Finnish melodic folk metal band, Ensiferum, have released their latest studio album. That album is called Two Paths and it was released on the 15th of September via Metal Blade Records. Two Paths was produced by Anssi Kippo and interestingly was recorded onto tape for a more analogue experience.
Ensiferum are Petri Lindroos on vocals and guitar with Markus Toivonen on lead guitar and backing vocals. Sami Hinkka is on bass and Netta Skog plays the digital accordion. Sami and Netta also add backing vocals while Janne Parviainen is on drums. On Two Paths the vocals switch around quite a bit though with Sami, Netta and Markus all taking a turn at the lead singing role.
Two Paths was preceded by Ensiferum’s 2015 release One Man Army. You can read our opinion on that album here. We also checked out the first single released from Two Paths called Way of the Warrior. You can read our opinion on that one here.
Two Paths has 11 tracks on it as standard though you can get a copy with 13 tracks on it. The 2 extra tracks are just alternative versions of 2 of the new tracks. In total the 11 tracks are around 46 minutes of music. Unfortunately it isn’t 46 minutes of raucous fun and instead leaves you feeling a little deflated.
It isn’t all bad though and actually starts off reasonably well. Ajattomasta Unesta opens the album and is your typical folk metal instrumental. It leads into the upbeat and comically named, For Those About to Fight for Metal. Title aside, you get a nice meaty riff and thunderous drums. The bass is prominent and the vocals are quick and vicious. The metal collides with an emphatic orchestral sound for a sing along chorus and we get some nice soaring solos thrown in as well. A good start. This is made all the better as the next track is the single, Way of the Warrior which I do like. It is pretty standard folk metal fare but I like the rhythm to it. The drum work is fantastic and there is a sweet solo too.
There are others I like, or at least am not offended by, here as well. The heaviest, and one of the better tracks on the whole album is called King of Storms. It gallops along at real pace and has a “battle metal” feel to it. Another decent, but not mind blowing, track comes in the form of Feast With Valkyries. This track has Netta on vocals and she sounds okay though it is quite a departure from the Ensiferum we are all used to. There are some nice gang vocal sections on this track too.
I find the rest of the album to be average to mediocre in truth. Don’t You Say has horrible vocals and sounds like a demo. It sounds like it is missing something – like it needs fattening out. I Will Never Kneel passes by without you really noticing and overuse of the accordion on God is Dead makes the track feel lacking in other metal elements. Hail to the Victor has some decent drumming on it but otherwise passes by quietly before a drab and unimaginative instrumental closes the album.
Two Paths is an amazingly descriptive title for this album as it feels a lot like the band have taken two different paths on it. One, a more familiar Ensiferum sound with rumbling riffs and Lindroos’ gruff vocals barking out. The other, a mix of singers, a mix of sounds often dropping the metal element for an almost purer folk sound for large parts. That isn’t necessarily always a bad thing but here, mixed with the purposely analogue production, it doesn’t always sound very good.
In some of the experimental tracks, I like what the band have tried. A mix of vocalists is a good idea in theory but it hasn’t worked out well in practice. I like the theory behind the added cleans but again, in practice, they don’t always work as the clean singing just isn’t that strong. I also like the idea of more pure folk elements but in practice it feels a little out of place. The idea behind recording in analogue to give a different experience is also solid enough though occasionally sounds more like bad production rather then different production. Less thinking and more drinking on the next record perhaps?
Essentially Two Paths has a ton of good ideas that the band have failed to put into practice. Hopefully they can hone these ideas for their next release, get them down and travel down a single united path on the next album.
You can pick up Two Paths from Metal Blade. You can also grab it, and more from Ensiferum, via the Amazon or Apple links below. Check out Ensiferum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well. Be sure to like and follow them while you are there too.
Two Paths by Ensiferum (Metal Blade Records)