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Ensiferum - From Afar (CD)

From Afar
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 28 September 2009, 3:39 PM

ENSIFERUM belongs to the group of bands that started the fire on the Pagan Metal scene. In the beginning, the Finnish act started with clear Viking Metal intentions but when the melodic and catchy guitar riffs entered, ENSIFERUM took the Pagan path along with bands like ELUVEITIE (early) and TYR.
So, here is their fourth full length album coming to prove whether or not ENSIFERUM is still in a rising course. Based on my taste, Victory Songs was a very good album with catchy Viking tunes and the trademark war hawk atmosphere. The main element in that album was the distinct guitar melodies and the obvious - for this scene - Black Metal-ish vocals.
In From Afar ENSIFERUM try to add a certain portion of diversity in their music in an attempt to escape the rather bounding box of the Pagan Metal style. It may sound strange, but Pagan Metal can be restrictive if one band does not use some non-Metal instruments that usually are the icing on the cake. And since ENSIFERUM compose guitar-based songs, the danger of repeating themselves seemed to be imminent. Fortunately, the band takes one step forward with From Afar and this is heard immediately after the clean guitar traditional sounding intro By The Dividing Stream. From Afar enters with the band's signature galloping guitar beside some almost symphonic orchestrations that add some depth to the composition. The nice tempo break in Twilight Tavern and the choir vocals make this track sound more interesting than the average ENSIFERUM songs. But, the headbanging mid tempo of Heathen Throne is - what I believe - an artistic evolution for this band. Actually, this track is in the vein of the early works of TYR, mainly due to the epic groove and the double guitar harmonies. The twelve minutes of the closing track were the next most interesting stop during my listening sessions. This is actually the second part of Heathen Throne that comes with a slow tempo and an epic atmosphere with additional orchestrations that manages to take mind over Basilis Poledouris' soundtrack for the legendary movie Conan The Barbarian. I feel that ENSIFERUM tried their luck in creating melodic songs with slower tempos and expanding their musical horizons by implementing pompous orchestrations that work just fine.
Don't get me wrong here, since From Afar still carries the 'classic' ENSIFERUM sound with the straightforward and kind of simple Elusive Reaches or in Stone Cold Metal. The latter song features and killer tempo break with piano tunes and an almost Western-like whistling tune that are brand new for the Finnish act. The track ends with nice guitar solos and with the surprise of a banjo rhythm. All in all, this is a very good album that is more complex than their previous one and will require some additional CD spins to be digested and enjoyed to the maximum.

3 Star Rating

By The Dividing Stream
From Afar
Twilight Tavern
Heathen Throne
Elusive Reaches
Stone Cold Metal
Smoking Ruins
Tumman Virran Taa
The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)
Petri Lindroos - Vocals, Guitar
Markus Toivonen - Guitar, Vocals
Sami Hinkka - Bass, Vocals
Janne Parviainen - Drums
Emmi Silvennoinen - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Spinefarm Records


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