In the 2000s, metal went through a strange phase. Scandinavian high octane melodeath bands found a shared passion for melody, hooks, and flashy guitar work with power metal bands as well new lyrical inspiration from folklore. Overnight, it seems metal spawned a whole scene with a new pool of clichés (well, sort of new) to exploit. Folk metal was nothing new at the time but there was a huge rebranding of it and every label was jumping on board. New bands popped up every year, some great and some boring as hell. One of these bands, Ensiferum, unfortunately introduced heavy metal’s most notorious edging expert, Jari Mäenpää, into the world. Jari left in 2004 to focus on Wintersun, but Ensiferum has continued its steady output of quality music since his departure. Their new album, Two Paths, continues their streak.
On this new album, Ensiferum delivers the sort of metal you’d expect from them: lots of fast sixteenth note riffing, some folky sounding instruments, and shout choruses. The band has not faltered from their original mythical vision in the slightest. Tracks like the two promotional pre-release tracks, “The Way of the Warrior” and “For Those About To Die For Metal” are appropriately cheesy and likable. The band continues to plays with clean vocals even more on the title track and on “Don’t You Say”. This is especially refreshing because Petri’s vocals do get boring and stale at times. “King of Storms” has an absolutely epic chord progression and will be amazing in a live setting. There’s jaunty dance numbers like “Feast With Valkyries” and empowerment anthems like “I Will Never Kneel”, it’s all there. The track listing is well-balanced and fans will love this return of their heroes. Everything is as it should be for Ensiferum.
Unfortunately, there’s not much more to say about this album other than, “it’s an Ensiferum album”. Despite being skilled veterans with a 20 year career, the band doesn’t try anything really new or find any new heights within their established sound. Their music lacks the depth and scope of folk metal visionaries like Agalloch, Moonsorrow or Orphaned Land and still remains serious enough to avoid the “goofy” label that bands like Korpilkaani or Alestorm benefit from. This is not to say that all folk metal must fall into these two categories. On the contrary, folk metal, despite its handful of gimmicky artists, is a diverse and rich genre that has decades of interesting and compelling metal music. Two Paths, on the other hand, is institution metal. It’s a band maintaining it’s middle of the road status and satiating its fans for another two year tour cycle. If you’re a fellow fan, this is going to make you happy. If you aren’t, this album is not the one to convince you. It’s another folk metal album. Enjoy it.
Two Paths is available 9/15 via Metal Blade Records.