Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: July 10th, 2020
Genre: Folk Metal
Petri Lindroos – Vocals, Guitars
Markus Toivonen – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sami Hinkka – Bass, Vocals
Pekka Montin – Keyboards, Vocals
Janna Parviainen – Drums
1. Seafarer’s Dream
2. Rum, Women, Victory
4. The Defence of the Sampo
5. Run from the Crushing Tide
6. For Sirens
7. One with the Sea
8. Midsummer Magic
9. Cold Northland (Va?ina?mo?inen Part III)
10. Merille Lahteva (Bonus Track)
11. I’ll Stay by Your Side (Bonus Track)
I’ve always been a bit hit and miss with folk metal, especially in recent years, as I find the main styles of I prefer, either power/folk or melodeath tinged folk metal, have been in fairly low supply in recent years, aside from the obvious picks such as Elvenking and Eluveitie. The fact some bands who used to fall into the latter side have been ditching their folk elements (such as Equilibrium, one of my favorites in the genre for a long time), certainly hasn’t helped. Through all of that, though, one band I have always been able to count on providing me with some epic folk metal, mixed with elements of melodic death metal, power metal, and symphonic arrangements is Ensiferum. They’re one of a few bands who have never let me down, even on albums that have left other fans a bit less thrilled. So while the wait for a followup to 2017’s Two Paths has been just short of 3 years, it has felt much longer to me, as I’ve been desperately craving more of the band’s sound pretty much ever since the aforementioned album was released. Now, in July 2020, that follow up is here. The band has unleashed their 8th full-length release, Thalassic, and unsurprisingly, I’d be more than willing to say a word using the last six letters of that title, with a C in front, to describe this release!
Surprisingly enough, for a band that’s been around as long as Ensiferum, and for a band known to have sequenced songs from time to time, the band had never made a full concept album, up until now. Thalassic changes that, as it is described as a concept album dealing with themes of the sea. While I generally don’t pay much attention to lyrics while listening to their music, I do find the lyrics particularly epic and intense on this release, and it’s easy to see how the tracks connect, while also being quite varied and awesome in different ways, as always for the band. While each track fits into the overall concept, there’s of course still the usual epic, heroic feel the band has always had, along with anthemic choruses, and all of that is still fully intact, as fans would expect. The one element that’s been cut back a bit is the symphonic arrangements. They’re still around on some tracks and are of course very epic when they do appear, but they aren’t used as frequently as on some of the band’s previous releases.
Performances are excellent across the board, as always. Vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos provides his signature, intense, powerful, and energetic growls as always, while the guitar work from him and Markus Toivonen is equal parts heavy and melodic, as needed, occasionally providing some epic folk melodies, as usual. Drummer Janne Parviainen and bassist Sami Hinkka, two veteran members, are of course also fantastic as always. The one position that’s been shifting around a fair bit over the past decade is keyboards, with the band even experimenting with an accordion player instead of Two Paths. This time around, though, the band has ditched that idea and instead brought in new keyboardist Pekka Montin, who at times lends the tracks a more modern, atmospheric backdrop than anything the band has done before. However, while his keys are quite excellent, he’s also the main source of clean vocals on the album. Ever since original vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jari Mäenpää left the band in 2004 to start Wintersun, the band has tried many different approaches to clean vocals, with varied results. This time around, Montin takes the lead and he has a very powerful voice, often getting quite animated and intense, delivering some epic high notes that at times remind me of a younger Hansi Kürsch, which can only ever be a good thing. His vocals give many of the tracks an epic power metal feel, and he’s especially effective during the speedier tracks, though he also delivers some smooth, softer vocals for more subdued sections, and he excels at those as well. As much as I’ve loved every Ensiferum album to date, I think Montin’s clean vocals help their music ascend to a new level, and he is fantastic on this album, so I hope he sticks around for a long time. Production-wise, the album is excellent, and very much along the same lines as any of the band’s more recent releases, as expected.
From a sound and performance viewpoint, Thalassic would already be one of the band’s stronger releases, but when you start factoring in the songwriting, it just gets even better! Following a very nice, decently lengthy orchestral intro, opening track and lead single “Rum, Women, Victory” kicks in, and it is one hell of an epic opening track! Right from the start, it has that classic Ensiferum energy to it, very much feeling like it would have fit in perfectly on any of their first four releases, with some fantastic, heavy yet wonderfully melodic and catchy lead guitar work, which extends throughout the track, especially standing out during a spectacular solo section in the second half, which is unbelievably fun and addictive. For the most part, it’s a classic Ensiferum sounding track, letting Lindroos lead the way with his powerful growls during the verses and a very fun, super catchy chorus, though Montin gets to shine during a few brief vocal passages and instantly establishes himself as a strong asset for the band, with tons more to come on later tracks. Overall, it’s an extremely fun track on its own, and a perfect opening track.
