Album Review – Isenmor / Shieldbrother (2020)

As the dawn of battle approaches, let’s join Isenmor’s shield wall and drink to glory together with such talented Gewyrdelic Folk Metal band to the sound of their breathtaking new album.

After four battle-worn years of work, countless setbacks and even greater victories, the long-awaited debut full-length from Baltimore, Maryland-based Gewyrdelic Folk Metal band Isenmor, beautifully titled Shieldbrother, has finally seen the light of day, delivering tales of glory, sorrowful tales of woe and of course an “obligatory” Folk Metal drinking song, showcasing an incredible evolution in the sound crafted by Nick Schneider on lead vocals and violin, Tim Regan on the guitar, Mike Wilson on bass, Jon Lyon on keys, and newcomers Pete Lesko on lead guitar, Mark Williams on violin and David Spencer on drums compared to their 2015 EP Land of the Setting Sun. Produced by Mike Wilson, Mark Williams and Tim Regan, mixed by Tim Regan and mastered by Dan Swanö at Unisound, the album offers the listener a breathtaking blend of metal, orchestral and folk music, combining intricate violin leads and rich vocal harmonies with a strong guitar-driven Folk Metal base inspired by the stalwarts of the genre including Týr, Ensiferum and Eluveitie, bringing to life the history and legends of the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic peoples while inviting us all to join the band’s shield wall and drink to glory with them.

Isenmor’s dual violin attack begins in full force with Battle Scarred, with Nick already screaming manically while Mike and David make the earth tremble with their respective bass jabs and classic beats in an awesome hybrid of Viking and Folk Metal, whereas the title-track Shieldbrother sounds even more infuriated and vicious, with its lyrics reeking of Viking Metal (“Kin by blood and kin by shields / Strong stones set in a fleshen wall / Ring oaths kept in foot torn earth / Blood binds sealed among thirsting dust”) while also showcasing an amazing guitar work done by both Pete and Tim. And the strident violins by Nick and Mark dictate the rhythm in the dark Mount Badon, a sluggish and somber creation by Isenmor where all vocals and backing vocals exhale melancholy. It’s indeed a well-crafted ballad, albeit not as inspiring as the rest of the album, and those American Vikings get back to their trademark violin-infused metal madness by blasting the thrilling Furor Teutonicus, once again presenting a fantastic sync between Nick’s demented roars and David’s unstoppable drums.

Drink to Glory is one of those fast, short and extremely fun compositions that will inspire all fans of Viking, Folk and Epic Metal to drink a pint of mead while slamming into the circle pit, with Nick and Mark being on fire with their violins accompanied by Mike’s rumbling bass, and we’re treated to more of their adventurous lyrics (“In the deep dark wild you wander / Far from home amidst the trees / Suddenly you smell a stench that / Leaves you weak and on your knees”) in Kings of the Cold Mountains, boosted by their frantic music while the keys by Jon bring balance to all the aggressiveness flowing from the band’s riffs and beats. Then get ready to headbang to Wanderlust, another classic Vindlandic Viking Metal tune where Nick’s growls are nicely supported by all backing vocals, slashing riffs and their undisputed violin extravaganza, followed by a breathtaking 17-minute musical journey entitled Sigurd’s Song, changing its shape and form as the adventure progresses, with their violins “crying” majestically nonstop while the band also brings to our ears hellish roars, old school Viking Metal beats, harmonious background keys and endless epicness, ending the album in the most exciting way possible.

This fun, action-packed, violin-infused voyage through the lands of Viking and Folk Metal can be streamed in its entirety on Spotify, but of course I highly recommend you purchase the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music, or from Amazon, and don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram, as well as subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their vibrant metal music. As the dawn of battle approaches, let’s show our utmost support to Isenmor by joining their shield wall, becoming part of their tales of war, glory and death, and remaining always eager for more of their beer drinking, prancing and fighting music like the amazing collection of battle hymns offered to us all in Shieldbrother.

Best moments of the album: Shieldbrother, Furor Teutonicus and Drink to Glory.

Worst moments of the album: Mount Badon.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Battle Scarred 5:11
2. Shieldbrother 6:35
3. Mount Badon 4:06
4. Furor Teutonicus 4:42
5. Drink to Glory 2:44
6. Kings of the Cold Mountains 3:17
7. Wanderlust 3:49
8. Sigurd’s Song 17:15

Band members
Nick Schneider – lead vocals, violin, mandolin on “Kings of the Cold Mountain” and “Drink to Glory”
Pete Lesko – lead guitar
Tim Regan – guitar, vocals, additional keys and sequencing
Mike Wilson – bass, vocals, additional rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar on “Wanderlust” and “Sigurd’s Song”, mandolin on “Kings of the Cold Mountain”, additional keys and sequencing
Mark Williams – violin
Jon Lyon – keys, vocals
David Spencer – drums

Guest musicians
Carter Cassedy – additional lead guitar
Keith Williams – cello on “Sigurd’s Song”

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