ENSIFERUM
Folk Metal • Finland

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Ensiferum is a Viking / Folk Metal band from Helsinki, Finland.

Story of Ensiferum

1995 Markus Toivonen played guitar with some friends in a band called ”Dark Reflections”, which played mainly covers of certain heavy metal bands including Megadeth, Pantera and many others. Later on, Markus felt that the band in which he was playing offered him very little inspiration and wanted to play something different. Markus was hugely inspired by folk music and also found himself fascinated with melodic death metal bands like Amorphis and Dark Tranquillity. Then one day Markus asked the band’s drummer, Kimmo Miettinen, if he wanted to play heroic folk ’death’ metal with him. Kimmo agreed. Next Markus and Kimmo asked their friend Sauli Savolainen, if he wanted to come and play the bass. Fortunately, he said yes. Now they had a band. Only trouble was that the band had no name at the
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One Man ArmyOne Man Army
Metal Blade 2015
Audio CD$9.99
$13.41 (used)
IronIron
Extra tracks
Fontana International 2008
Audio CD$7.00
$5.97 (used)
EnsiferumEnsiferum
Fontana International 2008
Audio CD$7.53
$10.76 (used)
Unsung Heroes [CD/DVD Combo][Deluxe Edition]Unsung Heroes [CD/DVD Combo][Deluxe Edition]
Limited Edition
Spinefarm 2012
Audio CD$9.79
$8.46 (used)
From AfarFrom Afar
Spinefarm Records 2009
Audio CD$7.79
$10.76 (used)
Victory SongsVictory Songs
Extra tracks
Spinefarm Records 2009
Audio CD$7.21
$10.76 (used)
DragonheadsDragonheads
Fontana International 2008
Audio CD$3.80
$4.73 (used)
Ensiferum: 10th Anniversary LiveEnsiferum: 10th Anniversary Live
Multiple Formats · Anamorphic · Import
Universal Music 2006
DVD$13.14
$16.48 (used)
Ensiferum BackpatchEnsiferum Backpatch
Audio CD$12.99
From Afar by Ensiferum [Music CD]From Afar by Ensiferum [Music CD]
Fontana Universal
Audio CD$29.03
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ENSIFERUM Discography

ENSIFERUM albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 4.42 | 18 ratings
Ensiferum
Folk Metal 2001
.. Album Cover 3.74 | 15 ratings
Iron
Folk Metal 2004
.. Album Cover 4.42 | 10 ratings
Victory Songs
Folk Metal 2007
.. Album Cover 4.20 | 10 ratings
From Afar
Folk Metal 2009
.. Album Cover 4.40 | 10 ratings
Unsung Heroes
Folk Metal 2012
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
One Man Army
Folk Metal 2015

ENSIFERUM EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 3.00 | 2 ratings
Dragonheads
Folk Metal 2006

ENSIFERUM live albums

ENSIFERUM demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ENSIFERUM boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
1997-1999
Folk Metal 2005

ENSIFERUM singles (2)

.. Album Cover
3.00 | 1 ratings
Tale of Revenge
Folk Metal 2004
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
One More Magic Potion
Folk Metal 2007

ENSIFERUM movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
10th Anniversary Live
Folk Metal 2006

ENSIFERUM Reviews

ENSIFERUM One Man Army

Album · 2015 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
DippoMagoo
During my more experimental phase of trying to further evolve and refine my tastes in various types of metal, I would occasionally struggle with certain genres, until I found that one band that would eventually convince me to dig deeper. For anything relating to folk metal, that band was Ensiferum. As soon as I heard their album From Afar I was instantly hooked, and since then they have become not only my favorite band in their genre (as well as the band that opened the door for me discovering such excellent bands as Turisas, Equilibrium and Eluveitie) but probably one of a handful or so of my absolute favorite bands at this point. Some fans were disappointed with their more slowed down and melodic previous release Unsung Heroes, but I found it to be just as incredible as their previous two. With their upcoming sixth full length release One Man Army, they have kept their streak alive, with yet another brilliant album that both builds on their previous work, and throws in some big surprises on a couple tracks.

