When I spoke to Brian Slagel nearly two months back now, he mentioned that this album is one of the few coming out this year that he was really looking forward to. Fast forward to Bloodstock and Tuomas of Wolfheart says that he did the video for one of their tracks and that it’s a really cool song. And to be honest, I can see why Brian and Tuomas would say that.
In terms of the production and the fact they’ve been championing “analogue sound”, I can confirm it does have that tone to it. But, it does sound a little plastic in points. There’s not a lot of bass and the top end is a little harsh at points when there’s just guitars playing. If I was being super critical, I’d say it could have done with a run through a tape machine to “saturate” the sound a bit more. That’s just my preference though and it’s probably a bit skewed given I’m not listening to it in a ‘non-lossy’ format.
The album opens in the traditional Ensiferum fashion with the instrumental track “Ajattomasta Unesta” that leads into a balls to the walls first track “For Those About to Fight for Metal”. With little accordion parts dotted in between the descending guitar riff, the song is very true to the formula that the band established in One Man Army.
Continuing the album, I started to notice something quite different. There was way more variety in who was the main vocalist in the songs. In the past, the majority of the songs would be sang by Petri with the rest of the guys providing group choral vocals in the choruses. However, this time around there are songs where Netta, Sami and Markus take the lead. I’ve got to commend the band for doing that as it does keep things quite fresh.
There is however one small problem I’ve found with some of the songs. They just go on for a little too long. To put it in perspective, I was travelling on the train whilst listening to the album and I found myself looking at my phone saying “This song seems to be going on for a while”. The songs are good, just a bit long and repetitive in parts. Admittedly, it is my opinion and I will be the first to admit that I can be overly harsh. But, when bands like Wolfheart, Insomnium, Eluveitie and Equilibrium are creating music that is truly mesmerising, it does make you wonder whether the band are listening to their peers.
Take for example “I Will Never Kneel”. It’s got the bombastic style and the makings of a really good track. Then take a listen to “Heimat” by Equilibrium. Admittedly they are in a different language, but they are within the same ‘vein of metal’. The difference between them is somewhat stark. One of them has a lot going on in the track with no real ‘filler sections’. The other can almost be considered to be the “demo” version of it. There’s a lot of open space just crying out for something to fill it.
And I think that’s the thing that’s happened with Ensiferum; they’re playing it safe. They aren’t taking as many risks as bands like Equilibirum did with their latest and to some that may be a good thing. There’s something to be said about being consistent and some bands have made their career out of it. For me though, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation. Admittedly, it does need to ‘fit’ the music and not stick out like a sore thumb.
In conclusion, I honestly can’t say what I think of this album. Half of me likes it as it’s sticking true to the style that Ensiferum brought in on the previous album and they seem to have made it work. The other half of me feels a bit pained as it’s too similar to the previous album and to quote one of our other reviewers, “they sound like Alestorm without the humour.”
Two Paths is released on the 15th September via Metal Blade Records