I write reviews for musical albums. My main genre is metal, but I will probably do some hard rock as well. Any reviews other than the two most recent are shown on the right hand side under the "Blog Archive" tab. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ensiferum- Dragonheads (EP)

Album:  Dragonheads (EP)

Artist:  Ensiferum

Year:  2006

Score:  87/100

“Show Us Your Power, Show Us Your Might”

Ensiferum are probably my favorite folk metal band.  The reason being is that they never seem to sacrifice the metal for the folk aspect of their music.  They generally write great songs that would be equally strong without the folk elements.  Perhaps this is because said folk elements are generally provided through the keyboards, or maybe it’s because Ensiferum are just a great band.  I can genuinely say that I love all of their releases.  This EP is no exception, though it is my least favorite of the material that they have released.

The musicianship on “Dragonheads” seems to be a little downgraded from previous releases.  I would guess that this is due to the absence of Jari Maenpaa.  The riffs and instrumental parts are not as complex as their first two albums, but I can’t complain because most of the songs get the job done like they’re supposed to.  In fact, the lack of complexity allows another side of the band to shine.  The songs aren’t long, and yet they have that drawn out feeling to them.  They are more relaxed sounding than a lot of the stuff that came before.  This is a little surprising considering that a good bit of the songs were written and recorded on a demo before Ensiferum ever released an album.  The songs are also generally of a slower tempo than most Ensiferum songs.  They are not very diverse, and usually follow a similar pattern. 

The vocals on “Dragonheads” are definitely weaker than on previous releases.  Petri is a good vocalist, and he’s not really the problem here.  Yes, Jari is a stronger vocalist.  He’s more vicious and I always loved his midrange growl more than what Petri does.  My real disappointment with the vocals lies in the clean vocals.  I believe that Markus and Sami are the clean vocalists on this EP.  They’re not really bad, but they lack a lot of the power that Jari had.  Some of the clean vocals are almost comical as opposed to suiting the music.  It doesn’t really get in the way that much, but it’s a noticeable difference.

The EP consists of six songs, four of which are very good.  “White Storm” is easily one of my favorites, not just from the EP but from the band in general.  It’s filled to the brim with melodic guitar riffs; I particularly love the intro to the song.  The structure and progression of the song feels very triumphant like any good Ensiferum song.  Additionally, “White Storm” was originally found on one of their demos.  “Dragonheads” is the new song recorded for the album.  It’s got everything an Ensiferum fan could want in a mid-tempo type song.  The melody is quite catchy.  “Dragonheads” sounds most reminiscent of what would come on the “Victory Songs” album.  “Warrior’s Quest” is another re-recorded version of a song that was originally released on their demo.  Something that surprised me about this song is the great bass in it, as well as the good chorus.  Also worth mentioning is the cover of Amorphis’s incredible song, “Into Hiding”.  The song was already excellent, and Ensiferum do it justice.  They give it a folkier sound as opposed to the Egyptian sound that the original had.  Petri’s best vocals are found on the cover song, I’ve never heard him go so deep with his vocals… he’s pretty good at it (and he should use this technique more often).  “Kalevala Melody”, the instrumental, is decent but it’s quite short.  It’s over before it really even begins.  I actually think it should’ve been the intro at the beginning of the EP.  I’m not sure why it’s stuck in the middle like it is.  “Finnish Medley” is worth a mention because it features female vocals.  It doesn’t really sound like Ensiferum at all, and it’s also kind of boring despite its uniqueness compared to the other songs.

The EP gets a lower score, because several of the songs are lacking.  I can’t give it a truly low score, because it’s only an EP and all of the good songs are excellent.  “Dragonheads” is easily recommended for fans of Ensiferum.  This is especially true for fans that are more into the “Victory Songs” and “From Afar” albums.  It sounds more like those two than the others, especially “Victory Songs”.  However, I wouldn’t recommend this to people who are just getting into the band or into folk metal in general.  Its main appeal is for people who are already well established fans of the band.  I would check out any of their other work, because everything else is fantastic and worth a listen for any metalhead.  “White Storm” is worth listening to, because it’s one of the band’s best and most fun songs.  So basically “Dragonheads” is a good listen, but not as good as their other stuff.  Some of this is expected because it’s just an EP, but it’s not what I would consider a truly great release.

Best songs:  “Dragonheads”, “White Storm”, “Warrior’s Quest”, and “Into Hiding”.

Negatives/Worst Songs:  “Finnish Medley”, “Kalevala Melody”, weak clean vocals and subpar harsh vocals, and the guitar riffs aren’t as good as on their other releases.

Thank you for reading!  Feel free to comment!

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