• Solid overview of the Finnish folk metal legends - A review of Ensiferum's "Two Decades of Greatest Sword Hits"

    Ensiferum - Two Decades of Greatest Sword Hits (2016)

    Ensiferum is one of those bands where I usually like a handful of tracks on each album but rarely an entire output from start to finish. This compilation is the perfect deal for occasional fans who share my problem, potential new fans and faithful collectors of the group. The fact that the physical version of this release includes two additional songs compared to the digital release is a clear and positive statement in my book. ''Two Decades of Greatest Sword Hits'' covers the band's most important tracks from its six studio records and one additional EP. The label missed the occasion to add some rare material from the band's first three demos, a few exclusive live cuts or even a new song to this release. At least the instrumental opener ''By the Dividing Stream'' is slightly different from the original version since it's about a minute shorter and more symphonic. On the other side, those who already own the band's studio albums won't feel forced to purchase this release for any exclusive gimmicks which is positive.

    This release offers a positively diversified overview of the band's career. It includes surprising, short and creative efforts like the more recent ''Two of Spades'' featuring whistle duo Manu Lohi and disco pop singer Frederik that exposes a handful of courageous ideas in just three and a half minutes. Compact band anthems from the early years like my personal favorite ''Token of Time'' that mixes melodic death metal and folk elements in a perfectly balanced way can be considered essential folk metal classics nowadays. Instead of only focusing on the singles, this release also includes more epic tunes like the excellent ''Lai Lai Hei'' that takes its time to build up an epic campfire storytelling atmosphere in more than seven minutes and that surprises us with a fascinating mixture of English and Finnish lyrics. The closing ''Victory Song'' is the cherry on the cake with a running time of more than ten and a half minutes featuring all the charismatic trademarks of the band in a more progressive context.

    The booklet features liner notes with comments on each song, pictures of each main release covered by this compilation and photos of the band's different line-ups. This record offers seventy-four minutes of high-quality folk metal and serves well as a nice overview that can be enjoyed at work, on your digital or portable players or in your car.

    Final Rating: 83%

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