Victory Songs: Ensiferum

Rating: 90%

Ensiferum_Victory_SongsReleased in 2007, “Victory Songs” remains one of my favorite Ensiferum albums to date. I love the opening song “Ad Victoriam” on the album which sets the pace for the entire works. It begins with a very European Folk style acoustical piece that features a blend of musical instruments centered around a soft chants with the keyboard in the background. Throughout the album you’ll hear these arrangements of bagpipes, mandolin, whistles, and yes, the recorder. That is what Folk Metal is about, the instrumentation. As the second song opens with a scream and heavy sounds of guitars, drums, and bass and fast tempos, the rest of the album falls into place.

The musicianship is topnotch. You have harsh vocalist Petri Lindroos on guitar and banjo, clean vocalist and guitarist Markus Toivonen, keyboardist Meiju Enho, bassist Sami Hinkka, and drummer Janne Parviainen.

Musically, this album has some very catchy chorus lines, great riffs, fast leads, and great tempos. The instrumentation of acoustical and electric go hand and hand to break up the pace of the music and make it really enjoyable to listen to. The music itself is very epic. It’s got plenty of melody that is intertwined with atmospheric Power Metal and Epic Metal. Through the lyrics of Viking themes, they manage to capture history that is now becoming very popular.

Track listing:

1. “Ad Victoriam” 3:10
2. “Blood Is the Price of Glory” 5:17
3. “Deathbringer from the Sky” 5:10
4. “Ahti” 3:55
5. “One More Magic Potion” 5:21
6. “Wanderer” 6:32
7. “Raised by the Sword” 6:11
8. “The New Dawn” 3:42
9. “Victory Song” 10:42

Eric the Red: Týr

Rating: 90%

Eric_the_red_re-release_cover.jpgReleased in 2003 and released in 2006, “Eric the Red” is a unique take on European traditional folk songs and tales. Musically, this album is a combination of Folk and Viking Metal with some Progressive influences. It also has some of the Power and Epic Metal elements that are blended nicely into Týr’s brand of Heavy Metal. One thing is for sure, Týr will leave you wanting to know more about the traditional themes that are the subject of their lyrics.

The song structures are very complex, loosing more of the power chord and going for more of riffs that are almost along the lines of scales. Think Iron Maiden. The music itself isn’t as heavy as most Viking Metal bands are as many of them fall into the Death Metal realm, but along the lines of traditional Heavy Metal.  Again, think of early Iron Maiden or Manowar. This album is rich on harmony and melody from the music to the vocals. It also seems to have some melodic melodies to it as well.

Vocally, there are chants and songs written in poetic manor that tells story of those yesterdays. The arrangements of lyrics are both inspiring and epic along with those melodic and majestic chorus lines. The chorus really makes you want to sing out loud and you’ll hear inside you mind because of how catchy they are. It’ll turn you into a Pagan or Heathen when your done.

Vocalist and guitarist Heri Joensen delivers a great performance on this record. I really admire his vocal style and song writing capabilities. Also shredding on the ax is Terji Skibenæs. Keeping pace and time is bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen and drummer Kári Streymoy whom I must say really give this brand of Viking Metal that tasteful Progressive complex of off beats. 

 

Track listing:

1. “The Edge” 7:44
2. “Regin Smiður” Traditional Faroese 6:08
3. “Dreams” 5:32
4. “The Wild Rover” Traditional Irish 4:12
5. “Stýrisvølurin” Traditional Faroese 6:57
6. “Ólavur Riddararós” Traditional Faroese 4:36
7. “Rainbow Warrior”  5:28
8. “Ramund Hin Unge” Traditional Danish 4:31
9. “Alive” 7:24
10. “Eric the Red” 7:42
11. “God of War” 6:23
12. “Hail to the Hammer” 3:49

Jumalten aika (Age of Gods): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

jumalten_aikaIn 2016, Moonsorrow released “Jumalten aika (Age of Gods).” This album is among one of their best projects to date. The influences of folk and classical music blending with their style of Black Metal is amazing. That is what makes this album so epic from start to finish. The songs are on the lengthy side, but Moonsorrow always seems to make the the music interesting and never allows the music to get bogged down with phony background noise of false instruments. Because of that, the song structures are very well written.

