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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2012
Ensiferum's journey continues as 3 years following what is my favorite album, From Afar, the Battle-Anthem producing Finns deliver their fifth opus, "Unsung Heroes". A few things to make clear, in no way is this is a sequel or a continuation from Afar, or any other Ensiferum album. Truly its own entity for better or worse, Unsung Heroes is a unique, strange and diverse offering of Ensiferum's battle anthem work with female led folk, songs of battle and heroes and the usual fanfare of instrumental work, heavy thrashers and of course the finale epic. This album will do many things, it will make some fans happy, it will make others scratch their heads in confusion, others will cheer, others will groan. A grower - yes? A good album, on first try I think it is with some problems abound.

So we begin with the opening standard, an instrumental. "Symbols" is shorter than the usual Ensiferum opener and is more symphonic than folk, more in the "Ad Victoriam" vein of warm-ups. It's a good track to begin with, pulling us in despite the fact nothing is new here, but the piece itself builds up nicely.

We then get the second track and our opening battle anthem "In My Sword I Trust." Whilst at first this was disappointing as it doesn't build up that much speed or power like "From Afar" it is a grower and there are plenty of components that make is a good track. The chorus, albeit cheesy is irresistible to sing along to and the guitar solo is excellent, as are Sammie's vocals. Petri on the other hand, well, I was fine with him On Victory Songs, impressed at times on "From Afar", here, he sounds tired, spent and this is a major problem on this album, he just doesn't have the old power. Despite this being the only real problem on this song, it's still a good track and grows over time.

We then get the title track - "Unsung Heroes," a somewhat slow and methodical song with some excellent instrumental backing with Petri's vocals still not quite getting up there. The choir backing is pretty good, as are the lyrics (certainly less cheesy then the prior track) and symphonic elements work in the song's favor as opposed to potentially undermining it. Overall, slow and another grower.

"Burning Leaves" - I love this song. Beginning with a soft folk melody and then kicking off with the heavy guitars on a great riff, this song was the first released and an excellent addition to Ensiferum's live set and discography. The song is powerful, Petri actually isn't bad here and the chorus sung mainly by Markus is excellent as are the symphonic backing and solo. It's a great song for its power, speed and feels very much like Amorphis' later material, which discredits it not. Lyrically and musically good, the best song on the record.

"Celestial Bond" breaks off the metal side of things and we get a folk song with graceful, soaring female vocals with good lyrics and a steady pace. It builds up gently over time but never really breaks out of its soft and delicate scope. Another great song which definitely catches off guard and is a definite show of Ensiferum's willingness to diversify.

And then we get a straight up thrash song which hearkens to the days of Iron. "Retribution Shall be Mine" is fast, furious, pounding and well accompanied by clean vocal work and the symphonic arrangements, as well as being a stripped down piece of brutal Folk Metal which works, running over "Celestial Bond's" calm in two seconds flat. Despite this though it's quite forgettable, with Petri being somewhat iffy here at times and the solo all too short. An enjoyable track nonetheless and again, a grower, certainly for me.

Celestial Bond continues with its brother "Star Queen" which begins like a slower "Burning Leaves." The clean vocals here are good, the song plays slowly like its counterpart and it whilst it doesn't go anywhere until the final half minute, it still is a good, solid track concluding the third of Ensiferum's two-parters.

"Pohjola" is the next track and comes in with more choir work, a struggling Petri and some plain strange elements after a good enough riff. There's a spoke segment after the fourth minute, there's plenty of orchestral work behind the guitars which like on the second track, never quite get up to speed. The choir work here is quite strange yet fun to listen to and the song feels almost too trying as it pulls off little, but is solid and probably, like others, will grow.

And now we get the last two tracks and things get really strange here. "Last Breath" is an acoustic track which, I have no idea how to feel. A man drones throughout it and I feel like Lou Reed stumbled into the studio. However as soon as he shuts his mouth the song actually gets pretty good with a decent instrumental acoustic section and a storming in choir arriving, before the song goes back to him again for the last half minute and he drones more. And then we get "Passion Proof Power" This is the strangest song Ensiferum have ever created. After a minute and a half of assorted sound effects we get a good enough intro with a slow accumulating guitar which is pretty good and then ... - it goes mad. Clean vocals are first with the guitar work is fine and it seems to be building up to something, then Petri sings some parts, more instrumental, then we get an opera vocalist (not making it up it sounds like Tarja is tired of solo careers and has joined the Vikings) before some more jiggery-pokery instrumental work, then Petri and then a speech in German. At this point, 12 minutes in I have nothing to say. The German speech makes no sense and sounds just strange, and the song feels devoid, the build up worthless. It's a weird finale track and then it goes away before going back to the guitars for more vocals, more Petri and choir work before finishing on a dissolve. "Passion Proof Power" is just strange and isn't the best way to finish an album or be an epic with its disjointed feel and mixed segments of quality.

