Release Date: September 15, 2017
Run Time: 53:30
Label: Metal Blade Records
1. Ajattomasta Unesta
2. For Those About to Fight for Metal
3. Way of the Warrior
4. Two Paths
5. King of Storms
6. Feast with Valkyries
7. Don’t You Say
8. I Will Never Kneel
9. God Is Dead
10. Hail to the Victor
11. Unettomaan Aikaan
12. God Is Dead(Alternative Version)
13. Don’t You Say (Alternative Version)
In an era when literally every band in our contemporary metal universe is trying to experiment and change as much as humanly possible in order remain relevant, to enrich its sound or to explore new creative paths, folk metal nowadays is also slipping further away from its roots and its essence. For better or worse, it is getting more and more versatile, progressive and modern, clearly deviating far away from the pure folk metal and Viking Scandinavian feeling.
But in this case, change and progression are mostly a good thing, since we are talking about one of the most experienced and influential Finnish folk metal bands of all time. After their not so well-received album “Unsung Heroes”, which was a fine example of an established band resting on its laurels, and “One Man Army“, which was their long-awaited majestic return, “Two Paths” is now here to affirm their claim to former glory. Ensiferum are finally back on the right path after a few years of wandering and apparently have found the right balance between the old and the new influences, reclaiming their place among the best folk metal formations in the world.
The record starts off with “Ajattomasta Unesta” – a beautiful and enchanting introduction in their native language, accompanied by fairy-like female vocals and incredibly smooth melodic guitar solos, serving as a very promising start. Next on is “For Those About to Fight for Metal”, which… let’s be honest – has a ridiculously cheesy name, but if you manage to ignore it, the music is actually amazingly good. We can hear Petri’s trademark harsh screams, combined with choir singing and mind-blowingly fast solos. The addition of newcomer Netta Skog’s digital accordion brings back memories of Ensiferum’s golden years.
“Way of the Warrior” continues where the previous track left off and further inspires our inner vikings to come out, already in their fighting and conquering mood. Soon after that, it’s the title song’s turn to give us another dose of the band’s classic Finnish-inspired epicness. Many comparisons with other bands come to mind at this point. For example, if Amorphis ever went for a faster and more traditional sound, this what it would be like.
Despite all the evident similarities the two bands share, Ensiferum have always leaned more towards a heavier death metal direction and the amazing “King of Storms” is a perfect proof of that. But right after the storm, the sixth song called “Feast with Valkyries” creates a completely different atmosphere, with the help of Netta’s divine vocals and the same well-known choir element. If this track doesn’t inspire you to get up and dance, holding a huge pint of beer, I don’t know what will.
The Scandinavian celebration continues with the following “Don’t You Say”, which has even more energy and vibrance embedded to it. It seems that halfway through, “Two Paths” suddenly starts to become more and more positive and vigorous with every song, including “I Will Never Kneel”. One could say the album takes a, second path. Here we can hear the more melodic side of Ensiferum, complemented by another fairytale prelude, again recreated by Netta Skog’s magical voice. Then, “God Is Dead” adds a bit of a punk-ish and rebellious vibe and some distinct power metal influences to the mixture of genres and changes of pace throughout the record.
And speaking of changes of pace, “Hail to the Victor” slows the tempo and summons back the previous heavy sound and emotions. Sadly, bringing us near the end is “Unettomaan Aikaan” – the gloomy and melancholic, but still gorgeous final song. But the real end is actually still two songs away because we’re blessed to have two more alternate versions of “God is Dead” and “Don’t You Say”. The difference here is the addition of some more punk/rock vibes. After this “encore” of sorts, “Two Paths” is now truly over. But not necessarily, since you might feel the need to spin it a couple of (hundred) times more.
In a few words, the kings of Finnish folk metal are back in the game and “Two Paths” definitely shows that they are here to stay. Ensiferum’s seventh album solidifies their position on the top and leaves no place for doubt in it. It is probably one of their most diverse and variegated works so far and it has a bit of everything for everyone. But one thing is for sure – if you expect to hear a straightforward folk metal sound, you’re bound to be disappointed. So prepare to open your senses and welcome the change, which Ensiferum have already embraced.