Phases & Stages


Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm)

Given a moniker that translates out of Latin as "sword bearer," you know what to expect from Helsinki's Ensiferum: majestic, chest-beating black metal at a gallop. "Retribution Shall Be Mine" and "In My Sword I Trust" set new standards for blazing braggadocio, but Ensiferum also incorporates native folk music into its anthemry ("Pohjola," "Burning Leaves"). "Celestial Bond," sung sweetly by Laura Dziadulewicz, and measured "Star Queen (Celestial Bond, Pt. II)" eschew the guttural screams, so you don't need to ride into battle to enjoy. Or skip to "Passion Proof Power," which empties the band's bag of tricks into one 17-minute number. They're no Finntroll, but close. **.5

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