It’s been 20 years since Ensiferum went into the studio to record their self-titled debut. While purists would claim that it, and its follow-up, Iron, are their best albums to date – the ones recorded with Jari Mäenpää before he left to focus on Wintersun – the praise they’ve garnered for subsequent records such as From Afar and even 2017’s Two Paths would suggest that these Finns are still gallantly riding the wings of success.
However, if there’s any criticism to befall Ensiferum it’s that, with age, they’ve lost the unadulterated thrashy edge that put them on the radar in the first place. The good news is that Thalassic brings some of that edge back, and they’ve thrown in two new surprises as well. The first is Pekka Montin, their new keyboardist and clean vocalist, who belts out lines like Ronnie James Dio and adds a startling new power metal dimension to proceedings. The second is that Thalassic is Ensiferum’s first concept album, with songs inspired by the history, myths and legends of the sea.
After the obligatory orchestral intro, Rum, Women, Victory rages in with the first of many vocal appearances from Montin while blokes chant about, well, rum, women and victory and breakneck riffs signal Ensiferum’s salute to speed. Andromeda is just as punchy, colliding Ensiferum’s core sound with a catchy chorus that summons Amorphis, while The Defence Of The Sampo dials up the ‘epic’ gauge, chucking out chorus-heavy tales of sea monsters, string-laden bombast and another falsetto hit from Montin. During the slower moments, such as on For Sirens and One With The Sea, Ensiferum run the risk becoming unstuck in a haze of plodding mediocrity. But with a voracious Petri Lindroos continuing his critical harsh vocal role and an epic closing track that continues the Väinämöinen saga first heard on their debut album, there’s enough of the good stuff to tide the purists along.