Musically, this album has some interesting melodies that are centered around classic Black Metal traits. When you hear flutes, mouth harps, and other acoustical string instruments playing along side of the distorted guitars and harsh music, the songs themselves have a bigger sound to them. Moonsorrow seems to work all that to their advantage. That is where the word “Epic” seems best described the material. The melody and choirs are done perfectly from song to song. Each song carries the listener on a journey.

This album lacks two minor things. The vocals seem a tad in the distance, but everything else as far as instrumentation is perfectly heard. Secondly, the sound of the music seems to follow “Verisäkeet” rather than evolving into something new. But these are little things.

Musicianship to me is still at it’s best.  Bassist and lead vocalist Ville Sorvali again just nails it. His style of vocals and bass will surely influence another generation of musicians who are looking at this mastering this style of Black Metal. Even his style of vocals seem to get better with age. Pounding on the drums is the very talented Marko Tarvonen. I love his style of drumming. On the axes are Henri Sorvali and Mitja Harvilahti. These guys help to create the huge epic sound. Rounding out the spot on keyboards is  Markus Eurén.

If you haven’t heard this album yet, you’re missing out on one of the best new heavy metal albums of 2016. This album is fantastic and is one of the best Moonsorrow albums to date. Don’t pass this one by.

Track listing:

1. “Jumalten aika” The Age of Gods 12:43
2. “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa” Plague Grove incl. People of the Dayless Day 15:21
3. “Suden tunti” Wolf’s Hour 7:06
4. “Mimisbrunn” Mímir’s Well 15:55
5. “Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)” The Age of Man (A Bow into Darkness) 16:00
6. “Soulless” (Grave cover; bonus track) 3:18
7. “Non Serviam” (Rotting Christ cover; bonus track) 5:10

Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

Varjoina_kuljemme_kuolleiden_maassa.jpgIn 2011, Moonsorrow released “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa.”  I have always respected Moonsorrow for their huge epic and powerful sound. And this album doesn’t disappoint. Moonsorrow has added a another great noteworthy album to their discography. Although, consistent with regards to their genre, Moonsorrow seems to make it work well. The only disappointment that I have with this album is the small fillers or the interludes that are under two minutes long. I know that those interludes lead into the much larger sagas.

Musicianship is very good. The guitar riffs, the bass lines and the powerful drumming along with the keyboards gives this album a great full sound. Vocally, this is another great piece. Although, this album lacks lead guitars, it’s still a great album. Each musician is very talented and each brings that piece to the band that is needed to make a great Heavy Metal band.

Song structures are intense. Moonsorrow doesn’t disappoint when it comes to blending elements of Black Metal and Folk influenced melodies together. The music is very full, rich and filled with content. Each song, excluding the interludes, are vibrant and in some cases sound very complex. For their length, it’s almost as if you’re on a journey that never disappoints. I still love the large choir and the orchestra mixed with those Folk instrumentation. The jaw harp is another added touch that makes the music. There’s lot’s of great melodies and yes, harmony.

This album is not only a great Moonsorrow album, but it’s also a great Folk Metal album too. Moonsorrow is one of those bands that continues to define this genre that we call a sub-genre of Black Metal into it’s own category.

Track listing:

1. “Tähdetön” Starless 12:44
2. “Hävitetty” Ravaged 1:34
3. “Muinaiset” The Ancient Ones 11:43
4. “Nälkä, väsymys ja epätoivo” Hunger, Weariness and Despair 1:12
5. “Huuto” The Scream 15:58
6. “Kuolleille” For the Dead 1:35
7. “Kuolleiden maa” The Land of the Dead 16:22

Tervaskanto (Resinous Stump): Korpiklaani

Rating: 80%

tervaskantoIn 2007, Korpiklaani released “Tervaskanto.”  This Finnish Folk Metal band blends Polka with elements of Thrash Metal. The end result is a great mix of instrumentation, clean vocals and big chorus lines. I love that this album starts with a beer drinking anthem “Let’s Drink.”

