Pick Your Rock and Metal

Sunday, February 15, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Finnish folksters Ensiferum flay on One Man Army

FOLK metal....it seems like a contradiction in terms, yet it has grown to be a force, with bands exploring traditional instruments backed by a metal core...and amongst the vanguard were Finnish act Ensiferum.

For more than 30 years they have been ploughing the folk metal furrow, and now have reached the apogee of their career with the release of 'One Man Army' -  a release that knits together the sound, the passion and the implicit irony that all good folk metal bands understand.

From the name - which translates as Sword Bearer - to the style that evokes an heroic epoch Ensiferum have battled the trends and scensters.

That they bore the monicker 'Viking metal' for so many years is to miss the intricacies within the Ensiferum sound.

With a solid year of touring in 2013 the band knuckled down in 2014 to produce 'One Man Army'.

"The composing process was slow as always," said Hinkka of the One Man Army birthing process. "We twist and turn every note, chord and part upside down so that we can be sure that the result is the best possible.

"We cut down the actual amount of tracks on the record and really arranged the instruments more wisely. The recording process was equally long and hard," he continued, "but rewarding and full of incredible moments. Instruments were actually played and left as they were instead of creating tracks from hundreds of different takes, moving them to the grid and modifying things.

"Of course computers were used but overall we made everything as analog as possible. Listeners can experience a better sound and natural groove, something that we think most metal albums lack these days.

"Overall, the album sounds much more like a band playing live rather than 'midi-metal.' I think we've learned from previous sessions what we like," he continues, "and on this album I think we finally  reached the level songwriting and sound wise that we have been reaching for on our previous albums. We are extremely proud of each second of this album."

Proud he may be, but 'One Man Army' is a flawed release. Are Hinkka's positive words justified?

Certainly most of the album has a feel of a band that has hit its own  zone, a band that has self confidence. 'Warrior without a War', 'Two of Spades' and the title track are not only great folk metal songs, they are great metal songs.

On these Hinkka, Lindroos, Toivonen, Parvianen and Silvennoinen meld as a unit, despite the falseness of a studio environment, producing a vibrant, live feel.

But some tracks - such as 'Descendants, Defiance, Domination' - have a slightly jaded feel, as if the folk formula has lost its way on the metal plateau.

Overall, what Ensiferum have achieved here is to develop their sound; they've produced an album that has encapsulated the intent, although why they have chosen to include 'Rawhide' amongst the bonus tracks remain a mystery to all,,,,

They flay, but need to take their fury from the stage to the record.

Review by Jonny
Ensiferum play the Bloodstock festival in August

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