In case it wasn't made obvious in the opening paragraph, I’m very much in the minority when it comes to most Ensiferum fans, in that while I enjoyed their two releases with Wintersun frontman Jari Mäenpää, I find they really came into their own as soon as Petri Lindroos joined. Every album they've done starting with Victory Songs has been fantastic in its own way, with each release maintaining certain key elements while moving their sound into new and exciting directions. By comparison, One Man Army is their first one in a while that doesn't feel like a huge step forward. Instead, it largely feels like a spiritual successor to From Afar and it’s epic, speedy melodic death power metal sound, once again infused with tons of symphonic and folk elements, while occasionally mixing some of the slower sections that Unsung Heroes had, and introducing a few new tricks here and there. The opening track “Axe of Judgement” in particular feels like the closest they've come to being a symphonic power metal band, complete with an excellent section in the middle where the choir vocals and orchestras take over. The only thing separating them from having a symphonic power metal tag on that song is the fact that it still heavily features Petri’s excellent growls. Fans of From Afar should love that one as well as the equally awesome title track, which is pretty much a pure melodic death metal song, only sparingly using symphonic and folk elements.

As with any Ensiferum album, there’s a great range of different vocal styles on One Man Army. Obviously, the bulk of the load is carried by Petri Lindroos, who sounds as powerful and energetic as ever. In fact, on songs like “Cry for the Earth Bounds” and the later parts of “Descendant, Defiance, Domination”, he shows off a higher end to his growls than normal, and these vocals sound especially strong and epic. I almost wish he’d use that voice more often, it sounds that good. Clean male vocals are handled by guitarist Markus Toivonen and bassist Sami Hinkka. As always, the clean vocals sound great and help enhance the melodies, most notably on “Warrior Without a War”, which is another epic speedy track. Elsewhere, the choir vocals and various forms of gang vocals are still used frequently and sound as awesome as ever. Like with Unsung Heroes, a couple songs also feature clean female vocals and they sound great.

While most of the album feels closer to From Afar, and perhaps even Victory Songs at times, the song “Heathen Horde” is very similar to the title track of “Unsung Heroes”, in that it’s more of a mid tempo track where the folk melodies dominate, and the gang vocals during the chorus are quite epic. Other songs show their symphonic elements coming through even more strongly than they did on From Afar, most notably on “Cry for the Earthbounds”, where the operatic choirs sound especially epic. Later on in the song we have one of two instances on the album where a solo female voice is heard, as well as well as one late section in the song where Petri showcases those higher growls I mentioned earlier. On the whole, that track is a clear hi-light.

Of course, the biggest connection to From Afar comes from the tracks “My Ancestors’ Blood” and “Descendants, Defiance, Domination” which join together to make up a new chapter in the “Heathen Throne” saga. These tracks really do feel like one 16 minute epic (the first track even ends with some ambient keyboards which continue into the start of the second track) and once again Ensiferum has delivered spectacularly on that front. They do sound somewhat similar to the first two parts, with the first track being a bit more mid tempo and featuring a catchy chorus, while the second track is largely instrumental, at least in the first half, and features several tempo changes. Near the end Petri delivers more of his epic higher growls, but perhaps the most surprising thing about the track is the effective use of narration. I generally find narration in music to be very distracting, but in this case it’s used in very quick bursts and helps to push the music along, without ever getting in the way. The first half of the track does an excellent job of setting the tables, while the second half is some of the band’s best work to date.

And then we have the two oddball tracks. First up is “Two of Spades”, which starts off as a fast paced, rather straight-forward and super catchy power/melodeath song, but then in the middle it transforms into what I can only describe as some kind of weird retro dance music or something. I really can’t put it into words, but the music goes really weird for a while, and even the vocals sound a bit cheesy in a fun way, with the lyrics switching to Finnish, I believe. Whatever the heck they were attempting in that song, it worked, because it’s somehow one of the most addictive songs on the album, and it certainly sounds unique. The other surprising track is the closer “Neito Pohjolan”, another track I have a hard time properly describing. It’s a fairly upbeat track, but it’s not at all metal, and it features all female vocals, sung entirely in Finnish. My first reaction was one of utter shock, especially considering how strong a finale the previous two tracks would have made, but once I got over that I found it to be a rather fun and fresh sounding track. They even included an English version as a bonus track on the Digipak release, though this alternate version features a low singing male vocalist, and at least based on the name, the lyrics seem to be entirely different, but the music remains entirely the same. The other bonus tracks are also fun, with the appropriately named “Bonus Song” in particular being really fun and humorous.

While the previous three Ensiferum albums have shown the band constantly evolving, One Man Army feels more like a celebration of everything the band has become, with occasional glimpses into a lighter, more humorous side of the band. Fans of Victory Songs and especially From Afar should be very pleased with this one, while even those who preferred Unsung Heroes should find a lot to like. And of course, I highly recommend it to all fans of melodeath infused folk metal and symphonic metal. Overall this is yet another fantastic album from a band that has proven to be the best in their field time and time again.

