Ensiferum Album Review – "One Man Army"

Finnish metal band Ensiferum can now be called true veterans of the genre. Ensiferum was founded in 1995 and they are still leaving headbangers with sore necks in 2015, probably even more than ever. The Fins who describes their brand of metal as melodic folk metal has recorded their strongest album so far. The new album ‘One Man Army’ shows the band increasing their craft on every level.

Ensiferum’s sound is still marked by combining death metal influences and harsh vocals with melodies and folk inspirations. On ‘One Man Army’ they have perfected this blend even further. The album starts with the 90-second intro ‘March Of War’ before it breaks into ‘Axe Of Judgement’, a classic opener with neck-breaking speed, lots of double-bass action and fast riffs. In true Ensiferum style they include references to Russian folk music, a choir and a break in the middle of the song that does not only groove but also includes Accept-like choir sequences. Most metal fans will rejoice.

‘Heathen Horde’ follows and brings more traditional metal parts, some guitar melodies even sound like Maiden. Arching over all this is the extensive use of the choir-like gang vocals, a recurring theme for the remainder of the album. The break in the middle ventures into medieval folk music before the band picks up speed again. Ensiferum then get into fifth gear with the title track ‘One Man Army’. Ultra-fast riffs, sharp melodies and again the choir are the trademarks of this song. The 2-minute ballad ‘Burden Of The Fallen’ provides a welcomed break.

The remaining six songs of the album stay on the same high-quality level. Ensiferum range from epic song structures (the 11-minute ‘Descendant, Defiance, Domination’) to fast up-beat tracks (‘Two Of Spades’) to late Maiden-like prog adventures (‘Warrior Without A War’). It is hard to pick a highlight of the album. All songs have their own little treasures to discover. The special edition of ‘One Man Army’ comes with three bonus songs including a cover of the classic ‘Rawhide’ which really suits the band’s sound.

Ensiferum has not changed their style compared to previous album. Neither have they rewritten the story of heavy metal. But what they have done is to create a unique brand of metal that is recognisable and different from most mainstream metal bands these days. It is not the search for harder, faster and more extreme metal that you find on this album. Instead you find well-crafted songs that will make for a neck-breaking live performance.

Bottom line is that Ensiferum have released a very strong album which will be on many top 10 lists at the end of the year. The metal veterans from Finland have perfected their sound even further. Their six full-length album releases have grown stronger from record to record. ‘One Man Army’ is the logical continuation in this row of strong releases. It seems the band has a lot more to give in the coming years. Watch them live if they play close to you.

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