Ensiferum: Unsung Heroes [2012] Review

Rating: 5.0

Released: 24 August 2012
Folk metal
Spinefarm Records
Finland
Length: 1:01:31

Disc I
01. Symbols
02. In My Sword I Trust
03. Unsung Heroes
04. Burning Leaves
05. Celestial Bond
06. Retribution Shall Be Mine
07. Star Queen (Celestial Bond Part II)
08. Pohjola
09. Last Breath
10. Passion, Proof, Power
11. Bamboleo [Gipsy Kings cover] [deluxe edition bonus]

Disc II [DVD] [deluxe edition bonus]
+ From Symbols To Passion: The Making Of Unsung Heroes
+ Studio Diary: Week 1-7

Review

It looks like Ensiferum, it sounds like Ensiferum, but is this actually Ensiferum? Unsung Heroes is an extremely puzzling album in that the aspects of what made Ensiferum one of the top folk metal bands are sparse or blatantly missing here. The album largely lacks pace, excitement, the epic chorus’ we grew to love – more than anything, it lacks spirit.

Most people will have seen the results of drugs on the ability of spiders to make webs. While still capable of crafting their webs, the resulting webs vary in their levels of integrity. Some will look more web-like than others, some will still function as webs, but others are a messy mish-mash of uncoordinated silk incapable of fulfilling its purpose.

Unsung Heroes looks and sounds like an Ensiferum album, but like a web spun on caffeine there is something majorly wrong. The band’s cogs remain unchanged since the last album, they are all still competent and capable in their musical positions, but the process within which the songs and album have been spun together has not been a successful one. Unsung Heroes comes with no obvious explanation, the band are still capable of producing their silk, but it has come together all wrong on this album resulting in a mish-mash of absolute mediocrity.

Over an hour long, the album feels like hard work to push through. Opening song “In My Sword I Trust” is one of the more traditional Ensiferum-type songs, albeit with an uncomfortable and uncharacteristic slower pace. The majority of the album continues at the same pace, but while still recognisably Ensiferum, it is missing the enthusiasm, the energy, sparkle and vibrancy of every other Ensiferum release.

“Pohjola” is one of the album’s few highlights with its long chorus, and surprisingly the seventeen-minute “Passion Proof Power” is the other main highlight showcasing some superb progressive touches within a song that naturally feels at home with a slower pace. These two songs certainly end the album on a better note, perhaps the effect of the caffeine wearing off by this point.

Above everything else, Unsung Heroes is underwhelming. It lacks the band’s imagination and spirit, and fails to capture the listener in any positive way. An hour after it started, you’ll be left with little or no desire to waste another of your hours on this. Like the failed webs, Unsung Heroes is a botched job and will inevitably be left to gather some at the back of the shelf itself.

Performance: 7
Songwriting: 4
Originality: 5
Production: 9

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