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on 29 August 2009
I wasn't expecting much from their last album 'Victory Songs' but was really surprised and impressed with the quality overall and, aside from a few wee complaints, it was for sure a welcome addition to Ensiferum's discography. So naturally, i was expecting a decent outing from the Finns on 'From Afar', and it is my pleasure to report that i wasn't dissapointed.

'From Afar' starts like any other Ensiferum album with a token acoustic introduction. Nothing new there eh? But as soon as the title track leaps forth from the speakers there can be no doubt that this is definitily bold new sound for the band. Don't get me wrong, it still oozes that instantly recognisable 'Ensiferum' sound of folky-power metal-meets-melodic death, but whereas the keyboards and other instruments were usually more of a background thing adding texture and atmosphere, they now take the forefront of the music. This started on Victory Songs with the addition of banjos, bagpipes, whistles etc, but on From Afar the lads threw in the entire kitchen sink complete with a full-on orchestra, huge choirs and a number of different instruments i can't even spell. As such the songwriting has been altered slightly to incorporate the new elements and as such the guitars are pulled back a tad and it is not so heavily riff-based, even though this album is still chock with killer riffs and leads. for the most part it works really well; Ensiferum have always been a band who dabbled in the 'epic' with their 'heroic folk metal', and From Afar sees them indulging this side like never before. We also see much more variety then previous albums, with only really 'From Afar' and 'Elusive reaches' taking the classic fast-paced Ensiferum mantle but with added bombast. 'Smoking Ruins' is the token 'clean-singing' track, but really a lot darker and more melancholy then anything on Victory Songs and a highlight of the album - thankingfully the clean singing has improved by the shed-load in the last 2 years. Which leaves Twilight Taven and Stone Cold Metal as the more bouncy folky songs, but both have rather strange interludes which adds a nice bit of spice to the proceedings; Twilight Taven has a beautiful female choir popping up mid way through the song and Stone Cold Metal surprises with a bizzare mid-section, with full on piano and banjo segments, straight out of 'The God the Bad and the Ugly'. Overall the song has a quasi-spaghetti western feel and its pretty obvious the band had a lot of fun recording this one. Most surprising of all, however, are the two part 'Heathen Throne' songs, both clocking over 10 minutes and evincing a much darker and more sombre sound then before. The centre peices of th album, they really show just how much the band have matured as song writers in that they can write these long, proggressive songs with many different time changes and segments but i never felt bored listening to either of them or one second. Heathen throne 2; the longest journey especially is really epic, hair raising stuff and a killer ending to the proceddings - kinda what Wagner's 'Ring' operas might have sounded like if he was a Viking Metal fan.

I really enjoyed From Afar, and loved the way the band managed to keep the roots of their music intact while streching their limits in both songwriting and by adding the orchestration, giving the band a 'more epic then thou' feel. And the symphonic elements are really fantastic, with a more of a cinematic/moive soundtrack feel then an operatic one which really suits the band and blends magestically with their sound. Sure, the orchestra can be a bit over bearing at times and you will find yourself wishing the rythym guitar was a little louder, but for the most part its just sublime. I was also really impressed with Petri's vocals - he sings slightly lower then before with more of a meaty scream and less of a shrieking quality to his voice, making it less irritating. I also loved at the start of 'The longest Journey' when he drops for a lower growl - hopefully they'll use this more in the future.

However, i can see already that this is going to be an album that divides the fans of the band, as some were probably hoping for Victory Songs pt.2. Like i mentioned before, the guitars are a little pulled back to make more space for the orchestra which might dissapoint some, and its also worth noting that this album isn't as immediatly catchy as any any of their past albums, especially the longer and brooding 'Heathen Throne' songs.

My final verdict is that this is still an Ensiferum album at its heart and a great one at that. Approach this album with and open mind, give it a few listens to absorb all the different sounds and let yourself fall in love... don't forget that this is really the first time the band have substantially changed their sound since their debut.

Recommended (unless you really can't stand orchestration)
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on 28 October 2009
Having discovered this new album almost by chance(was looking to buy some of their older albums) I immediately decided it would be an insult to the norse gods not to buy it! After an initial listen through I was amazed and slightly stunned by modest changes and nuances that had been wrought upon this much loved band.

It starts off with a reasonably long instrumental intro track to get the ball going. Ok I thought...this sounds Ensiferum-ish enough. I like it. Then, just over 3 minutes later you are dumped smack bang in the middle of a variety of sounds. Overall there is that signature Ensiferum quality that one just can't help but grin at, but, what's this I hear? Could that possibly be trumpets? Indeed, and many other instruments that, dare I say, I expect to find in a Within Temptation album. You know what though? It works. Classic heavy Ensiferum sounds have been fused wonderfully with the harmonious orchestral instruments to create a new and refreshing tone which, I dearly hope, they stick with from now on. This truly is music that you can headbang to. Just don't do it whist using a X-trainer like I did. Seriously, you might hurt yourself. :)

The lengths of the tracks are very good too; ranging from 3:50(By The Dividing Stream) to the two parter 'Heathen Throne' pieces that are 11:09 and 12:52 respectively. They may be longer than the norm, but I assure you, you will be entranced all the way through.

