Ensiferum has spent the better part of the last two decades establishing themselves as one of the top folk metal bands to grace the earth. They have achieved this with catchy songwriting infused with folk elements that avoid coming across as campy and gimmicky. Now in their 20th year, the band has forged another chapter of their conquest. Fresh off a new deal with Metal Blade Records, the band gives us their sixth studio album, One Man Army.
It starts off with what fans have come to expect with Ensiferum, an instrumental that brings the listener in front of a group of ironclad warriors preparing for battle, complete with heavy drums and chanting choruses. With Axe of Judgment, the castle walls come crashing down and an assault of rapid fire guitars and drums assault your senses. Heathen Horde continues the attack, but at a more controlled pace. As you navigate your way through the album, it’s understandable if you get the sense that you’ve heard parts of it elsewhere. One glaring example is the opening riff to the album’s title track and first single. Upon the very first listen, seasoned ears will immediately notice a likeness to Metallica’s Fight Fire with Fire. Although the rest of the track doesn’t resemble the aforementioned classic, the similarities of the riff are too great to dismiss.
Planted squarely at the album’s halfway point are Warrior Without a War and Cry for the Earth Bounds, two tracks that reign in everything a bit, gathering the troops for a second wave attack. The later track is rich with an angelic chorus and sweet mellotron accompaniment. By far, the most interesting track on the album is Two of Spades, which kicks off innocently enough, but then right in the middle of the track, quickly dives into a funky 70s disco homage. As odd as that may seem, it works extremely well and adds loads of fun to the track. Following are the rolling My Ancestors’ Blood and the 11-minute epic, Descendants, Defiance, Domination. The album winds down with the more traditional, country-twanged, acoustic Neito Pohjolan, sung completely in Finnish by Netta Skog (ex-Turisas). Owners of the 2-CD digipack are treated to an extra CD that contains the band’s cover of the theme to Country and Western TV show, Rawhide, as well as an English-language version of Neito Pohjolan called Candour and Lies.There is also a cover of Finnish black/doom metal band Barathrum‘s track Warmetal. The extra fun wraps up with a bonus song called…Bonus Song. It’s definitely fun and…um…interesting. You’ll have to check it out.
One Man Army is a solid effort, but the listener will discover that many elements of the album are reminiscent of something they have likely heard before. Despite this, the album will fit well within the band’s back catalog. It’s chock full of lofty, epic chorus chants, galloping riffs, and folk elements that bring you back to simpler times. So, if you’re looking to satisfy your folk metal cravings, Ensiferum is and continues to be a solid option.
3.5 out of 5 Rating:
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 Bounds
8. Two of Spades
9. My Ancestors’ Blood
10. Descendants, Defiance, Domination
11. Neito Pohjolan
Genre: Melodic/Folk Metal
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
Playing Time: 53:11
Petri Lindroos – lead vocals, guitar
Markus Toivonen – guitar, backing vocals
Sami Hinkka – bass, backing vocals
Janne Parviainen – drums
Emmi Silvennoinen – keyboards, backing vocals