Review By Colin McEwan
Album: One Man Army
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 24th February 2015
1. March Of War
2. Axe Of Judgement
3. Heathen Horde
4. One Man Army
5. Burden Of The Fallen
6. Warrior Without A War
7. Cry For The Earth
8. Two Of Spades
9. My Ancestors’
10. Descendants, Defiance, Domination
11. Neito Pohjolan
14. Candour and Lies
15. Bonus Song
Forged in 1995 as a trio by guitarist/vocalist Markus Toivonen, and presently featuring current and former members of October Falls, Rapture, Norther, Barathrum and Sinergy, ENSIFERUM has been flying the flag of epic, folk-infused death metal high and proud for two decades. A Latin word translating to “Sword Bearer,” ENSIFERUM‘s valiant tale begins humbly with three meticulously composed demos that raised the collective eyebrows of the extreme metal underground with their sharp and dexterous fusion of Bathory-ian darkness, Amorphis-styled melody and poignant accounts of ancient sagas and warrior quests.
“One Man Army”, the primarily analog-recorded long player was tracked between September and November of 2014 with award-winning producer Anssi Kippo (Children Of Bodom, Impaled Nazarene, Entwine etc.) at Astia-Studios in Lappeenranta, Finland and boasts eleven heroic victory psalms.
“The composing process was slow as always,” elaborates 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.”
“On the new album, we took many things musically to the next level so we decided also to try something new graphics-wise,” relays Hinkka. “Gyula HavancsÃ¡k did a phenomenal job! For the first time it was really nice to be more involved with designing the cover and all details. Our humble gratitude to Gyula for all the patience and really amazing results. We couldn’t be more satisfied!”
From the very first track we are thrown head first into what we know to be ENSIFERUM inside and out. The battle awaits, the tension is high, the hairs on your neck dance like a fairy in an undisturbed fountain, unaware of its prey, lurking, watching, waiting to strike. Death is coming, you tremble with a fear, an excitement, a nervousness; yet your given perch upon the pillars of the gods to observe the upcoming monstrous, epic, beauty is set before you. Watch… and feel.
Let the battle commence!
“One Man Army” is as epic as previous releases, but is much more concentrated into delivering heavy, head-banging, immense chorals, impressive licks and riffs which not only destroy all expectations, but really deliver one hell of an album, which is by far one of the greatest things I’ve had the privilege to hear in years. The guitar solos are executed beautifully, technically brilliant, and keeping in tone with the track. For me, this is a must as so many bands fail at this.
Vocally, this album delivers an immense feel throughout. ‘Heathen Horde’ really shows how well combining different vocals can work in an album. Melodies are flying, and the fountain fairy is dead! We’re given catchy sing-a-long choruses to disturb the neighbours, truly magical elements of highly technical composed metal and folk, moulded together in a very special release.
Track after track the vocal lines keep you physically connected to the music and battle before you. The beat of the drums messing with you at every given opportunity, and you letting it.
The title track ‘One Man Army’ really delivers an exceptional display of terror. Your heartbeat becomes one with the kick of ‘Janne Parviainen’ as the drums pull you into the music, pushing your senses up into an explicit display of horror, whilst remaining technically brilliant. Chorally strong, musically immense, epic level ‘Infinite’. – ‘It has been told, one of the gods fell off his perch during this track, and has been missing since. A search party has been organised, and will commence within the next ten thousand years’.
By the time you get to the tenth track your mind should be so immersed in the spell ENSIFERUM have laid out before you. If your limbs have not fallen off, and your sense of balance is beginning to restore, I implore you to attempt the powerful ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’ with the mesmerizing ‘Maiden-esq’ lyrical harmonies conjuring a path of spine tingling beauty. As the longest track on the album, you wouldn’t notice, as it really takes advantage of keeping you attached all the way. Riff by riff you become immersed into the track, beat by beat you become a part of the creation, vocally and rhythmically destroying every inch of sanity you thought you had at the beginning of this album.
Showing how versatile ENSIFERUM are with their composing, ‘Neito Pohjolan’ is a real treat to hear. Although oddly placed, it has an interesting country music feel to it, yet somehow still works really well with the rest of the album.
I’ve heard so many versions of ‘Rawhide’ over the years, from country versions to metal and even a thrash version, but this version is really, really good. The bonus tracks are a great addition to an exceptional album, full of little hidden qualities which really define ENSIFERUM as giants in their genre.
My personal favourite tracks on this epic album were:
Burden Of The Fallen
Two Of Spades
“One Man Army” is an exceptional album which should be experienced by all.
Sami Hinkka – bass/vocals
Petri Lindroos – guitars/vocals
Markus Toivonen – guitars/vocals
Janne Parviainen – drums
Emmi Silvennoinen – keyboards/backing vocals