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.