Musically, there’s some very catchy chorus lines and lot’s of fantastic riffs. I really admire the arrangements of the instrumentation on each song. There are some great melodies on this album. The sound of the heavy distorted guitars along with the accordion, tin whistle, violin, mandolin, and yes, the recorder. By the way, I hated playing that when I was a child in school. There is also some wonderful harmonies on this album as well. The song structures feature the basic elements. Some of the songs are instrumentals that build in to the following song. Lyrically, you’ll find yourself trying to sing along which themes range from beer drinking to hunting.

Musicianship, is pretty solid. A band has to be when so much instrumentation is taking placing. The band consists of vocalist Jonne Järvelä who is also credited with the guitars and mandolin, guitarist Cane, basists Jarkko Aaltonen, drummer Matti Johansson, guitarist and mandolin player Juho Kauppinen, and Hittavainen who plays violin, jouhikko, tin whistle, recorder, and torupill.

If you like Folk Metal, you most likely have heard of these guys. But, if you’re looking into expanding your musical knowledge into a different realm of Heavy Metal, then give these guys a try. Don’t let the fact that half of this album is sung in Finnish.

Track listing:

1. “Let’s Drink” 02:43
2. “Tervaskanto” (“Resinous Stump”) 03:54
3. “Viima” (“Icy Wind”) 03:33
4. “Veriset äpärät” (“Bloody Bastards Children”) 04:27
5. “Running with the Wolves” 03:53
6. “Liekkiön isku” (“The Revenge of Liekkiö”) 02:56
7. “Palovana” (“Inner Fire”) 05:04
8. “Karhunkaatolaulu” (“Bear Hunt Song”) 02:52
9. “Misty Fields” 03:25
10. “Vesilahden veräjillä” (“At the Gates of Vesilahti”) 06:58
11. “Nordic Feast” 02:46

Kivenkantaja (“Stonebearer”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 90%

moonsorrowIn 2003, Moonsorrow released their third album entitled “Kivenkantaja.”  This album is a bit different than their previous albums with regards that it add a dash of Progressive Metal into their main sound of Folk Black Metal. The end result isn’t to bad. When I first heard this album, I had mixed feelings about it musically. To me, there seemed to be some minor flaws in the overall production and then it hit me. It was the Prog influences that I was hearing. Knowing that, I went back and re-listened to it and this time around, I really enjoyed this album. But some of the flaws are still there.

First, this album seems to lack a bit of the raw edge to the overall approach. However, with that said, the album has a lot of content and is full. The mixing just doesn’t do the album justice. But that is only on a few of the songs. The vocals seem to be pushed further into the background rather than more toward the front of the music. Secondly, the overall keyboards also seem to be lacking a bit with regards to adding to that epic sound. But then again, this could be from the Prog influences that I hear. Some of the riffs are a bit weak.

But what this album lacks, there are other strong areas that make this album really unique and enjoyable. For one, the epic sound and song structures are there. Moonsorrow really does a great job when it comes to balancing the Folk and Black Metal portions of their genre.  I really do like the longer songs that Moonsorrow does and how they manage to not bog it down as they keep playing. Secondly, I enjoy the way Moonsorrow  adds that traditional sound of Folk into their music. There’s nothing like hearing a heavy and distorted song and then without notice, the Folk instrumentation begins to play. It makes the music more of a journey and adds to the listening experience. When the album is finished, it leaves you wanting to hear more. This quality is missing from many of the Black Metal bands out there.

