to concentrate on Wintersun and after their Victory Songs, (which was the moment at which I exclaimed: “fuck, they’re screwed!”), my skepticism about From Afar was very strongly fortified in my brain. As of the hour I am writing this review, we’ve been waiting for over half a fucking decade and no one in their right minds believes that Jari is ever going to complete Time. I have strong reason to believe that Time is like Kung Pow 2, it’s just a false rumor spread by its creator and is by now a colloquial expression meaning “not in a million years”. And, while Jari is sitting at home and playing God of War III on his computer (he needs that extra RAM to power his emulator), Ensiferum have been hard at work to deliver their 4th full-length.

Globally speaking, the album is quite good. It’s commendable. It starts off legendary with an intro made of beautiful folk melodies that only Ensiferum can craft, opening perfectly for the spine-breaking force that is From Afar, a song with riffs so powerful and melodies so epic that it will simply stick an axe into your head. Following is the equally strong Twilight Tavern, which will then squeeze all of your blood from the carpet and make you drink it.

The music is ultimately very typical of Ensiferum, those unmistakable crushing riffs, those classic sword-bearing melodies can not be formed by anyone else. A change though, can be seen in that this album is a bit more on the power metal side of things, which, of course, is not a negative thing. The clean vocals really shine on this one and are a nice change from Petri’s screams, which, honestly, are not something that I hold in too high a regard. I hate to compare, but he is not able to recapture that same quality of the legendary ex-frontman. A very fresh change are the added female vocals that weave choruses equally as epic as their male counterparts, making a truly fine addition to the overall picture.

Unfortunately, there are several things going against the release which prevent it from reaching ultimate metal greatness. My biggest problem lies with the track Heathen Throne. It starts off Amon Amarth (something that I don’t want in my Ensiferum) and in the next 11 fucking minutes it turns into a track so dull and murderously tiresome, that it inevitably kills the momentum of the album and left me contemplating suicide. It took a while till the brown spots before my eyes disappeared. Fortunately, the rest of the album ranges from solid to superb and will (eventually) regain its momentum. Somewhat unsettling, however is The Longest Journey (a 13-minute journey, to be exact), a song with three endings, that, although a sequel to Heathen Throne, is thankfully not that bad. Apart from these few faults, there are several moments in the album where Ensiferum rip-off themselves and sort of become like a stale, clichéd version of their previous albums, but nothing too horrible.

Still, even with its faults, I am extremely pleased with From Afar. It falls just a tad short of Ensiferum’s former glory, but is still a commendable offering worthy of respect.