If you have even the slightest interest in Viking Folk Metal, then you are sure to have heard of Ensiferum. Formed in 1995, the Finnish five-piece took six years to release their eponymously titled début album, but quickly built up a reputation as one of the major players on the scene. A lofty position they still find themselves in today.
Never straying too far from their preferred formula (okay, ‘Two of Spades’ from previous album One Man Army was a bit mad with its enjoyable but bizarre disco section), Ensiferum continue to plough the same furrow without ever sounding like they’re running out of ideas. There might be a familiar riff or melody here and there, as is the case with new album Two Paths (Metal Blade), but they’re usually so enjoyable that they’re very quickly forgiven.
As the title suggests, the new album serves not only as something typically Vikingy, but also explores both sides of Ensiferum’s signature sound. First there’s the furious metal bombast of tracks like ‘For Those About To Fight For Metal’, ‘Way of the Warrior’, and ‘King of Storms’ and then there’s their bouncier, folkier side, like the accordion and violin led title track, the ridiculously catchy album highlight ‘Feast with Valkyries’ with its female vocals, and Viking gang chorus, the drunken tavern knees-up that is ‘God is Dead’, and the pure, unadulterated Skyclad worship of ‘Don’t You Say’.
The slower songs play their part too. The Bathory meets Falkenbach-esque ‘Hail to the Victor’, the baleful, acoustic strains of closer ‘Unettomaan Aikaan’, and most especially, the many faces of ‘I Will Never Kneel’ all combine to create another hugely enjoyable Ensiferum album.
Children of Bodom producer Anssi Kippo returns to repeat his sterling work from the previous album, allowing the guitars of Petri Lindroos and Markus Toivonen to take charge when they have to, but leaving them in the background when Janne Parviainen‘s pounding drums, or the more traditional instruments, like former Turisas member Netta Skog‘s accordion, take over.
If you like your Viking Folk metal with big, bouncy riffs and bigger, bouncier choruses, then Two Paths will surely bring a huge grin to your hairy, ale foam-flecked face.