I know, you were expecting someone else. Before you click away though, consider the fact that my view of Unsung Heroes is significantly less positive than our dear leader’s. I may have multiple scout badges for setting up tentes de pantalones, but Ensiferum will receive no easy treatment from me. Until now the Finns proved largely exempt from the Law of Diminishing Recordings™. UH may have polarized the metal community, yet in my estimation, an inability to execute on lofty goals, not a weakening sound, purpled that particular nurple. 2015’s One Man Army proved as much. Still, time marches on, and Two Paths proves no one is above the Law.

Ensiferum‘s trademark riffing on display, opener proper “For Those About to Fight for Metal” meets its orchestral backing at the door, sing-along gang choruses and a predictably boisterous approach in tow. Given Ensiferum‘s popularity and the stock nature of the track, ladling on standard descriptors and platitudes seems like a waste of time. Triumphant. Rollicking. Raucous. You know them all. Truth is, this song would fit snugly on any Ensiferum album but stand out on none. The swaying orchestra in its center carries cinematic heft – in fact, its presence is beefed up over the course of the record – even if much of the track is throwaway. “Way of the Warrior” likewise would slot in well on OMA‘s A-side. Its classic Ensiferum sound suffices though the rally at the finish leaves you wishing the whole thing sounded that good.

“King of Storms” and “Feast of Valkyries” succeed as a twin pairing. The former is the best ripper on the album, while “Feast” finally finds mug-hoisting strength as now-permanent lass Netta Skog (ex-Turisas) handles mic and accordion both.1 Buried in that catchiness is the core of Two Paths‘ concerted shift toward folkdom. Don’t get me wrong: despite its struggles, this is still a metal album, even if folk rock fare “Don’t You Say” sounds a lot more like Eluveitie than Finntroll. The track settles into ill-fitting earworm territory, while chorus-heavy “I Will Never Kneel” and accordion-laden “God Is Dead” never come close to evoking air-triplets the way “Deathbringer from the Sky” might. It feels as if the goalposts shifted after OMA, with Ensiferum aiming instead for something neutered, more subtle and palatable. That the metal aspects don’t land only heightens this impression. Call it a focus shift, chorus-centricity, or simply a cask of riffs that finally kicked, little of Two Paths trends above average.

The album also steps back from Petri Lindroos’ harsh vocals, further muting the uproarious nature of years past. Typically, I might reward clean vocal experimentation or individual deviations like the accordion-rock styling of “God Is Dead.” Yet in light of Ensiferum‘s past in successful experimentation, from “Stone Cold Metal” to “Celestial Bond” to “Two of Spades,” the attempts of Two Paths come up short. The lowlight cleans of Markus Toivonen and Sami Hinkka on “Two Paths” and “God Is Dead” deserve to be buried far, far underground, guarded by as many runes and trap cards as the folk community can muster. However, I find nothing transcendent about the mid-tier gruff of “I Will Never Kneel” or Skog’s showings either. Neither scuffle horribly, but neither brings me back like Laura Dziadulewicz’s performance on Unsung Heroes. What’s more, the album’s production is not all that great – loud, clipped, and popping with regularity from start to finish. Warm bass and gorgeous orchestral treatment aside, if Ensiferum want to take a page from Eluveitie‘s book, it should be one on production.

I would be lying if I said Two Paths had not grown on me over the course of the week, if only slightly. But every time foobar shuffles onto Ensiferum or Victory Song, Two Paths‘ dearth of vibrancy and gusto become all the more apparent. The record never throws an “Ahti” dance party or ambushes a poor band of voyaging red shirts to “Battle Song.” It never offers much reason to pluck it from a catalog teeming with hits. Instead, Two Paths marks Ensiferum‘s first real slip down the bald rock face of Diminishing Recordings. I can only pray they find their footing quickly.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: ~270 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: ensiferum.bandcamp.com | ensiferum.com | facebook.com/ensiferum
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. At least I assume it’s her voice. I found no mention of a guest vocalist anywhere and our promo materials didn’t even include an album cover, let alone an info sheet.

