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Ensiferum - One Man Army - 85%

GeorgeMFZB852, February 24th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, 2CD, Metal Blade Records (Digibook)

Folk metal is a tricky affair – take a fantastical theme too far and you risk being labelled corny and nerdy. At one time, bands that are inspired as much by Lord Of The Rings as they are heavy metal were simply filed under the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ category, never to be taken seriously. However, something in recent years – be it the popularity of shows like Game Of Thrones, film franchises like The Hobbit, or otherwise – has made writing epic songs with war chants and heroic, battle-woven lyrics actually a little cool.

Ensiferum do fit this category, but you’d be wrong to simply pigeon-hole them as another straight up melodic death/folk metal act. In fact, there is lots of variation to be found here, from the death metal meets Dragonforce-style speed of first proper song ‘Axe Of Judgement’, to the symphonic metal influences of the title track, and the charming acoustic guitar driven ‘Burden Of The Fallen’. While some of the more meandering moments surprise, such as the shockingly well-suited disco-like section a couple of minutes into ‘Two Of Spades’ and the softer outro track ‘Neito Pohjolan’, they rarely seem out of place.

One Man Army effectively feels like the sonic recreation of an epic battle, and this gives everything just a little more weight. From the slow-burning build up of ‘March Of War’, to the full on assault held in ‘Two Of Spades’ and ‘Axe Of Judgement’. From the huge sounding, battlefield-size scale of ‘Heathen Horde’ and ‘Warrior Without A War’ to the tension filled moments like the bass-heavy intro of ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’. If the album is to be considered a battle, then outro ‘Neito Pohjolan’ is for the campfire the first night after, the little bit of calm (and slither of hope) before tomorrow’s new campaign.

Take intense death metal riffs, Petri Lindroo’s ever on-point vocals and mix some epic gang chants along with Emmi Silvennoinen’s mini-synth orchestra sounding keyboard work. Top it off with some healthy doses of experimentation and some fun bonus tracks, and you’ll have One Man Army. Proving that Ensiferum are much more than just a gimmick act like could now be said for pirate-themed power/folk metal act Alestorm, One Man Army displays exactly how fantastical themes can and should be handled in the world of metal.

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