1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not as bad as many make out,
This review is from: Unsung Heroes (Audio CD)
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'