Finland’s folksters Ensiferum meaning “Sword Bearer” started out in 1995 as a cover band with Wintersun’s Jari Mäenpää. However, Jari left in 2004 due to tour clashes with Wintersun. In came Petri Lindroos of Norther who originally only joined to do the live dates that were booked. This soon turned into a permanent spot.
In 1997 their first Demo was released but the 2001 self-titled album began to turn heads. You wouldn’t believe this is the bands 20th Anniversary. But looking at their discography the guys have been busy. This is their 6th album release as well as numerous compilations and EP’S and then there are the tours with the likes of the big boys Finntroll, Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani.
So to start off the new album with a brilliant folky intro with ‘March of War’ getting me straight in the mood and making me feel like there’s something special to come..
Which it did… the second track ‘Axe Of Judgement’ nearly burst my eardrums, literally!! With the pounding drums and screaming vocals of Petri Lindroos, along with the group vocals you’d think you were at a hard core Viking meeting. The guitar solo on this one sounds much like something Dragonforce would create, obviously on a much shorter scale, take that how you will, as cheesy as the force is, personally I found it quite impressive.
Only three tracks in and I’m rooting out my mead horn ‘Heathen Horde’ just bleeds coolness. Again with the group vocals!! Amazing, then there’s the title track ‘One Man Army’ which the beginning sounds like an early Metallica intro, no worries though, before you know it you’re whisked into some sort of thrash/battle mixup. The beat is what can only be described as a very fast horse gallop. If Game of Thrones wanted a good bit of action moment background music, then this track would be a winner hands down! The victorious ending to this would be perfect.
On a completely different note, there’s ‘Burden of the Fallen’. The beautifully composed but very short track contains no drums, just a bit of acoustic guitar and violin, then that voice. Not the usual you’d think of hearing on a track like this, it’s as if almost its dropping off note, but it somehow works. However, as short and sweet as it was, we’re back into the heaviness with ‘Warrior Without a War’ Now don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to get anything ground-breaking from this album, its full on battle/folk metal, exactly what you’d expect from Ensiferum.
If I were to pick a favourite, it would have to be ‘Cry for the Earth Bound’ due to the epic vocal intro and heavy riffs. The pace throughout makes you want to sway your hands (or horn, splashing people with your lager.(ehem mead, I meant mead!) from side to side, screaming the vocals of the chorus at the top of your lungs. Then there’s the female part, not the best voice in the world of course but for this, fits perfectly.
One that really stands out from the rest is ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’ the bass is absolutely filthy and the guitar throughout is stunning, you’d think it was just an instrumental piece but then the beat gets faster, the vocals pop in which are as dark as black metal,. Then the screams again! Superb!
I have to give the band credit for covering ‘Rawhide’ as one of their bonus tracks! Absolute genius on their part. Can you imagine them singing this live and how crazy the crowd would go? Obviously nowhere near as good as the original but come on, it’s funny as hell!
Again, don’t expect anything but full on battle/folk goodness! I enjoyed the album, some may have been quite repetitive. But a lot of this genre does. If this stuff is your cup of tea then I can’t recommend it enough, wall to wall fist thumping action!
(8/10 Charlene Rance)