(Originally written for myglobalmind: http://myglobalmind.com/2015/02/02/ensiferum-one-man-army-review/)

ENSIFERUM One Man Army

Album · 2015 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
One Man Army (2015) is the sixth full-length album by Finnish folk metal act Ensiferum. Ensiferum are probably one of the first few bands that come to a lot of metalheads minds when thinking of folk metal, but personally speaking though I love the genre I've never been more than a casual fan of their music, though I did end up enjoying their last record Unsung Heroes (2012) a fair bit. They're the sort of band I've been of the opinion that you can always rely on to get the job done, though they always will do it in their own way without really pushing the boat out. Amon Amarth are another such band.

The same is true regarding the sound of One Man Army, only this time it just all seems to fall flat on its face for me. I guess if you're a bigger fan of Ensiferum than I am then One Man Army is serving up exactly what the doctor ordered; folk/symphonic metal with a Viking aesthetic with mostly screamed vocals. But to me the album feels and sounds only passable at best. It's exactly what I was expecting in terms of direction but I know this band can do better. The album rarely manages to get my head nodding, blood boiling or even to put a smile on my face in folk metal style silliness during the course of its eleven tracks. It has its moments that remind me of why I took interest in the band in the first place, I quite like the album's title track for instance and Descendants, Defiance, Domination is also worth its own mention. The parts of the album which added some female vocals to the mix were nice too but for the most part One Man Army just passes me by without doing too much to make me sit up and take interest, which means it's neither overly good nor does anything excessively bad either. It's just there, with Ensiferum doing what Ensiferum do.

And perhaps that's the bigger problem with this one: it just seems to be Ensiferum by numbers and maybe that's just not enough for a new Ensiferum album to be even a little bit interesting to me, the casual follower, at this point having heard and enjoyed their last few albums to different degrees.

Or then again, maybe not. To me One Man Army's biggest problem is that while you will hear all of the folk, symphonic, power and melodic death metal elements here that make up the Ensiferum sound the mix of styles just doesn't seem to be utilised as well as on Unsung Heroes, which back in 2012 I described as a "varied approach to creating folk metal". I hear the different elements again sure, minus anything much I'd call progressive which is a description I applied to some of the last album, but the details don't come through so good to my ears and even when I do hear something a bit different out of the album it doesn't seem too much of a far cry from the norm. I do think that fans of Ensiferum will still like this album a fair amount though so far that reason most of all I'm going to settle on 3 stars for my rating but I'll personally be returning to Unsung Heroes next time I feel the need for some Ensiferum.

ENSIFERUM Iron

Album · 2004 · Folk Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Raising their Viking swords to save another day ENSIFERUM delivers and displays their thrash metal leanings and power metal fantasies and rolls out another folk-tinged metal assault on their 2nd album IRON. While the debut album focused more on making thrashy metal powerhouses out of folk musical chord progressions and focused more on the heaviness, IRON has a lighter feel overall and focuses more on the folk side of their musical equation. From the pure folk (perhaps overlong) instrumental opener “Ferrum Aeternum” we get the full side of the melodic aspects of ENSIFERUM. The second track kicks into the metal but even then doesn't lean toward the thrashiness of the debut. The harder rip roarin' tracks don't really begin until track eight “Slayer Of Light” where there are three tracks of melodic folk assault that can actually complete with the debut.

What I love about ENSIFERUM is you really get all kinds of metal rolled into one with traditional folk music as well. The folk is symphonic and professionally done complete with bouzouki, mandolin, saz, dulcimer, sax, kantele and female vocals. On the metal side we get traditional metal, thrash, death growls and some smokin' solos that add an extra layer of intensity. This is the last album to feature Jari Mäenpää on vocals and guitars because he was more dedicated to the Wintersun projects and was booted from the band so he could dedicate his full attention. While I loved the debut album this one was initially a bit of a disappointment. I thought it was a little weak in comparison because it isn't as heavy throughout its entirety, but after many listens I have grown to really like the subtleties of this offering. True, it could have been paced a little better with some of the tracks moved around but on the whole I find myself liking this album quite a bit despite it not topping the debut in any given way.

ENSIFERUM Ensiferum

Album · 2001 · Folk Metal
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I first heard ENSIFERUM on an internet radio station when they played the folk metal classic “Treacherous Gods.” This band has the honor of introducing me to the fact that there was a whole subgenre called folk metal. I can't think of a more epic and folky representation of the genre than ENSIFERUM which is Latin for “sword bearing.” I still wonder if folk metal deserves to be a separate subgenre since folk instrumentation is a fairly common embellishment in different styles of metal ranging from Spinal Tap to Neurosis to lots of power metal acts such as Rhapsody, but it has been established as a legit subgenre and ENSIFERUM is one of my favorite albums from that category.

