Ensiferum is without question the ruler of the Folk Metal realm. Their fans often refer to them as the pioneers of the genre and rightfully so with releases such as, Victory Songs, and One Man Army. Those two albums set the bar high for other bands trekking behind them in the frozen landscapes of the Gods. Anointed and Blessed, Ensiferum finds themselves in a great position as they continue to prove their existence as they have released their long-awaited follow-up to One Man Army called Two Paths. Their seventh studio album was released on September 15th, and it is correct to say that this album feels appropriate, and while it’s probably not their best work, it does seem to be a defining point in their career.
Two Paths consists of thirteen tracks of pure folkiness. The tone is not too heavy, but it’s not too soft. Ultimately, there is a diverse but familiar vibe throughout the record and Ensiferum did a great job at keeping it interesting from the beginning to the end. If you were expecting the Ensiferum you know and love, then you won’t be disappointed with Two Paths. One Man Army is widely recognized as one of (if not) their best album, but Two Paths feels like a perfect balance of their talents as a collective whole. They have been described as a Melodic Death Metal band with Folk integration, but this album takes a different direction as they have almost decided that Korpiklaani was starting to get too close to their rightful throne. The point I’m trying to make is that they focused more on being Folk rather than Melodic Death Metal.
The record begins with an instrumental introduction called “Ajattomasta Unesta,” and it teases the prominent melody of the first single Ensiferum released called “For Those About to Fight For Metal.” Both tracks together set a great tone for the album by providing an epic atmosphere worthy of a thousand kings. Driving guitars and catchy vocal lines are present and instantly have you chanting while you were wishing you were riding into battle to kill those dastardly Orcs. The next track, “Way of the Warrior,” is the obvious focus track of Two Paths. Some of the album’s best work can be found on here, and it keeps the flow steady as it’s not too fast or complex. As you continue to listen to more of the album you start to pick up on them focusing more on the ambiance rather than the drive and intricacies of metal. A song like “Don’t You Say” is a great example of them trying to set a tone rather than making a statement, and it’s probably my personal favorite track on Two Paths.
To continue the theme of folkiness you have tracks such as “Feast With Valkyries” and “God is Dead.” If you don’t enjoy over-the-top use of accordion and somewhat cheesy vocal lines, then keep on moving because they went full on Korpiklaani on our asses. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not a true fan or are insecure about the feelings you may experience, then maybe Folk Metal isn’t for you. Two Paths concludes with a track titled “Hail to the Victor” and an acoustic outro called “Unettomaan Aikaan.” Both of the tracks feel appropriate and leave you feeling satisfied with the listening experience. As a bonus, Ensiferum provided alternative versions of “Don’t You Say” and “God is Dead” with screamed vocals instead of clean singing.
In conclusion, Two Paths is the defining album of Ensiferum’s career. The album is smart and interesting as they focused on ambiance more than anything else. Choirs and orchestral moments are found all throughout the record and the guitars and vocals are diverse from one song to the next. One thing that does need to be mentioned, though, is that they played this album very safe. Don’t expect anything grand or life-changing, because you will not find it here. Do I wish they would have shot for the stars a bit more? Yes, but what can you do? All-in-all it’s a solid album, and it’s a must-have album for Folk Metal connoisseurs.
Two Paths was released through Metal Blade Records on September 15th, 2017.
Check Ensiferum’s website here.
Purchase their album digitally through their Bandcamp page here.