Concentrating on a specific thematic concept for the first time, Thalassic (Metal Blade), the eighth full-length release by Finnish folk metallers Ensiferum, finds the band obsessing over – as the Greek translation suggests – the subject of things related to the sea.
Right from the opening of ‘Seafarer’s Dream’, the band set the scene perfectly. A folk-infused introduction complete with crashing waves and sea wind, the instrumental piece soon opening into a full-blown, cinematic score. The fast-paced folky pirate shenanigans of ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ follows, frontman Petri Lindroos leading the charge with an instantly catchy gang vocal chorus following closely behind.
The wonderful mid-paced folky swing of ‘Andromeda’ is enhanced by the addition of new keyboard player/vocalist Pekka Montin, whose soaring vocals, reminiscent of Michael Kiske of Helloween, take the song to a different level. A story about a magical artifact that brings good fortune to its owner, ‘The Defence of the Sampo’ is a galloping beast made of the finest power metal featuring choral vocals, orchestral backing, and, bizarrely, a Spaghetti Western section.
Things settle down into more simplistic territory with the insistent gallop of ‘Run From the Crushing Tide’, the Celtic-tinged ‘For Sirens’, and the dark but beautifully atmospheric ‘One With the Sea’. ‘Midsummer Magic’ is a delightfully bonkers combination of jaunty violin jiggery and groove-filled riffs, while epic closer ‘Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III)’ showcases the band’s more serious side with some astute orchestration complementing the dramatic riffs and melodies, gathering pace before eventually whipping itself into a turbulent, nautical fury.
Bonus tracks include ‘Merille Lahteva’, a jolly little jig featuring Finnish spoken word lyrics, and a cover of ‘I’ll Stay By Your Side’ by Danish ’60s pop band The Lollipops. A bizarre choice but one that works surprisingly well.
Striking a perfect balance between folk, melodic death metal and power metal, the serious yet quirky Thalassic finds Ensiferum at their very best.
8 / 10