Finnish heroic metal giants, ENSIFERUM, are back again with a new release entitled “Thalassic.” Normally, these guys have a big, fun album release party for their new albums, but alas, it was not to be in 2020, our year of Covid-19. To ride out the storm, they organized a stream at Sonic Pump Studios, which took place on July 10th, 2020, via keikalla.fi. Check out our interview with bassist Sami Hinkka here.
Admittedly, we were attending MaSu Con on July 10th, so we watched the stream a handful of hours after the rest of the world. The first few minutes of the stream were silent, showing a bit of last-minute sound checking before it switched to the official cameras and the sound was turned on so the band could greet their audience. When things got started, we were pleased to see that the stream was quite nicely done, with smooth camera work but often rough sound quality (though admittedly, that may have related more to our sound system than the stream).
The show began with the newly released single, “Andromeda,” with new vocalist/keyboardist Pekka Montin showing off his well-deserved place within the band in his first-ever show with ENSIFERUM. It was also cool to hear “Deathbringer from the Sky” with his contribution, adding a lot of fresh air to the classic. Vocalist/guitarist Pete Lindroos greeted the crowd, explaining that they weren’t dressed up because they consider this more of a practice session that the viewers were invited to. In a way, this was a very fitting description of the event. It didn’t really feel like a “real” ENSIFERUM show without bassist Sami Hinkka blasting across the stage like he’s powered on jet fuel. This time around, he was clearly having fun and excited to play, but obviously could not bounce around the studio without knocking everyone and everything over. It’s also hard to get crazy without all of the physical energy from the crowd present.
The show continued with “In My Sword I Trust” and at this point I’m fairly sure guitarist Markus Toivonen‘s grin could be seen from space. Even notoriously stonefaced drummer Janne Parviainen had a smile on his face a few times – we weren’t sure that was even possible! The first single from the album, “Rum, Women, Victory” was another good spotlight on Montin as he easily proved his chops. They went properly harsh with “Treacherous Gods?” and during Jari Maenpää‘s old clean vocal parts, there was an utterly epic vocal trio with Montin at the forefront and Hinkka and Toivonen backing him up with near equal power, creating a stripped-down yet powerful, oddly intimate Viking choir sound. It may be my favorite version I’ve ever heard thanks to the variety and depth created by the different vocals (and keep in mind that I am often not a fan when those two to sing).
At this point, regular stream host and radio personality Laura Vähähyyppä came out to ask them a few fan questions. This was one of the better Q&A sessions I’ve seen just in the sense that it made me laugh several times, especially when noticing Lindroos‘ sweet Reinot (Finnish “grandpa” slippers).
An intro track, “Ajattomasta Unesta,” introduced the next five songs, as the band returned to their instruments with a slightly newer iteration of “For Those About to Fight for Metal,” which was clear and precise. Not one of my regular favorites, it did have a bit of new oomph to it. MANOWAR‘s influence on the band was emphasized for “Heathen Hoard,” which was followed by one of the most energetic songs of the night, “Two of Spades,” with Toivonen on Frederik‘s Finnish vocals (a bad choice, if you ask me – I had been hoping to hear Montin singing in Finnish). The disco part was an interesting change, as it was done more manually than with the assistance of backing tracks, sounding really unusual, if a bit sloppy at times, particularly towards the end. Lindroos then comedically introduced “Cold Northland” and we wondered why the piano melody came from a backing track, but concluded that it was likely for a clearer sound and so Montin could layer keyboards on top. The crisp guitar sound and epic backup from the rest of the band really brought this track to life. Truly a great addition to their discography – if you liked it in the stream and haven’t heard the album version yet, remedy this ASAP. The stream had stripped down a lot of the backing music from the new material, so there’s a lot more oomph to be had on the album.
After another break, wherein Lindroos‘ Reinot were explained (as the chat seemed to have been quite fixated on them) and Montin declared himself 11/10 nervous, they started with “Into Battle,” featuring Hinkka‘s best Steve Harris moves. They moved on to some newer tracks, “For Sirens” with Lindroos‘ powerful growls amplified by Montin backing him up superbly; “Run from the Crushing Tide,” another personal favorite from the new album that was just plain fun; and “The Defense of the Sampo,” telling its Kalevala tale – is it bad that I’m disappointed that they chose this over “Midsummer Madness”? They then finished up with classic fan favorite, “From Afar,” which is a great song and a great choice for a closer.
Following the last set, there was another Q&A but admittedly I dosed off almost immediately after the music ended and missed this one. If you’re curious though, the stream is still available for the next week, so do check it out!
While this was clearly a step out of the band’s comfort zone, the stream was a lot of fun. As Lindroos said, it felt more like a rehearsal for the shows to come, as the energy exchanged between the band and the crowd is so essential to an ENSIFERUM show. Yet, the band appeared to put a lot of themselves into the performance. Montin in particularly looked like he was genuinely terrified for most of the event and vocalists know that tension is bad for the voice. That in mind, he truly blew us away with his performance despite this nervousness and we can’t wait to see him again once he’s shaken off the jitters; we just wanted to give him a hug and tell him not to worry, he’s doing a fantastic job and we all really like him. So with this event behind us, as well as a lot of clear positive feedback for the new album, it seems as though there’s even more hype for whenever ENSKA gets back on stage!
2. Deathbringer from the Sky
3. In My Sword I Trust
4. Rum, Women, Victory
5. Treacherous Gods
Intro: Ajattomasta unesta
6. For Those About to Fight for Metal
7. Heathen Hoarde
8. One with the Sea
9. Two of Spades
10. Cold Northland (Väinämöinen pt. III)
11. Into Battle
12. For Sirens
13. Run from the Crushing Tides
14. The Defence of the Sampo
16. From Afar
Written by Bear Wiseman