|Review: Ensiferum - Thalassic|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2020
Genre: Viking Metal
Review online: March 26, 2021
Reviewed by: Micah.Ram
Rated 4.6/5 (92%) (5 Votes)
Album number eight sees Ensiferum working in familiar territories while putting together a handful of memorable tracks that stand tall among the band's discography. One might think that there won't be anything new this time around, but especially in the case of new keyboardist and clean vocalist Pekka Montin, that's not quite the case.
The word "Thalassic" is a word that means "of or relating to the sea." This album couldn't be more appropriately named as the majority of its length is themed around the sea. This unifying theme helps breathe a wealth of significance in the lyrics along this audio journey, which greatly enhances the experience once one chooses to dig into the content that deeply. The songs "The Defence of the Sampo" and "Run from the Crushing Tide" greatly remind me in spirit of the great Running Wild song "Riding the Storm," as their lyrics and chorus lines greatly emphasize a sense of bravery and determination of riding the sea's dangerous waves and making it back home. Also speaking of the sea, the album starts with an instrumental track in which the first sound heard is the waves of the sea gently crashing. It starts rather tranquilly as if to gently unfold the upcoming audio journey at sea, which leads to a nice acoustic guitar interlude leading to massive orchestrations that are rather well done and prepare the listener for the tone of the album efficiently.
The album may be seen as climaxing at the seventh track, "One with the Sea," as there is a sense of acceptance with the outcome lyrically of the life at sea, as well as regretful reflection. Whether this is the lyrics to a Viking funeral or an inevitable death at sea, I'm not quite certain, but the song is powerful in its slow and emotionally heavy delivery. The chorus is wildly large in its orchestration, which is quite a stark contrast from the calmer verse sections. The ending of the song is where it really ramps up and gains its true hard-hitting climax status, as aforementioned new clean vocalist Pekka Montin airs out his huge range over the top of the orchestration in a big way with such a passionate delivery that is absolutely infectious. This had me rewinding several times to hear his voice over and over.
Pekka Montin deserves his own section in this review, as he is quite evidently a well-utilized secret weapon on the new album. His vocals are not only a nice contrast from the harsh vocals provided on each track, but he seems to have a unique role to lift the energy of the song, in whichever song he enters, as he is always appearing sparingly and with huge, high range deliveries. Very few moments on this record does he sing in a mid-range vocal style, which does appear a bit plain in comparison to his higher range. My favorite moments of Pekka on the album are the endings of "The Defence of the Sampo," "Run from the Crashing Tide," and "One with the Sea," all songs in which he absolutely brings that special energy that ramps up the experience.
The last two tracks on the album are also quite a special treat, not counting any bonus tracks from any of the special editions of the album. "Cold Northland" is the closing track, and an almost nine-minute epic. This song has a wonderfully catchy chorus, fast and high energy, and just the right balance of orchestrations and band work so that it's not overly symphonic or vice versa. When bands finish with a strong track such as this, it is really hard to finish the album without feeling deeply satisfied. Ensiferum nailed it here with this closer! But let's not finish this review without discussing the most unique listening experience on the album, "Midsummer Magic." Some may criticize it, feeling that it doesn't belong here as it is just so different, and perhaps belongs on a different album of similar songs, but I don't feel that way at all. This is the most folky song on the album, complete with all the unique Folk instruments that you may have heard in earlier works by the band. The song runs like a party song with several different sections that seamlessly mesh. It is quite simply the most fun track on the album and is not to be looked at so seriously. This is just Ensiferum having a great time, and anyone looking any deeper should just stop it.
I might suggest that the songs "Andromeda" and "For Sirens" are somewhat uninteresting when compared to the other tracks (although both tracks still have a great amount of charm) but not counting these two tracks I found this album to be an extremely enjoyable listen, which I have now played through at this time more than 30 times. If I can still enjoy this album so much after that many listens, I have absolutely no problem recommending this album!
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Interview with guitarist and vocalist Markus Toivonen and keyboardist and vocalist Pekka Montin on September 18, 2020 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with vocalist and keyboardist Pekka Montin on March 14, 2020 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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