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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    IF YOURE FINNISH THEN WIPE YERSELF! – – Moms

  • brutal_sushi

    At least the artwork is fucking gorgeous!

  • Alexandre Barata

    Unfortunatelly this is just one more band that, achieving the world class status, became just one more band, unlearned how to make music that takes you from the balls and rock you as you deserve to be rocked. Since “From Afar” they can’t produce a positive album, with fresh ideas, or, even without them, with strong riffs and compositions.

  • Danny

    Do you ever read a review which is kinda dragging a record but nevertheless leaves you with the impression that you’ll like it anyway? That’s how this review reads to me. I’ll be sure to check this out when it comes out!

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I suspect many will still enjoy it. It’s definitely still Ensiferum, which will be enough for a lot of folks.

      • Piet

        Was that pun intentional?

        • Dr. Wvrm

          ;)

  • Levly

    I wasn’t really feeling the tracks they have released so far so this confirms my fears :(. Oh well, they could not stay on top of their game forever… My only fear is that the increased poppiness makes it a bigger success than any previous record and that they continue on this path rather taking the other one (hoho) back to epicness and badassery.

    Btw, I already thought that UH and OMA were clear steps down from From Afar (the latter even more than the former) but then they were starting from so high that these two records still stood out from the crowd and found a place of choice in my collection.

  • Bryan Barkman

    Hilarious video, fat hairy bathing guy beating himself with leafy branches was A+. So much frenetic headbanging!
    Solid song, but it sounded low-energy and sterile to me despite moving at a good clip.

  • SoLeftISeeRight

    From the review, it sounds like what I expected the last album from them to be. One Man Army surprised me though, with its energy, fun and self awareness, and I have returned to it often, but Unsung Heroes was a big disappointment for me (even the red in my tour shirt faded to a pinkish hue – appropriate). The real question though, is it better than the new Wintersun?

  • Nag Dammit

    Look mum, I’m wearing a kilt.

  • basstard

    Sadly this once great band has slipped into generic mediocrity.. almost impossible to sustain the quality of their first 4, and even harder, their first 2. It was a great run though..

    Folk metal was pretty much a fad, albeit a longer than normal fad. With only a handful of bands worth a shite these days..

    Its too bad Jari didn’t just stay with these guys.

    • Piet

      Dude, didn’t you hear? Man I’m sorry that you have to hear this from me….but….Jari sucks balls.

      • basstard

        Yea that Wintersun self titled album.. just blows goats, yea sure, I’ll take it from you..

        Jari clearly sucks balls at playing guitar and singing.. a complete hack…

        • DeadHead

          He’s a great musician. Unfortunately his latest attempt with the album “The Forest Seasons” was quite awful.

          • basstard

            It was ok… yea, his situation is pretty sad at this point. That’s sort of where I came up with the opinion that he should have just stayed with Ensiferum. He and Markus could still be writing together… and Wintersun, should have stayed a side project.

          • DeadHead

            Ya I feel bad for him. Problems with labels, money and production. He definitely would have done better staying in Ensiferum.

  • Thatguy

    Band Photometer says dudes in skirts and the girl in pants – you’re trying too hard and why isn’t the frontman wearing a skirt. Conclusion – silly try hard failure.

    The embedded song is truly horrible, and nothing will make the accordion metal.

    • Nukenado

      Igorrr is metal right…?

      • Thatguy

        I’d have to see the look on your face to know whether you are trolling me. Igorrr, from my listen to parts of a few tracks – I couldn’t bear to listen any of them all the way through – is bollocks.

        • Nukenado

          Half trolling. I’m a huge Igorrr fan but it’s definitely not something that you would call”metal.”

    • Norpal Nordickson

      If someone here is trying too hard, it’s you.

      • Thatguy

        Nah. All too easy to disrespect this.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Apparently it is “close-minded” to make fun of dudes wearing skirts. And am either close-minded or too old because I can’t tell what’s wrong with making fun of dudes wearing skirts.

          • Thatguy

            It is intrinsically funny. But I’m probably just showing my age.

