While the USA does seem have quite a number of folk metal bands, it’s the bands from the other side of the pond that are known far and wide when it comes to folk metal. Isenmor from Baltimore, USA play a style of viking folk metal that takes a lot of cues from the European folk playbook. Listening to their debut EP ‘Land of the Setting Sun’, it is easy to make an assumption that these guys are from somewhere in Europe. Armed with dual violinists, this six piece take the listener on a ride to a time when the Vikings sailed west and set foot on the new world.
This EP boasts one of the most explosive opening tracks with ‘Death is a Fine Companion’. It starts out with a mandolin intro before exploding into a symphonic black metal track with violins leading the way. The vocal delivery is fast, snarled and well done. The hooky chorus with the catchy lyrics is the icing on this cake. Thus the opener sets the expectations very high for the tracks that follow.
What follows next is a more melodic affair. The two violins create this beautiful and melancholic tune that forms the crux for the track ‘Pyre’. The clean vocals and the slow pace of the song provides a good contrast with the opening track. While the title track does pick up the pace a little bit, it never quite gets you pumped up as the opener. With these tracks and ‘So Willingly Deceived’, the momentum of the album drops considerably. The guitars are relegated to the background duty of providing the rhythm while the violins take command.
It’s not to say that these three tracks are bad by any means. They’re beautiful in their own right. With that said, they never quite deliver the promises set by the first track and the more melodic approach on these tracks becomes a bit too familiar on repeated listens. Isenmor do pick up the energy with the final track ‘The Old Mead Hall’. What is a folk metal album without an ode to the copious mead consumption? This track is a short one that is fit for an old Viking bar brawl.
The production on the record is done well with prime importance being given to the violins. The guitars could have sounded a little rawer and heavier, especially in the slower tracks of the album. Isenmor’s debut EP has it’s moments of glory and it’s moments of beauty. But I feel that these could have been rationed out better. ‘Land of the Setting Sun’ is a decent debut and it’ll be interesting to see the band grow from here.