Should the Gods had a giant mixer and in it they threw ENSLAVED, BLIND GUARDIAN and a pinch of SAVATAGE, wouldn’t the outcome be something extravagantly magnificent? Well, that mixture exists and it is called ENSIFERUM.
Their first 4 albums were perfect, absolutely flawless and had I the chance to review them, they’d definitely be 10/10s. Their 2012 album “Unsung Heroes” however split the fans in two; those that loved it and those that thought its more melodic, dreamy sound would bring a wrong turn towards the more mellow side of melodic death/folk metal. Well, the answer to these doubts is called “One Man Army”; a gem that although a bit rough around the edges, would be proudly worn in any Northern king’s crown.
From the very first notes of the epic/ medieval folk intro “March To War” I get this giddy feeling like the good old days of discovering “Iron” and “Victory Songs”. Then, like a Viking raid, “Axe of Judgment” smashes you heavily and swiftly, a perfect blend of operatic majesty and their characteristic blend of fast paced power/folk/melodeath metal (let’s call it ENSIFERUM metal from now on, you know very well that they are quite unique). The mixture of bridge, chorus and Petri’s harsh vocals makes me want to grab an axe and tear the room apart.
And what can I say about “Heathen Hordes” (that features Heri Joensen from TYR) except just LISTEN TO THIS oh-so-ENSIFERUM metal of a song, if you have enjoyed riffs like “Windrider” in the past? They paint an amazing landscape with their prolific guitar work, like KORPIKLAANI meeting FOLKEARTH, everything filtered through their beautifully aggressive attitude.
Although the same titled song or “Cry For The Earth Bounds” kill some of my expectations for an album equally mind blowing as the previous ones, the heroic combination of “Burden Of The Fallen” and “Warrior Without A War” set the pace right where it needs to be.
The perfect heartbreaking folk intro is followed from a last stand/war dance, proper metal that incorporates everything we love about this band. I’m talking about the right amount of melancholy, galloping epicness and a chorus that you’re dead inside if you don’t feel like singing it.
There are many bands out there that say that play epic metal; and trust me they do. But ENSIFERUM are one of the few that can convey the true, epic feeling. And the disco dancing one in the middle of “Two Of Spades”. You can see that in “My Ancestor’s Blood” and “Descendants, Defiance, Domination” which combined make “The Heathen Throne: Part III”. Although it definitely isn’t so mesmerizing as the previous two installments in “From Afar”, I think it brings a nice closure to the trilogy (?).
In general, I think “One Man Army” is a balanced creation between the frozen epicness of “From Afar” and the melodic aura of “Unsung Heroes”. The production made me a little skeptical, being a bit too clean for my taste and with the (amazing) drum work a bit over toned. The quality is undoubtedly here though. Perhaps the great tracks of this album would mean a lot more to me if I’d heard them in my cold, windy, open-skied home island than a colorless room in Athens. But it doesn’t matter where you live, because “One Man Army” will definitely impress you, one way or another.
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