            That said, I would not mock a Scotsman in a kilt. I value my front teeth.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            A Scotsman in a kilt is not the same as a dude wearing a skirt. I don’t know if that’s enough to get my point across…

          • Thatguy

            You are correct, and that is what I meant too.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I can’t wait till I’m old enough to wear a skirt and not have to worry about judgement!

          • Thatguy

            I’m not old enough yet…

    • The accordion is most certainly metal – by definition.

      • Thatguy

        Except for the bits that aren’t.

        • Are we talking about metal or accordions? I think both.

  • jjohn

    Ouch…

    I still think I will like it though

  • Thatguy

    Maybe.

  • Brian Kelly

    I had no idea this was coming out, the video definitely sounds like current typical ensiferum, hopefully the rest is as good or better, maybe less formulaic? Maybe an increased folk presence will be the variety. They have a great logo. Also, how popular is this band exactly, I don’t pay attention to that type of stuff at all, I mean is this their full time job or do they have ‘real’ jobs also, because they are ‘popular’ for metal but not enough to make a living off it.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      They’re stars, but not megastars. They have more facebook followers than Finntroll, Amorphis, and Wintersun, but are nowhere near the top tier folks like Behemoth or Amon Amarth. I would be surprised if they were working side jobs to make ends meet, given that they are on Metal Blade and how often they tour and release records.

  • thornh

    Always like new Ensiferum. I agree they peaked with the first few albums. I wish you guys would review the album Prophecy of Ragnarok the debut album from Brothers of Metal out of Sweden. Anyone who still has a place in their cold, dead soul for Ensiferum/Turisas folk metal stuff should really listen to it. It’s up there as my “surprise” album of the year.

  • madhare

    I know lot of people appreciate the older albums. But for me One Man Army is their pinnacle. They probably had more fresh ideas on the earlier albums. But to me those albums sound a bit unbalanced. I can appreciate the ideas intellectually, but the music doesn’t grab me like OMA does.

    I think on OMA they manage to find a really great balance between the ideas and the production – or commerciality, or whatever you want to call it. You know, it’s that small moment in a band’s career when they are really on top of their game. And then they start to slide towards too much commerciality, repetition, or something weird. Like, IMHO, Manowar reached that with Kings of Metal, Megadeth with Rust in Peace, Type O with October Rust, Sabaton with Carolus Rex, and so on.

    Based on the three songs that are available on Bandcamp now, this sounds like a side B to OMA. Which still isn’t bad. It’s just more of the same.

    So grading-wise, I’d say OMA sits around 4 and this one might be around 3. (Yeah sure, if you’re a music police you’ll never reward 4 or 5 to a silly folk-metal band. But within the genre OMA is pretty damn good.) 2.0 sounds too low for this based on the available songs. Although maybe the rest of the songs will show you’re right.

    …I mean seriously… Eluveitie-shit is better than this? Whaaaat? :D

    • thornh

      So, I have now listened to this album several times and I can now honestly disagree with the review score. I don’t necessarily disagree with the wording of the review, just the score. I am an Ensiferum fan and will still argue that their first album is still their best. The song One More Magic Potion was sort of a turning pioint, a directional change for the band. I here a lot of that song in this album and, honestly, every album since that song. Ensiferum is built around being a great live band. They have very catchy songs and put on a great live show. This album follows that suit and there are quite a few songs on here that will play out very well live. Turisas is another band like that. People see the crazy makeup and see a guy with a fiddle and immediately dismiss it all. But, go to a Turisas concert. I dare you not to have a fucking great time. So, after several spins, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, this is indeed an Ensiferum album post Iron and yes, it is on par, if not better than, their last few efforts. It deserves a solid 3.5 within the Ensiferum catalog (Ensiferum, the first album, being a 5.0 to me). In the genre, based on their live performance potential, it is probably a good 3.5 to 4.0. Versus everything that I have listened to this year it should still be a solid 2.5 to a 3.0. As a point of reference the other album I listened to yesterday was the new Belphegor. Curious to see how you guys review that one. I thought it was quite good.

