Friday, February 27, 2015

Album Review: Ensiferum's One Man Army

I don't have a lot to say about this album. Well... I should clarify that I do have a lot to say but I won't, because this is such a good album that I don't need to. I won't say that this is their best album or the best album this year, only because it's still early and I try not to label things as best and worst and so on.

Honestly and simply put, this is the most solid album Ensiferum could have made and I am more than pleased with it. It has all of the elements of a fantastic Ensiferum album: an intro track that builds up to a fast and heavy opener, a slower and more epic, meaningful song, a great title track, an interlude and song combo in the style of my favorite Ensiferum song, tracks that are a great mix of Ensiferum's folk, death, and Finnish metal, a fantastic western inspired tune, and, besides the polka/country ender, an improved version of the epic ender from their previous album.

I enjoyed that last sentence, a grammatically and annoyingly correct sentence that went on for far too long, just like Unsung Heroes' "Passion, Proof, Power"--a great song that is so long it is almost too difficult to listen to. "Descendants, Defiance, Domination" is so awesomely and obviously in the mind of and a correction of its predecessor that it is one of my favorite parts of the album.

As I mentioned above, I have to love this album because it harkens back, in more ways than one, to Iron and my favorite Ensiferum song, "Tale of Revenge." Preceded by the beautiful and sorrowful "Mourning Heart," this is my favorite of their songs because it so perfectly shows both their metal side and their Finnish side, mixing heavy death metal riffs with a longing and sorrow filled sound only Finnish bands have mastered. "Warrior Without a War," preceded by "Burden of the Fallen," does this same thing, and beautifully.

The album is closed by a country/polka song with beautiful vocals performed by Netta Skog, formerly of Turisas. This song caught me off guard because of it's complete difference from the other songs, though it does a nice job of ending the album on an upbeat and thoughtful note.

I was suggested to add more critiques to this review and I had to really look for them, which I think says a lot about how great this album is. The only thing I can really say, and something that spans the whole album, is that the guitars seem to lack a certain prominence. That is not to say that they aren't skillfully performed and ever present, but to say that many of the melodies are made with other instruments and that there are less outstanding riffs and solos that I would have hoped for. I would have liked to see more of the older Ensiferum guitar work and that is the critique I have found.

Let me also take a moment, or rather a paragraph, to comment on the way they teased and actually pre-released this album. I half wrote a post ranting and annoyed at their release of Suomi Warmetal as a teaser because they didn't release it and it isn't a teaser for anything but the bonus tracks. I am, however, impressed by their releasing of a track a day from this album on Spotify the week before its release. I'm sure this is more Metal Blade and Spotify's doing, but I'll not lie that it got me really excited for this album, checking first thing every day to see what that day's song would be like. Although Spotify did win in the end because this got me to make an account and start actually using it.

I cannot say that this is my favorite Ensiferum album. I cannot say that I like any of these songs more than any of their previous ones. I can say, however, that since the release of One Man Army I listened to nothing else but this great work of Suomi metal for almost a week.

This review brought to you by Solemn Oath's Kidnapped by Vikings.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Something New?

Woh...has it been this long since I've posted anything? Bands have come and gone, albums released and been disliked, fans ranted and raved. The metal world turns and I've been buasy not posting about anything.

I have, of course, kept on with the show, still playing three hours of delicious metal every Saturday night from Midnight to 3AM CST--visit me on Facebook and Twitter and so on #shamelessplug #thisismyblog

"Did he just use hashtags?" you must be asking yourself, probably. Turisas2013 had a big impact on my, I guess (only Kyle will get that).

I should stop being stupid and just post get on with it, shouldn't I?

"On with what?" you might find yourself asking. Or not. I can't think for you or read your mind. Honestly though, I'm not even sure what I'm posting about this time. I guess this is kind of generally "hey it's been a while and I haven't said anything so here is me saying something about some things or something" post.

I really am intending on posting a lot more in the coming days, months, years, decades, and so on, so I guess this is as good a place as any to start. In the works, actually, is a whole new metal news idea of mine, featuring a lot more posting, ranting, and discussing topics in and related to metal--though there will be more to come later. First I need to just start posting again.

Now for some actual metal discussion: 

I thought to make this post while listening to "Not Unlike the Waves," by Agalloch. Although I've known about them for a long time, obviously, and heard a few songs of theirs, obviously this one included, I've never really listened to them, gotten into them, or been deeply interested.

Today I saw a brief mention of their new album, The Serpent & The Sphere, in some "Best of 2014" list and decided to listen to it. I sat there at work, digging through an 80,000 item inventory to better optimize our eBay sales, listening to a new album by this band I've always kept in the background and was, for lack of a better term, blown away.

I'd been meaning to listen to Agalloch more for a little while now, and I did, and I'm loving it. This is exactly what I need right now.

It is something to keep me interested in the calm before the storm of new metal, with Ensiferum, Blind Guardian, and Nightwish all releasing albums in less than a month, Heidevolk having just today announced a new album coming, and many others.

It was perfectly segued by a week long obsession with Caladan Brood's Echoes of Battle. Epic, atmospheric, black, although more orchestrated, this Salt Lake duo are just similar enough to Agalloch to get me ready this #agallochalypse. As a side note, if you haven't listened to Caladan Brood, you should.

It is something to break the reluctantly worded monotony I've found myself in in terms of music-listening-to, having listened to so much of my music for so long and so often. Yes, I will always love all of  it, but recently I have found it difficult to just find something to listen to. I've listened to Disforia's The Age of Ether or Unleash the Archers' Demons of  the AstroWaste so much that, I have sometimes found myself doing the unthinkable--scrolling past them on my phone or in my library. I know; it hurts every time.

My largest metal obsession began this way, when I bought Blind Guardian's Live on a whim, knowing Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth had worked with Hansi Kursch; the nest year Blind Guardian is all I listened to. Similar was my recent interest in Bathory, having decided to listen to both their black and viking albums, coming off a big Norwegian black metal kick.

The moral, probably, of this stupid post is to just listen to that one album you saw on that one list of those albums or whatever that one time, or that one band your friend mentioned that one time at that one place. If something even slightly piques your interest, give it a listen. You never know when you will get drawn into a band you'd never given a lot of thought to, be blown away by something new or something old, but new to you.