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Ensiferum - 'From Afar'

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Ensiferum - From Afar

Ensiferum - From Afar

Spinefarm Records

The Bottom Line

Ambitious Viking/folk metal with an epic and bombastic sound that stumbles on a few occasions.
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Pros

  • Orchestration meshes in nicely with the band's core sound.
  • First half of the album is strong from top-to-bottom.
  • Band is at the top of their game instrumentally.

Cons

  • A few of the longer songs fail to keep the momentum going.
  • Western-sounding interlude in "Stone Cold Metal" doesn’t fit.

Description

  • Released September 8, 2009 on Spinefarm Records.
  • Ensiferum’s fourth album.
  • Produced by Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish, Amorphis) and Janne Joutsenniemi.

Guide Review - Ensiferum - 'From Afar'

With a taste for grandiose songwriting, Ensiferum has pushed their sound to the limit on From Afar. With two tracks crossing over the ten-minute mark, the band shoots high and never looks back. There are a few times where the music gets too pretentious for its own good, and the extended lengths of several tracks lead to quirky, off-the-wall moments, but Ensiferum is still able to capture the essential spirit of folk and Viking metal.

The keyboard plays an integral role in maintaining a medieval-like atmosphere. The band puts an emphasis on orchestration, even in the quicker songs “Elusive Reaches” and the title track. The folky acoustic pieces are still prevalent, giving off a calming aura to the opening instrumental “By The Dividing Stream.”

While past albums have had their share of sprawling compositions, From Afar is the most ambitious album of Ensiferum’s career. “Heathen Throne” is a mid-paced headbanger that transforms into an aggressive display of musicianship before ending with soaring guitar work and a punchy horns section, evenly spread out over the course of eleven minutes.

The band experiments with different styles and influences, with varying results. Closer “The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne Part II)” goes on for about two minutes too long due to a dull outro and “Stone Cold Metal” turns from a speedy, up-tempo metal song into the soundtrack to a mid '60s Clint Eastwood western flick, complete with a piano jingle straight out of an Old West saloon, and ending with a head-scratching banjo solo.

From Afar is a series of hits and misses, though the former outweigh the latter. Ensiferum puts on a commendable performance that helps to lessen the impact of the slightly drawn-out songwriting. The band took a leap of faith and tried something more daunting, a telling sign that the creative juices are still flowing mightily.

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