I started getting into Pagan/Folk Metal a couple of years ago and I believe you can put most of these groups into two basic categories: those who play folk music first then throw in the metal and those who are metal but play with folk influences.
I think Ensiferum falls into the latter category and those who won’t give this music a chance because they think this style is ‘weak’ should really check this band out, the riffs and vocals are fast paced and punishing. They would give most death metal acts a real run for their money.
However, the real thing that separates the folk/pagan genera from the rest of metal can be found in the progressive framework and multitude of sounds explored. After following the classic framework of extreme music for over 30 years, I find it refreshing when someone tries something different. Progression is often a sign of maturity whether we want to admit it or not.
Ensiferum is from Helsinki, Finland and considered by many to be revolutionaries in the folk metal scene. This is largely due to the efforts put forth on their earlier releases: Ensiferum (2001) and Iron (2004). Active since 1995, One Man Army is the group’s 6th studio album and while this release has some noteworthy efforts, I believe it is hampered by the album’s overall pacing. The first couple of tracks kick your ass but the slower ballads and lengthy epic pieces really bog the rest of the material down. Sequential order is a key ingredient in tying together a successful release. If a track doesn’t fit, don’t include it, metalheads don’t care how many songs are included as long as they are good. Highlight tracks for me are: “Axe of Judgement”, “Heathen Horde”, “One Man Army”, and “Warrior Without a War”.
In summary, One Man Army shows some flashes of brilliance but it could have been much more.
It’s difficult to develop a cohesive release if the flow of material features too many inconsistent highs and lows. Either way, Ensiferum is still a brilliant act, they just need to kick it into the right gear and ride that battle march into oblivion. \m/
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
Petri Lindroos – Vocals/Guitar
Markus Toivonen – Guitar/Vocals
Sami Hinkka – Bass/Vocals
Janne Parviainen – Drums
Emmi Silvennoinen – Keyboards/Backing vocals