"Unsung Heroes"

By Dr. Abner Mality

It's tough to rock a leather skirt in style if you're a dude, but the gentlemen of Ensiferum give it a go. These Finnish folk metal warriors have been donning skirts and swords for most of the last decade with a fair degree of success. Well, I must also mention they do have a female member, who looks to be a virtual Shieldmaiden of Rohan, much in the vein of fair lady Eowyn of "Lord of the Rings" fame.

"Unsung Heroes" is pretty much a capsule of the whole European folk metal shtick, containing the good, the bad and the ugly. Beginning intro "Symbols" to me was one of the high points because, despite its brief length, it reeks of the magnificent soundtracks of the late Basil Poleudoris. Who, you may ask? Go listen to the first "Conan" movie to get a sample of his work. Well, this symphonic chunk of grandeur is very much in the Poleudoris vein and sets a fabulous level for the rest of the album to live up to. Which it really doesn't until the very end. Much of "Unsung Heroes" is solid listening but not anything more. Speedy belters like "In My Sword I Trust" and "Retribution Shall Be Mine" light a fire with some light touches of black metal, but the mid-section sags with hokey stuff like "Celestial Bond", "Star Queen" and folky ballad "Last Breath". I guess if you are more into the folk side of the music, these may satisfy, but something tells me hardcore folkies will be hard to impress.

Ironically, the track I thought would sink the album for sure proves to be its redemption. The last cut "Passion, Power, Proof" is a 16 minute plus epic that I thought for sure would kill this off with a bloated display of pomposity. Surprise, surprise, I found it gripping for the entire 16 minute length and it again displays some of that Poleudoris-like cinematic magnificence. The cut is a really well-arranged mixture of majestic riffs, raging speed, shredding guitar, female operatic vocals, an odd interlude that sounds like was recorded in a medieval village, strong melodies and a rousing climax. At some points I was even reminded of Enslaved and that is not a comparison I make lightly. All in all, the track is pompous but very potent and it redeems "Unsung Heroes" quite a bit.