Many had worried about the future of Ensiferum with the passing of vocalist/guitarist Jari Mšenpšš, as it was his voice and furious guitar style that had helped Ensiferum become so easily recognizable. With only one original member of the band left (Markus Toivonen), and one member returning from the Iron sessions (Meiju Enho), what the future compositions of such a legendary band would be like was a question just waiting to be asked.
Petri Lindroos has taken the reigns as guitarist and vocalist and is quite a competent musician (although probably not the best replacement Ensiferum could have had). His voice is in the same style as Mšenpššís, but still distinctly different; this is probably because Lindroosís raspy voice is definitely not as strong as Mšenpššís, sounding much thinner throughout the entire album. Clean singing however is still an abundant resource within this release, and those delicious choir effects weíve grown to know and love are found everywhere; but because of the quality of the vocals, songs just donít seem to be as strong as they were in the past.
To those familiar with the previous releases by the band (the self titled release and follow-up album, Iron), the main aspect of the music one will notice is that the songs donít really have the same structures that were present in previous releases; songs are generally more straightforward, and itís now very easy to discern the direction songs will take since predictability overthrew craftsmanship.
It should also be mentioned that yes, there are still folky instrumental breaks, but not as many are laden with acoustic interludes as before as they donít play quite an important role in shifting song structures anymore (like the first release). This only adds to the linear concept described before as it leaves little room for inventiveness. On a positive note though, the addition of bristling, flute-filled passages is a welcome addition; although it shouldnít have been used as the main melody lines in so many of the songs.
Many would say that this release shows some sort of progression as the band is continuously evolving; it would probably be safer to say however, that the band as a whole is just trying to find its bearings again due to the departure of half its members. That isnít to say the spirit of the band is gone, but it has certainly changed somewhat ó only time will tell if this new incarnation of Ensiferum is going to rise above its former glory; but rest assured, Victory Songs is still a fun album that definitely deserves some repeated spins. The best way to enjoy this release however, is to forget about the bands past (a hard thing to do), and focus on what the future may bring. (7/10)
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