Next is second single “Andromeda”, a more mid-paced, very melodic track, with a stunning chorus, sung mostly by Montin, with a bit of harsh vocals, as usual. Right from the beginning, it introduces a very nice folk melody, which stays throughout the track, and it’s definitely on the more subdued side, as far as Ensiferum goes, while still being extremely epic, catchy, and having some beautiful folk melodies and excellent instrumental work all around. It’s another instant classic and a personal favorite. The speed picks up again on “ The Defence of the Sampo”, a track which opens with a soft, folk-infused intro, before the pace quickly picks up and it turns into a very epic power/folk metal track, with Montin leading the way for most of the tracks during. It’s a fast, fun and very melodic track, featuring one of the absolute best, catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard from the band, utilizing the kind of epic choir vocals the band has always specialized in, while Montin shines during the verses, and the symphonic arrangements and folk melodies are used to great effect. The track is fantastic overall, with the final run through the chorus especially being awe-inspiring, and perhaps the best thing I’ve heard from the band in a very long time.
Keeping the momentum going, “Run from the Crushing Tide” is a fast and furious mix of power metal and melodeath, featuring epic choir vocals, some symphonic arrangements, furious drums, heavy riffs, and a nice mix of harsh and clean vocals, with both lead vocalists doing a fantastic job, as always. The chorus is especially awesome, with Lindroos delivering some epic growls, while Montin gets a bit wild and intense with his clean vocals, resulting in some pretty fantastic vocal melodies. It’s one of the harder-hitting tracks on the album and is extremely fun, epic and catchy as expected. Next is “For Sirens”, another more mid-paced track, where the keys have a very modern feel to them, coming somewhat close to Sabaton territory which is only enhanced further by a rather similar-sounding drumbeat. Despite this, however, the band adds in their flavor to this style of track, with some heavy riffs, nice folk melodies, and the usual mix of awesome harsh and clean vocals, especially during the fantastic chorus. It’s another track where Montin shines, singing rather softly, but still delivering some very powerful vocals, especially during the second half, while the instrumental portion that comes, later on, is quite beautiful.
Ensiferum isn’t known for their ballads, so it may come as a shock that they decided to attempt one on this album. More shocking than that, though: It’s a fantastic one! Indeed, “One with the Sea” caught me off guard at first, being a very epic ballad, with a nice mix of violins, epic symphonic arrangements, very subdued riffs, and more awesome vocals from Montin, who leads the way with his softest vocals on the album, while sounding very emotional, powerful and quite intense as the track goes on. His performance on this track is stunning and elevates an already great composition to the next level, helping to put it up there with “Rejoice the Adorned” from the recently reviewed final Falconer album as two of the best ballads I’ve heard in quite some time. His vocals towards the end are especially awesome, while the accompanying music is also awesome, as usual.
Following a couple of slower tracks, “Midsummer Magic” unsurprisingly swings things back in a faster-paced direction. It’s a very fun, rather playful track, starting softly with some upbeat folk melodies, before quickly picking up the pace. The track alternates between fun folk-infused sections, with some epic choir vocals, and harder-hitting passages with intense harsh vocals, which are used nicely during the very fun chorus. Around the midway point, the music goes into a full folk territory, complete with some epic gang vocals in a different language, and this section is quite awesome. Overall, another excellent track. Closing out the standard edition is the 8+ minute epic “Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III”, a new chapter in a saga that started on the band’s self-titled debut, back in 2001. It’s a fantastic track, starting very calmly, with some beautiful guitar work. The track has multiple phases, starting fairly slowly for the first few minutes, with a mix of harsh vocals and epic symphonic arrangements, before picking up the pace around the midway point. From there, in terms of an epic power/folk track with some melodeath elements, alternating between intense harsh vocal portions and a fantastic chorus, with some super intense blast beat drumming, and awesome clean vocals. The second half of the track is some of the heaviest, most epic, and most intense stuff that band has produced in a long time, and the track, on the whole, is one of the highlights of an already perfect album, bringing it to a thrilling conclusion. There are two bonus tracks, the first of those being a very nice instrumental folk track titled “Merille Lahteva”, while the second is “I’ll Stay By Your Side”, a slower-paced track with some very emotional clean vocals, though overall, I find it fails to click in the way all other tracks on the album do.
Ensiferum is one of a few bands in the world who I can always count on to deliver nothing less than a fantastic album every time they release new music, so it’s no surprise Thalassic has once again left me thoroughly entertained and blown away by the band’s consistency, as well as their ability to keep things just fresh enough while maintaining their signature sound. Fans of the band’s first four releases, in particular, should be very pleased, as this album has a very classic sound to it while elevating itself thanks to some awesome clean vocals performed by new keyboardist Pekka Montin. Anyone looking for some excellent new melodeath infused folk metal is highly recommended to give this album a go, as it’s the best of this type released in recent years, as well as easily being my 2020 album of the year, just a bit past the halfway point.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.