The final point to note is the presentation of it all. Some people consider this quite important, so I'll make you happy by saying a few words. I got the 'special edition' version, which I'm assuming is what most of you lot have/ will be buying(yes, you will! :P) The hardback book stlye case is covered with lavish artwork of the classic Ensiferum-warrior-walking-or-standing-around. It's lovely, seriously. Open it up and you are gazing upon a series of pages featuring the band members, their role in the band and what instruments they use. The songs and the lyrics are listed chronologically too so if, like me, you fancy to sing along to your favourite ones you may do so. All in all the case is a sturdy piece of workmanship and should stand the test of time, unlike Jari Mäenpää Oh, too soon? Sorry, I'm just still waiting for his next album...

OK so, conclusion then. Well, I think From Afar brings about a new era for Ensiferum and it is certainly a most welcoming departure from the rest of their discography. Even if you are not a big fan of them I urge you to give this a try because you might just like this new sound. Go on. Highly recommended...and you'll be pleasing the Gods :)
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on 12 July 2011
Man - generally i'm not a fan of a lot of bands of this ilk, finding them repetitive and boring, seemingly unable to add little new or interesting to the table, to their style, but damn if this is not a great album. Have not listened to any other albums by these dudes, but I can't imagine they have released anything as good as this excellent, epic metal album. Despite not liking a lot of bands of this type, I love the actual style of it - the mix of fast guitar work, epic keyboards and folky instrumentation together with effective harsh vocals - really makes you feel like riding into battle or killing a dragon or something. Anyway, why is it so good? Not too sure, actually! obviously the quality is there, consistent and unhampered with throughout the whole album, but this is VERY cliched an album as they come: this style has been done to death; HOWEVER, this band seem to just bring so much passion, and quality songwriting and instrumentation to the table it's hard not to be impressed, despite the cliched nature of the album as a whole. There is good variety here making sure that, whilst the album never feels particularly surprising, it never gets remotely boring either.

Picking out certain song's is hard as it is a relatively short selection (in number not length overall), but here we go: the forceful, driving, thrashy from Afar with its heavy, epic orchestration via the keyboardist and it's rousing chorus is a brilliant way of starting the album off, and Heathen Throne is a cracking, mid-paced, epic stomper which, despite it's 11 minute running time, never truly gets boring or outstays its welcome: the song progresses really well and is a great, epic listen. Despite every song pretty much being a highlight, one more stands out from the pack: Stone Cold Metal, which despite being a technically very typical song, has a really cool "western" style sound to it which make it stand out from the crowd.

Not a ten, obviously - it's not totally perfect, and it's nothing revolutionary or different, but if you like this style, I can't personally think of a more passionately delivered, well performed set of (great) songs to get your teeth into - will be listening to the rest of the band discography with great interest.

09/10
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on 22 July 2011
I can't imagine how I have not had the pleasure of listening to these guys ( and gal ) sooner, being a fan of the other Finnish folk metal bands. This album is epic, pure and simple, and I'm pretty picky when it comes to this type of music. Orcestra, choir, thrash metal guitars, folk and Medieval elements, and wonderful harmonies in Tumman Virran Taa. Love those rolled R's!
Off to buy up the rest of their CDs now...
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on 7 April 2011
From Afar is the fourth album by a folk metal band Ensiferum, and in my opinion it's a very solid album. It has a somewhat different style to their previous three. There are elements of all of the previous albums, as well as something new for the ears. Although their debut album is my favourite of theirs, I'd say this album is an extremely close second, ranging from gentle acoustic songs like By The Dividing Stream, to fast-paced headbanging songs such as Twilight Tavern, to lengthy epics such as The Longest Journey. In my opinion this is also their most atmospheric album so far. One cannot help but feel himself to be in a fantasy land far away or in a midst of a medieval battle whilst listening to each and every song on this album.
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on 16 April 2015
Very happy with CD had a lot of trouble with the other version which claimed to have the bonus track and did not. Though for double the price I was able to find this and finally recieve the item I purchased! This is a really great CD from Ensiferum and I would definately recommend this version with the bonus track featuring Heri Joensen of Tyr!
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on 26 April 2015
Had a bit of trouble with this album due to track listing errors, but nonetheless, fab album!
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on 9 October 2015
Great album. From nicely melodic to properly loud and growly, loving it.
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on 25 June 2013
I love the music in the CD and the price was pretty good BUT the product plastic box were broken when it arrived. Really disappointing Amazon..

I don't recommend this product at all.
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