      • Dr. Wvrm

        That’s fair. Fwiw, I would have given OMA a 3.5. I think it was fresh but familiar and I have no trouble lumping it in with everything through From Afar. I played it a ton when it first came out and still jam out to it now. I just don’t feel the same way about TP. I grew tired of it pretty quickly when I was listening to it and it sat in that same capable but boring territory that most of my 2s land in. Technically it may be on the exact same level (or higher) than previous albums (or that recent Eluveitie album), but it doesn’t register for me as anything more than tepid or shrug worthy. I think it’s actually my least favorite of their catalog, as I still like UH more (though not by much).

        Giving their first album getting a 5 will get no gripes from me :P

        • thornh

          I think you guys are always fair and honest with all of your reviews. No matter how much new metal I listen to (way too much) there is always some new band or new album that slips under the radar. I come here on a daily basis to possibly catch one of those I missed and I really value all the reviewers opinions. When we get to a review of a band we are very familiar with that’s when I am sure you see the comment section get a little crazy if the score is deemed a bit too low for the fanboys. Eluveitie is an interesting case. Both the Evocation albums are a departure from your typical Eluveitie album and I think people were expecting much more metal than pure folk music. I knew where they were going with that album and a 3.0 is decent score. You just have to be in a different mindset to listen to Evocation II v. Helvetios or Slania. And now, I know I sound like a broken record, but Dr. Wvrm listen to Brothers of Metal. I don’t care if you guys do a review or not. And, no, I don’t work for the band or anything. I just think they produced an album that deserves some recognition for what it is. You’ll definitely find the energy that seems to be missing from this Ensiferum album. You guys got me to listen to Temptation’s Wings (Skulthor Ebonblade) this year and it’s one of my top albums of the year along with the Brothers of Metal album and a few others.

          • Dr. Wvrm

            Prophecy of Ragnarök? Sure, passes the gratuitous umlaut test.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I think my track record puts me as far from music police as humanly possible. I’m running around in the poser crew with the rest of you hoodlums :P

      And yea, Eluveitie felt a whole lot more fresh and consistently enjoyable, both within their own catalog and in comparison to this record (metal or not metal aside).

      • madhare

        I’m just listening to the whole album now. …And I have to say I now have a much better understanding of your complaints. The three songs that were available in the pre-order gave a much more positive view of the album.

        The album feels quite uneven. Building up with a hoping-to-epic-intro is a really bad idea if your first song (“For those about to fight”) is a Manowaresque-style slip. Nothing epic about teenage-boy boasting. On “Two paths” the cleans don’t work for me… And so on. And there’s a lack of energy compared to OMA and the earlier albums. It is indeed more built on routine. But then there are really cool moments too. Damn. This is frustrating.

        I guess I’d go with 2.5 = mixed.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    That embedded track sounds like the answer to the never asked question of “What if Amon Amarth played folksy Black Metal?

    • AlteredState

      I always thought that the answer to that question was called Moonsorrow xD

  • blindg

    According player from Turisas? WTF happened to those guys anyway?

  • Hugo Guimarães

    I absolutely agree with the review. Ensiferum has been lacking freshness and creativity for a long while, which is a shame, since they are great! The clean vocals were a bit disappointing, for me. There are just a few moments that I found interesting, but overall sounds pretty much like anything else.

  • Ironwood_Druid

    I find myself strangely at odds with the consensus over this album, apparently. This is my favorite record of theirs since From Afar and that still stands as my gold standard for their best work personally. Not necessarily here, but in many places I’m looking, I see a consistent and sneering back-handed derision of folk metal as somehow inherently inconsistent or only enjoyed with a footnote. I’m seeing it too with reviews elsewhere of the new Myrkur album, and I don’t think it’s necessarily fair, this “Here’s another folk metal” is akin to the “Here’s another cheese power metal act” and it’s not as if these sub genres stand alone in their ability to be occasionally derivative.

  • Darth_Nikon_

    hey, new guy here and long time lurker. just finished this album and completely agree with the review. this new album….its disapointing. i actually hate the accordion in the music. i liked the blind guardian epic feel but the accordion just kinda kills it for me. ive seen turisas live before and thought it was cool but they are a different style. there are some cool songs but the ones with clean vocals are hard to listen to.

    • Thatguy

      Hates accordion. My kind of guy.