Without a doubt it was one of the most eagerly awaited albums of 2007 – the third effort by Finnish Viking Metallers ENSIFERUM. Most fans of the band were on the verge of a stroke when Jari Mäenpää announced that he was leaving the band after the release of their 2005 album “Iron”, as he was a pretty big factor in the rise of the band to stardom, to be replaced by NORTHER fronter Petri Lindroos, but still, a band has to get past a blow like that and more often than not the following album rather breaks them than makes them, so I approached “Victory Songs” with a mix of eagerness and worry.
The tension made the quite long and bombastic intro “Ad Victoriam” even longer (don’t get me wrong, it is a good one, it just doesn’t tell you anything about the album yet), but as soon as “Blood Is The Price Of Glory” thunders out of the speakers any potential negative thoughts are dispersed immediately, as this is how we know and love ENSIFERUM: powerful double-bass, great melodies, harsh vocals in the verse, some choir in the chorus, what a start, I love it already! We all know that the Finns never played a pure form of Viking Metal, meaning Black Metal based, but at times have a pretty strong Power Metal leaning and for all of you, who love that part, “Deathbringer From The Sky” is exactly the right thing for you, energetic, fast, but variable in the rhythmic approach, yes, if I still had any doubts about ENSIFERUM post-Mäenpää, they are long gone!
Many people keep saying that the third album will make or break a band and some naysayers will accuse the Finns of not enough evolution, but they have their pretty unique mix of Viking Metal, Power Metal and some Folk influences down pat and if you have found your very own niche, why should you try to fix something that is not broken and try to re-invent it? And it is not that they tread water, no, “Wanderer” is completely driven by clear vocals, while “Raised By The Sword” shows ENSIFERUM at their most epic, with alternating harsh and clear vocals and some added choir for good measure, another great song by the guys (and girl), while the closing almost-title track “Victory Song” clocks in at way over ten minutes and after a medieval sounding beginning with acoustic guitars and flute it rises in energy and cadence to culminate in a fulminant, epic chorus with choir, hell yeah!
Is all that glitters gold? No, there are a few light tarnishes to be found, “One More Magic Potion”, while being a good song, is maybe a bit too much trimmed to sound like the “old” ENSIFERUM (I know, how can you explain that with a band that has not been around for THAT long) and the chorus of “The New Dawn” just does not work with me. But other than that “Victory Songs” stands in full tradition of the phenomenal self-titled debut and the great “Iron”, all the way down to the Wåhlin cover.
Now I am not sure, if ENSIFERUM will manage to convert many people that had not liked them in the past (the ones uninitiated to their sound will probably be an easy prey), as they are staying with what they did well with in the past, but who had even remotely liked them before will continue to love them now, I know that I do, no question!
(Online March 24, 2007)