Musically, again, this is a good album as I mentioned. The song structures are well balanced and defined. Some of the structures are complex. So let’s break it down. The first track, “Raunioilla” has the sound and introduction of a classic Moonsorrow song. It’s long, slow and heavy. But then you hear the accordion setting the melody and adding harmony to the overall sound. The overall vocal work does seem to be in the background. The overall musicianship is very good.

“Unohduksen lapsi” took me a while to warm up to. This is where you really hear the Prog influences. There’s a lot of weird riffs and timing going on during the bridges. But, this song although, has a heavy sound to it, the guitars seem to be not as strong. The melody does flow nicely. It does have a strong orchestra background to it.

“Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö”  is a fantastic song. Lot’s of good instrumentation. The bridge is very weird leading into the chorus. But, the choirs are excellent. “Kivenkantaja” is a fun journey and is a classic Moonsorrow song. The arrangements are fantastic. I love the epic and big sound that this song has.

“Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” I absolutely love. It begins with a rolling of the piano keys. That’s right, Black Metal done with beauty. It follows with the accordion and simple sticks keeping the beat. The jaw harp comes in. About a 1/3 of the way through the song, the electric heavy riffs come in. I love the almost spoken lyric and the strong beefy chorus.

“Matkan lopussa” is the last track which features Petra Lindberg performing the female vocals. This song is fantastic and is well done. The accordion and jaw harp really makes the mood of the song. Combined by the big male choirs.

Track listing:

1. “Raunioilla” (“At the Ruins”) 13:36
2. “Unohduksen lapsi” (“Child of Oblivion”) 08:17
3. “Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö” (“City of the Gods/A Thousand Years of Heritage”) 10:42
4. “Kivenkantaja” (“Stonebearer”) 07:39
5. “Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” (“Daughter of the Wind/Way of the Warrior”) 08:36
6. “Matkan lopussa” (“At the Journey’s End”) 04:54

Voimasta ja kunniasta (“Of Strength and Honor”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 100%

Voimasta_ja_Kunniasta.jpgThis was the record that attracted me to Moonsorrow back in 2001 when it was released. The epic sound with the raspy vocals and strong choirs pulled me not only into Moonsorrow, but it introduced me to Folk Metal and Viking Metal during a time when I thought that Heavy Metal was getting dull. This was during the wake of Grunge and Nu Metal had begun playing itself out. Both, Groove and Sludge Metal were just still heavily underground. Nothing good was one the radio. Then I heard this album on Serious radio. I was blown away!!!!

Musically, I love the melody which is very strong throughout the music, especially the opening track. Lot’s of good harmony within the music as well. The instrumentation of the traditional Heavy Metal instruments along with the keyboards, accordion, and mouth harp surprisingly, get along well. Lot’s of great tempos in each track some that feature Black Metal mixed with Polka and Folk music adds to the listening experience. It’s both, very dark and bright. It’s also fun and when the last track is finished, you wish it wasn’t over yet. The strong choirs and strong hand claps add a certain appeal of class to the overall music. The song structures are very good.  There’s some really good riffs and although, this album lacks leads, it’s still a very good album.

Musicianship is exceptional. Bassist and vocalist Ville Sorvali takes hold of the music with his raspy vocal style. His bass lines are very strong throughout the entire album. Guitarist, mouth harpist, accordionist, keyboardist, and vocalist Henri Sorvali adds to the overall sound and style. The other instruments he plays really does compliment the overall sound of the music. Drummer Marko Tarvonen is great at the skins. His tempos and signatures are dead on. Guitarist Mitja Harvilahti rounds out the rest of the band.

Track listing:

1. “Tyven” (“Serene”) 01:52
2. “Sankarihauta” (“Warrior’s Grave”) 07:41
3. “Kylän päässä” (“A Village Away”) 07:38
4. “Hiidenpelto/Häpeän hiljaiset vedet” (“Field of the Devil/The Silent Waters of Shame”) 09:20
5. “Aurinko ja kuu” (“The Sun and the Moon”) 08:14
6. “Sankaritarina” (“Warrior’s Tale”) 13:50