A band like Ensiferum needs no introduction. The crazy and awesome Finnish band has been delivering us some epic folk metal since 1995. With many studio albums and awesome live shows, they are definitely one of the favorites in the folk metal genre. They are back with a brand new album called “Two Paths” which has been released recently. I was especially curious about this record because, as some of you know, the band parted ways with the keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen last year and welcomed the amazing accordionist Netta Skog (ex-Turisas). So I was quite eager to hear her contributions…
After spinning the record a few times, I gotta say I am still confused about it. On one hand, Ensiferum sound is all about catchy and powerful tunes that all folk/power metal fans love and the album delivers this 100%. Almost all of the songs are catchy with some of them being the highlights (For Those About To Fight For Metal, Don’t You Say) and the album’s style is full of energy and it’s all about the Ensiferum sound most of us adore… powerful drums as well as the great harmony of the orchestrations and vocals. At this point, surely the replacement of the former keyboardist Emmi with the sweet and talented accordionist/vocalist Netta definitely added an extra spice to the great Ensiferum sound. Not only did she add a versatility with her style but her vocal duties also stand out in the band. As a matter of fact, my highlight from the album has become “Feast With Valkyries” which features Netta on vocals. Apart from this, some songs like “Don’t You Say” or “God Is Dead” have this interesting pop/folkish vibe that surprised me.
At this point, something has to be said about the ‘new’ Ensiferum… The most surprising aspect for me has been Petri’s vocals not being in the spotlight anymore; Markus, Sami & Netta also take the spotlight in vocal duties in this record. Surely this was always the case in the previous albums (with Markus & Sami taking over vocal duties) but this is even more obvious in “Two Paths” as it is more homogeneous and spread around. This was surprising for me and I guess I needed another few spins to get used to this but overall, I liked this approach of the band. It’s maybe an attempt for them to see how different and ‘versatile’ the band can get.
Despite the album being catchy & energetic and despite the band’s fresh-ness, I felt that “Two Paths” is like a repetition somehow. Surely Ensiferum has experimented in previous albums – especially in “Unsung Heroes”– but this time, I felt that the band ran out of ideas. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite a nice folk metal album somehow but I expect a lot more from a band like Ensiferum. One thing I thought is that they can focus more on Netta or even guest vocalists (like the performance of Laura Dziadulewicz in Star Queen (Celestial Bond Part II) featured in “Unsung Heroes”) as I think that her style and talent really adds a folk-ish approach and bring back that essential Ensi sound that I love. I am sure the album will grow on some of you after a few spins but apart from a few songs, the album is sadly not in my highlights of this year. I know Ensiferum can do a lot better and take their style even further now that Netta is in the band. The key in this genre is to test the limits and I am expecting Ensiferum to do it in the next records; otherwise they will become repetitive and the songs will sound the same… and I hope they won’t fall in this trap.
Highlights: Feast with Valkyries, Don’t You Say
Petri Lindroos – vocals, guitar
Markus Toivonen – guitar, vocals
Sami Hinkka – bass, vocals
Janne Parviainen – drums
Netta Skog – digital accordion, backing vocals