Ensiferum – “One Man Army” (Metal Blade Records)
It doesn’t come any finer than this. Ensiferum have ventured a long way since their early beginnings to this 6th album that sets them on the warrior’s path to glory in Valhalla! Causing a bit of a stir among some fans with their previous release taking a more commercial and melodic direction I actually believe that this album brings together the best of the old Ensiferum along with the new catchiness and accessibility inherent in the band’s talent. Beginning as a folk metal band back in the mid 90s by guitarist Markus Toivonen I would say that Ensiferum has evolved over the years to become more Viking metal and increasingly epic in their sound. “One Man Army” embodies this perfectly and is resplendent with strong warrior choirs, orchestral elements, heroic singalong choruses and deep, heart pounding melodies that will appeal to anyone who likes their metal red blooded and with plenty of passion and soul! Also from Finland, Ensiferum’s core sound is akin to Children Of Bodom with raw vocals, fast riffing and Norse melodies jumping out almost seemingly from everywhere along with a fast propelling drum beat, but on their slower material is where this band truly shines such on the glorious ‘Heathen Horde’, the majestic ‘Warrior Without A War’ and the grand 11 minute ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’ where the true spirit of the warrior resonates in every note and sound on these superb compositions – anyone who isn’t singing along to this must be stone deaf! This really is a step up in the band’s game from their ultra tight musicianship that makes this material shine to producer Anssi Kippo who has achieved a brilliant sound with that truly conveys a deep, epic atmosphere. Just to show that its not all serious somberness, Ensiferum have also chucked in some ‘fun’ songs from the Finn country rock of ‘Neito Pohjolan’ complete with femme vocals, accordions and slide guitar to a Viking polka cover of the western song ‘Rawhide’ – guaranteed to be a hit even in the 10th century thanks to Janne Parviainen’s furious war drumming ha ha. With festival and tour dates already lined up for this year the hordes are already amassing to hear the marching sound of Ensiferum once more!