Admittedly folk metal has always been a difficult subgenre of metal for me to enjoy. In general, I lean towards the bands that are essentially melodic death metal bands with only slight folk parts, but with Isenmor’s “Land of the Setting Sun”, there is no escaping the violins. Much to my surprise (and delight), this EP is actually pretty well done. The most important element, metal, is still delivered. At times, the band makes use of crushingly heavy and fast guitar parts, complemented by extreme drumming. Both clean and harsh vocals are present on this release. The harsh vocals are definitely done a lot better, and lean towards a mix of both death and black metal styles, with more emphasis on raspy growls. By contrast, the clean vocals are a bit of a toss-up. The execution is decent enough, as the notes are usually being hit, but sometimes the actual melodic lines are just a bit too strange for their own good (“So Willingly Deceived” being the biggest offender, particularly because the track opens with some fantastic atmospheric chugging). I suppose it’s par for the course in folk metal, but relative to something like power metal, the vocal melodies just aren’t that strong.
Of course, “Land of the Setting Sun”, has a lot of emphasis on the violins, and this isn’t a bad thing. The violins often take the lead melody, not unlike keyboards would often do in this sound. Though I can’t say these leads are particularly memorable, they definitely fit the songs, particularly when there is some epic marching from the rhythm section underneath. Epic is the key word of this EP, as that is when the band is at their absolute best. Anytime they’re able to create a longing feeling of despair, or one of victory, it is extremely effective. This is most obvious on the title track, where an emotional vocal performance leads the charge, though it does pop up on other songs like “Pyre”.
Overall, “Land of the Setting Sun” was a positive surprise. It’s easy to see big fans of folk metal really digging this release, as the band manages to write compelling songs despite doing things a little bit outside of the norm for metal. The use of violins is something that could completely ruin a release if not done well, but Isenmor ensures violins are not gimmicky, which is why “Land of the Setting Sun” is worth a purchase of all folk metal fans.
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"Land of the Setting Sun"
3.6/5 or 72%.
Written by Scott