I have to start by saying that I am a long-time fan of Ensiferum, and that I know that this can mean one of two things. On the one hand, I’m pretty prone to liking whatever they put out simply because I like hearing them. On the other, I’m much more likely to criticize them because I know what they’re capable of. Unsung Heroes might be my favorite Petri Lindroos-era offering, but being the big old Enska-head that I am, I just can’t resist the urge to pick it apart.
But first, the positives — “Burning Leaves,” with the catchy little melody that repeats itself throughout, is easily the highlight of what is already a pretty great album. When Ensiferum embrace their folksy side, the result is usually fantastic, and Unsung Heroes is no exception. “Last Breath” and “Passion, Proof, Power” (17 minutes that you won’t notice flying by until the song is over, seriously) are chock full of the folk element I so enjoy, but straightforward tracks like “In My Sword I Trust” and “Retribution Will Be Mine” don’t exactly suffer without it.
I fought with myself about whether or not my only complaint about the album warranted its own paragraph, but alas. The Disney princess vocals, as heard in “Celestial Bond,” have got to go. There is no depth or soul behind Laura Dziadulewicz’s vocal performance, and frankly, it ruins otherwise good songs. I have no doubt in my mind that Dziadulewicz’s voice is well-suited to other genres of music, but in even the lightest of folk metal songs the singer needs a little more oomph than that. Ulla Bürger, on the other hand, does a lovely job in “Passion, Proof, Power,” and the guest performances in general (but especially Lassi Lógren and his nyckelharpa!) are a real treat.
Unsung Heroes is, for the most part, a very enjoyable album. Despite the many, many guests featured on the album, it still feels very much like an Ensiferum album. After the disappointment of From Afar, Unsung Heroes is a step (perhaps several) in the right direction. (8 / 10)