Ensiferum – “Thalassic” (Metal Blade Records)
Battle Helm Rating
The very first of Ensiferum’s albums to be based around a theme, this 8th release titled “Thalassic” translates from the ancient Greek ‘…of or relating to seas..’. Indeed, with song titles like ‘Andromeda’ inspired by Greek mythology, “Thalassic” sees Markus Toivonen & co try something a little different conceptually, if not musically where the 11 tracks (including 2 bonus numbers) continue to revel in the band’s winning formula of heroic tales told through deep and often fast folk pagan power metal. Although still featuring Mikko P. Mustonen’s dramatic orchestrations, the emphasis of the material here is on having less symphonic bombast but instead letting loose with the real emotions and passions of the songs, to which new keyboard player/lead clean vocalist Pekka Montin and violin virtuoso Lassi Logren have added no small measure. Truly, as the crack of thunder on ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ sounds, the trademark folk melodies explode through the prominent twin guitars of Toivonen and Petri Lindroos amid a torrent of hoarse roars, clean screams and warrior choruses bringing yet another smasher of a number to your heart. Opening with Logren’s folk instruments, the epic riff on ‘Andromeda’ is both deep and undeniably passionate and when added to by even more irresistible Finnish folk melodies played through Ensiferum’s fast scaling work, again resonates straight into your ever-stirring heart. With Mustonen’s orchestrations adding subtle, if no less musclebound backing on ‘The Defense Of The Sampo’, the song skilfully blends striking symphony with epic majesty through its rousing emotions backed by huge choirs, while contrasted by quieter folk passages soothed by ethereal violins and church bells before soaring off to a gargantuan climax topped off by Montin’s soprano highs – wow! Blasting off through Janne Parviainen’s double bass drumming and another addictive folk melody, warrior choirs and Montin’s keyboards add their measure to the main epic riff as it captures your heart while the gruff / clean vocal trade-offs are unbelievable in not just raising the excitement but the emotion to boiling point! Closing with the near 9 minute ‘ Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III)’, the opening wave effects and Montin’s touching piano beautifully set the tone to which Toivonen and Lindroos add their guitars before a superb combination of epic, symphonic and folk styles set to work in building the passion and atmosphere before exploding in classic Ensiferum style, soaring and roaring with undying passion throughout. Although “Thalassic” might be viewed by the band as trying something off-piste, truth be told it is a superb album that could set them up for bigger things to come. In any case, it is no better way this band could’ve celebrated their 25th anniversary!