So there you have it the fifth Ensiferum album. I don't like it when albums end badly, which this one does, but there's enough redeeming value for me to come back to it, good songs, songs that will in time grow, why? Because I keep coming back to them and seeing new elements I like every time. Yes it will divide fans, and yes it will not be for everyone, but I put it in as a solid effort.
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on 25 July 2014
Many people seem to think negatively of this album, but I think it is brilliant. Sure, it is different from their previous work, but it certainly makes a positive change in my opinion and there isn't a weak track on the album. You can definitely hear the symphonic side brought in on the previous album, 'From Afar,' which is extended further here. The album also includes (at least) two synthy keyboard solos that really give the keyboard player Emmi Silvennoinen a chance to shine, as the keyboards can often be lost behind the chugging guitars and pounding drums of Ensiferum's music. As to the whole deal with the last track 'Passion, Proof, Power' I had little issue with it. Of course it couldn't compare to the two part epic 'Heathen Throne' on the previous album (which are probably two of the greatest folk metal tracks ever released in my experience), so in that respect I can see why people would be disappointed, but besides this it is still a great track. It IS a little experimental, granted, but I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that. 5/5 for awesomeness, best two tracks 'Burning Leaves' and 'Pohjola.'
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on 27 September 2014
Sorry, Ensiferum! As much as I love you, this is a blip on your illustrious record of records.

The songs Unsung Heroes and Burning Leaves stand out as the best tracks (5 stars), truly worthy of the band's previous endeavours. I found In My Sword I trust to be a cheesy, but nonetheless enjoyable song (4 stars). It's singalong, music video material, so it feels a bit like a mainstream product, not that that stops me from liking it for its merits. Celestial Bond is a beautiful acoustic interlude (4 stars). It paces the album, even if it is time taken out of the disk that could be reserved for face crushing epicness. Retribution Shall Be Mine brings back the energy of the album, hitting hard and fast (for me, 5 stars)

Here, the problem starts in my opinion. Pohjola is a highly operatic track, and it seems to drown out everything else. I like when orchestras subtly harmonise everything and add to the song, and occasionally burst through, but this is too much. Contrast this to how keyboards were used in Iron. Victory Songs was their folkiest album, whereas here they seem to have upped the symphonic elements at the expense of the folk ones. From Afar had a good balance... this doesn't. That's a BIG problem.

Passion Proof Power is my least favourite track. If you compare it to The Longest Journey (1+2), it pales in comparison. Give Finnish metal musicians a 15 minute canvas, I want to be blown out of the water and I'm just not. There are good parts for a couple of minutes, but overall there's too much wankery and it doesn't form a very coherent track (Longest Journey, eck hem!!!). It's too spacey, proggy, wankery-y, and sweet power metally.

Instead, from the album overall, I expected there to be more aggression, more melodic death influences. Ensiferum are still capable of making great music, as demonstrated by the first half of the album, but when I add up the lengths of all the metal tracks I gave 4 or 5 stars, it only comes to about 28 minutes. The rest is acoustic or else not very enjoyable. So, for one half of an excellent album, 3 stars.

P.S. looking forward to the new album - I'm sure it will have gems in it to uncover... perhaps they will even reverse their direction
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on 27 August 2012
Been a fan of this band for a long time and will continue to do so! What a record! Ensiferum as it should be! From afar was a great album and I had big expectations for this one. The band have truly raised the bar.
Cant wait to see them in september! Highly recommend.
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on 13 November 2012
Ensiferum is a metalband from Findland, who plays what is often catogrized as Viking Metal. "Unsung Heroes" is their 6th album with ups and downs.

The first 4 tracks (In My Sword I trust, Unsung Heroes, Burning Leaves and Celestial Bond) are the best, but with a strong start the quality unfortunately falls abit. Some of the tracks are too mediacore, forgetting the memorable (and defining) sounds we got from their previous work like Warrior's Quest, Iron, Battle Song, and Token of Time. The last track is a cover of Gipsy Kings - Bamboleo. The song is definitely a change in tune from the original, but it does not fit very well into a otherwise great album.

