Despite all the madness outside that has happened in 2020, the year has been extremely bountiful in virtually every style that I have an interest in from ambient drone, sludgy doom, psych-rock albums destined to become classics, gorgeous neofolk, and everything else in between. That’s all with one exception though: folk metal. A pure folk metal experience whose quality is undeniable and something that is nigh on undeniable in every form is the only thing I’ve been missing this year, but it is undoubtedly with Isenmor’s return after six years that they’ve brought us something that should absolutely be known as one of the highlights of the style the year has provided, if not the highlight.
When I first saw the Kickstarter for this album to get a proper release, how could I possibly resist? Isenmor’s debut EP, “Land of the Setting Sun”, is still one of my standards for all folk metal that I base all past and future listens on with intense scrutiny, and its power has yet to wane on me. To say that wait for new material from this beyond exceptional act has been next to excruciating would be putting it lightly, so how could I resist supporting any new material that they may produce at the drop of a hat. “Shieldbrother” sounded like everything I’ve been missing from folk metal for some time with Isenmor coming back to us leagues better than ever before with their signature dual-violin performance being more potent than we could ask for, and that’s not even taking into consideration the album as a whole.
It’s without even thinking about it before even going into this album, I knew in my fucking soul that “Shieldbrother” was going to be more than worth its own salt. With a completely original tracklist with no repeats or remasters from “Land of the Setting Sun” (despite the fact it has already been redone) or the standalone 2016 single, “Saxon Shore”, it’s the entirety of “Shieldbrother” that shows us Isenmor’s tremendous evolution that is far beyond what I could’ve ever hoped for, and it’s in every track that adorns this album that I find myself no less than bewildered and truly intoxicated by what Isenmor has accomplished here. By and large, the lyrical content of this album fits perfectly into everything that the style has ever done before, even with the obligatory song of drinking thrown in there just to check off all the boxes, and while that’s always fun to dive into whenever a worthwhile band comes around, it’s the instrumentation where Isenmor shines like few others. Between seven members with each wielding some sort of instrument along with three vocalists, there’s a lot happening within the confines of “Shieldbrother” and it’s a gift that keeps on giving with this album boasting a 17-minute finale that is nigh on exquisite, musicianship whose quality cannot be denied, and a dual-violin setup that is beyond godly
In every way, “Shieldbrother” quickly grows to be a force to be reckoned with for the likes of folk metal, and if this record doesn’t propel Isenmor to become one of the need-to-know acts of the new generation of greats for the style then I don’t know what it will take. This is an experience the likes of which I won’t be forgetting anytime soon and is undoubtedly one of my favorites that the year has dished out by far.
“Shieldbrother” releases on October 9th!
LISTEN to singles from “Shieldbrother” on Bandcamp here.
LIKE Isenmor on Facebook here.