When it comes to folk-inspired melodic death metal, Finnish ENSIFERUM raises the banner up high over the metal hordes. With their latest lineup change including vocalist/keyboard player Pekka Montin, ENSIFERUM has come up with a new ambitious project, “Thalassic,” out on 17 July 2020 via Metal Blade Records.
“Thalassic” comes from ancient Greek and means “of/or related to seas.” While the album is not a concept album, the common thread running through the album is indeed the sea and the album includes a wide range of tracks with different stories. While in uncharted waters, ENSIFERUM have managed to create an album that is both a breath of fresh air and shows respect for their own roots as a band.
When you close your eyes to “Seafarer’s Dream,” the orchestral opening track of the album, you can instantly imagine being on a sloshing boat in the open sea. The sound is monumental and sets the perfect tone for an album filled with a collection of stories, with a perfect cinematographic feel to it. The opening track progresses smoothly into the album’s lead single, “Rum, Women, Victory.” With fast and furious riffs, the real opener creates an altogether dynamic atmosphere to start an album with. Remarkable from the start are the clean vocals provided by ENSIFERUM‘s latest asset, Pekka Montin. Even though “Rum, Women, Victory” has those riffs reminiscent of “From Afar,” it feels like the band experimented with Montin‘s power metal voice and even included some elements of the genre into the song; it takes a bit of getting used to, but upon listening to the track over and over again, this seemingly new side of ENSIFERUM can expect a warm welcome from fans. In case you were wondering, this track is best enjoyed with a glass of rum.
“Andromeda” in Greek mythology was the beautiful daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiope. One day, Cassiope offended the Nereids (sea nymphs) by boasting that Andromeda was more beautiful than they were. Angered by her arrogance, Poseidon (god of the sea), sent a sea monster to devastate Cepheus’ Kingdom. In desperation, King Cepheus consults an oracle, who announces that no rest can be found until the King sacrifices his own daughter, Andromeda, to the monster. Chained to a rock by the sea to await her death, Andromeda is eventually saved by Perseus, whom she later marries. This story is told in “Andromeda,” starting off with a vaguely familiar melody; the song is a powerful folk metal song with a very memorable chorus and the great combination of Petri Lindroos‘ growls with Pekka Montin‘s clean vocals.
The album continues at a steady pace with “The Defence of the Sampo.” Again, the theme of the song changes to another culture; this time around, the song refers to Finland’s rich epic “Kalevala.” In Finnish mythology, the sampo was a magical artifact constructed by Ilmarinen that brought riches and good fortune to its holder. The Sampo gets stolen by an evil witch, Louhi, who then provokes its creator and the hero of the story Väinämöinen to retrieve it. During “The Defence of the Sampo,” Väinämöinen steals the artifact from Louhi and she tries to reclaim it in the form of a giant bird. Eventually, Louhi is vanquished, but the Sampo is destroyed and lost at sea. The song itself is an energetic, epic track, with a powerful chorus containing great backing vocals.
Even faster is the relentless “Run from the Crushing Tide,” with galloping rhythm sections and brisk riffs, the song probably is the fastest track on the album. Near the end, the song slows down significantly, including an incredible folky feel. Before the chorus sets in, an impressive scream is heard.
The energetic first half of the album is slowed down a little bit with the extremely catchy “For Sirens”; this is probably the most humppa-infused track of the album, with accordion sounds creating an extra folky vibe to it. The chorus features beautiful folk melodies and a beautiful blend of Lindroos and Montin‘s vocals.
“One with the Sea” opens with the strumming of an acoustic guitar, combined with heartwarming violin melodies. There is no place for mellow tracks on this album, so it’s not a big surprise that the song becomes extremely heavy and regains strength, even though it drifts into the territory of ballads. Here, the vast variety of Montin‘s vocals becomes clear, carried by the beautiful and epic orchestrations, versatile drumming patterns, and groovy bass melodies accompanying it.
The most fun track of the album and probably the most Finnish song I’ve ever heard in my life, “Midsummer Magic,” breaks the seriousness of the album. The silly song is about the midsummer celebrations that happen all around Finland, including bonfires, jumping in lakes, nakedness, and much more. I can’t even begin to describe how humorous this track is, both musically and lyrically. The Finnish section is sung by bass player Sami Hinkka because according to their producer, he sounded the most like a hobo. I can only imagine this song being an excellent live track to party to, when concerts are allowed again.
The album ends with the epic “Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III).” Starting off with a beautiful mystic piano melody, the song is probably one of the most ambitious tracks on this album. Somehow, it’s a little bit reminiscent of “Endlessness” from NIGHTWISH‘s “Human. :II: Nature.” due to the doom-like heavy riffs and orchestrations, making this track truly epic and stand out from the rest of the album and is easily the best choice to end the album with. Clocking in at almost 9 minutes, this is also the longest track of the album.
With “Thalassic,” ENSIFERUM embrace a new chapter in their sound. With the addition of the extremely talented Pekka Montin, the band has managed to introduce new and exciting elements to their sound while ensuring their hold on their own identity. The band was a bit more careful this time around with orchestrations, but when they’re there, they add to the story told on the songs. The theme that is tying these songs together is very well executed, with a variety of intriguing stories that are extremely well written; the music adds an extra element to the stories told, as both aspects are very well thought out.
Altogether, I would dare to say that this might be one of my favorite albums coming from these dark times as it has the power to make you forget about the world around you due to the immersive listening experience. I can only conclude this by correcting one of the song titles on this album: “Rum, Enska, Victory!”
1. Seafarer’s Dream
2. Rum, Women, Victory
4. The Defence of the Sampo
5. Run from the Crushing Tide
6. For Sirens
7. One with the Sea
8. Midsummer Magic
9. Cold Northland (Väinämöinen pt. III)
Petri Lindroos – Vocals/Guitar
Markus Toivonen – Guitar/Vocals
Sami Hinkka – Bass/Vocals
Pekka Montin – Keyboards/Vocals
Janne Parviainen – Drums
Metal Blade Records