Ensiferum – One Man Army

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One of the biggest folk metal bands, Finland’s Ensiferum, released their sixth studio album this year. Captivating, compelling and memorable from start to finish, One Man Army is honestly a solid and worthy album.

What makes the band’s latest effort so great is that it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. In essence, it’s the same sort of stuff that you’ve heard from the folk metal giants before, but their original take on this subgenre is ultimately what keeps the band going. The charming instrumental introduction ‘March of War’ sets the tone of an epic adventure before plunging right into the first proper track ‘Axe of Judgement,’ one of the strongest, boldest songs on the album with a haunting chorus that sounds like a battle chant.

This album has so much allure and a real element of fun from the traditional folk instruments that enhance the chaotic melodic death metal riffs. Songs like ‘Warrior Without a War,’ ‘Two of Spades’ and ‘My Ancestors’ Blood’ all have a serious edge and vicious heaviness to them. And yet, there are also some calm moments in the storm as there are in any great story, in this case with the more traditional sounding ‘Burden of the Fallen’ that has a campfire feel and haunting melody to it.

Combine these above-mentioned elements with great song writing and skillful story telling, and you have a truly adventurous album. Although Ensiferum have very much kept to their signature folk sound here, the band have also shown that they can reach out of their comfort zone and experiment. ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ and ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’ both stretch over 5 minutes long, the latter reaching up to eleven minutes long. Their skill for crafting an engaging narrative along with solid song structure are really proven here. ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ is utterly dramatic and features a powerful yet haunting orchestra that makes the song a quest. Meanwhile ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’ has a more progressive vibe, starting out with a dark guitar tone and ending on a scatter-brained series of power chords. You feel a great sense of closure coming out of listening, which is a testament to the great story Ensiferum have executed.

Ensiferum

One Man Army comes with a selection of bonus tracks on a second disc, and while none enhance the album, they are still a great addition, albeit definitely more folk than metal, such as in the seriously catchy, punchy rhythm of the cover of the classic ‘Rawhide’, while ‘War Metal’, a number by cult compatriots Barathrum, has more of a metallic core than the other bonus tracks the band have conjured.

Ultimately, One Man Army is one of the best albums of 2015 in my opinion. It’s incredibly enticing and engaging all the way through, with not one bad song to knock the album down. The album is also a massive step up from Unsung Heroes in so many aspects, from the songwriting to the production. It just sounds so much better and polished without taking away any heavy metal feel from it. If you love folk metal and are aching for something a little different, then make sure you add One Man Army to your listening list.

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