The Limited Edition of "Unsung Heroes" also includes a DVD with a documentary about creating the album.

Overall "Unsung Hero" IS a great addition in their discography. If you are a Ensiferum fan this album is definitely recommended, if you're new to the band,then I would look out for their previous albums like "Victory Songs" and "Iron" first.
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on 25 April 2013
There's a big stink about Unsung Heroes rolling around the internet. So bad that I neglected listening to this for a long time, and if it wasn't for a sense of commitment to one of my all time fav bands, I might never have picked it up. With low expectations in tow, I was actually rather surprised at how good it is. Yes, it is not their best album by any margin. But not a bad album. Not a fast album either, but not a bad one.

Let us begin with the good, and there is a lot of that. As is well documented, the album is mainly mid-paced with only one fast track. I actually thought it was a cool move for the band, in theory, to mix it up a bit. Slower doesn't automatically mean worse in my book. Petri uses a deeper growl this time, which i really enjoyed, and the band throws in some full on choirs in a few tracks, giving things a bit of a Blind Guardian feel at times. The album actually starts out strongly with the first real song of the album, In My Sword I Trust, being a total belter of a track, with rolling riffs, a great anthemic chorus and altogether a bit of a Turisas/Blind Guardian vibe. Definitely destined to be a good live track, it also sees bassist Sami throwing in some growls and cleans too. In fact, Sami's bass playing is wonderful throughout the album and definitely a highlight. The following title track and Burning Leaves are great too, with some very cool guitar harmonies and a great balance of clean and growled vocals, much in the vein of tracks like Tale of Revenge or Old Man. Retribution Shall Be Mine, the albums lone fast track, is another blast with some very busy riffing which is very remeniscent of the Vistory Songs album. But it's Pohjola that steals the show, as the song mies up the mid paced riffing with little bursts of speed and double-bass here and there, its bombastic chorus is enough to light your way through Moria any day of the week. However, after this beast of a track, the quality of the album takes a turn for the worse...

Unsung Heroes does have some pretty big flaws, not the gapping kind, but not the kind that an fly under the radar. There is a lot of 'fluff' on the album. Aside from the tracks I already mentioned, the rest are pretty week by comparison. The two Celestial Bond songs and Last Breath just don't really go anywhere musically come off as rather uninspired, while the 17 minutes of confusingly wild meandering that comprise Passion Proof Power feel like a half-baked mess of undeveloped ideas. With the considerable legacy of the band in tow, this is definitely not what we have come to expect from the mighty Ensiferum. I also felt the album sounded very over-produced, giving the band a much weaker sound than usual. I the guitars sound like a wet noodles and often the clean vocals come off a bit flat.

At the end of the day, its a bit of a shame that the inconsistency of Unsung Heroes results in it falling short of the high standard this usually excellent band has set. I actually dig the idea of playing around with slower songs; Unsung Heroes could have been Ensiferum's 'South of Heaven', but sadly it was not meant to be. Perhaps this would have been better released as an E.P. with Symbols, In My Sword I Trust, Unsung Heroes, Burning Leaves, Pohjola and Retribution Wil Be Mine? Still, despite being a bitter of a missed opportunity, Unsung Heroes is still a decent effort and no where near as bad as what I'd read on the internet. It is interesting to hear the band try their hand at slower songs, and the good tracks on the album, especially In My Sword I Trust and Pohjola, are worth additions to the Ensiferum legend.

My final word: Fans who approach this with high expectations may be dissapointed, but those who are ready for a slower, more measured Ensiferum might find a lot of things to like on the album. It is definitely not that bad, but it falls short of the benchmark the bands earlier releases set. Those looking for something along the lines of older-Ensiferum can recommend Embraced by Fire by Wolfchant, which is freaking awesome, anything by Hammer Horde, Falchion(legacy of Heathens is brilliant). oh oh oh and don't forget Brymir's 'Breath Fire to the Sun'
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on 28 December 2012
Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes is a good Battle Metal album. If you like Manowar and Turisas you will find plenty to enjoy here.
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on 30 September 2012
Not a bad album but definitely lacking something in comparison to earlier Ensiferum stuff. They seem to have lost their edge somehow and produced a rather strange offering with this one.
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on 22 April 2013
Good album, not quite Ensiferum's normal standard, but still good.
I think the studio editing makes it sound a bit flat.
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on 31 March 2014
Bought as a Christmas present for my nephew, he really enjoyed it, great music with some great songs on it
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