The music is as most folk metal tends to be, that is a form of traditional metal attributes such as galloping riffs, soaring solos and a wider range in the vocal styles all mixed with the scales of traditional European folk music. ENSIFERUM pulls it off well keeping a nice melodic yet energetic pace throughout the album. Songs tend to start with acoustic intros that blast into full fledged metallic fury delivering exciting and epic sagas of times when heoric battles ensued in the primeval forests of days gone by.

ENSIFERUM was founded way back in 1995 by Markus Toivonen on guitar, Sauli Savolainen on bass and Kimmo Miettinen handling drum duties but by the time they finally recorded this album they recruited Jari Mäenpää as the vocalist and secondary guitarist who has the perfect raspy voice that suits this music quite well. The album has a very lush sound because we get guest musicians adding keyboards, several vocal parts and the addition of the traditional Finnish instrument the kantele which is a zither type instrument. If you want to start your folk metal journey with an album that delivers on an epic scale then this debut album by ENSIFERUM won't disappoint.

ENSIFERUM Unsung Heroes

Album · 2012 · Folk Metal
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Unsung Heroes is the fifth full-length album by Finnish folk metal act Ensiferum. The album was released in 2012 as both a regular edition with ten tracks and a limited edition with a DVD containing a making of feature and studio diaries as well as a bonus track cover of Gipsy Kings’ Bamboleo on the CD. As anyone in the know as far as metal goes will already know Ensiferum are one of the most prominent acts within the folk metal genre.

The music of Unsung Heroes is a very much varied approach to creating folk metal. As a style that can by definition draw its metal side from just about any other metal genre going, most bands seem content to pick a ‘base’ and stick to it until they want to do some lighter stuff to let their folk sides shine through. That isn’t really the case with Unsung Heroes, an album which draws on many fronts including melodic death metal, power metal, symphonic metal and in the epic seventeen minute closer, Passion, Proof, Power, progressive metal. The album is very easily one of the most varied folk metal albums I’ve encountered.

The thing is, while having variety is all well and good, and definitely welcome, it’s not actually the first thing I look for in a folk metal release in order to see if it works. What I look for is authenticity, specifically in the folk parts. Folk metal acts that are all about drinking songs or similar can be entertaining music, especially if they have comedic value, but for me to regard a release as a masterpiece of the genre, the band (usually at least) needs that authenticity. Ensiferum are not one of the folk metal acts that rely on excessive traditional instrumentation however, which for me does put the band at a something of a disadvantage on the authenticity front, however in Unsung Heroes they’ve made a solid and convincing release using folk influence mainly within their metal instrumentation. It works because it does not sound silly or cheesy, and the band makes sure they don’t leave their metal elements lacking.

Can it be considered a masterpiece though? No, honestly it can’t because it just doesn’t do enough within its approximately one hour duration to justify such an accolade. The epic Passion, Proof, Power right at the end of the album may be taking up a sizeable chuck of that running time but at the end of the day it is just one song, and while it alone has brought me to regard Unsung Heroes a bit more than I think I would have done without it the Finn’s sadly produce a classic case of a double-edge sword in the song, since it’s the best and most epic thing on the entire album that brings together all the influences heard up until that point I’m left feeling that the rest of the songs, as good as they are, just lead up to the album’s crowning achievement. They are good songs, don’t take my views for what they aren’t, but for me they don’t really realise the same level of quality on a smaller scale as Ensiferum were able to do with a seventeen minute epic. The variety within their metal influences does make up for it a fair bit however, keeping the album interesting throughout despite my other feelings towards it. I’m most fond of Burning Leaves and the power metal fuelled Retribution Shall Be Mine out of the shorter songs.

If you’ve liked what the band has released previously then I don’t see how Unsung Heroes could leave one with any feelings of disappointment. I would rank it a stronger album than the prior From Afar (2009). The band shows skill at their instruments and I especially like the way they use acoustics to create folk melody in Celestial Bond and Star Queen (Celestial Bond Part II). If there’s a criticism to be levelled at the band’s delivery then it would have to be Petri Lindroos’ harsh vocals, which came across as rather weak compared to the clean vocals used on the album to me. Still, a great album tier rating is undoubtedly deserved for Unsung Heroes and even with all the issues I highlighted in this review it was very nearly up into the exceptional levels.

8.3/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org) on 28/08/12)

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