A band that really needs no introduction, Ensiferum has been setting the standard of folk metal for nearly 20 years with a string of incredible albums under their belt. However with their previous release, 2012’s Unsung Heroes, many thought that they were finally losing the steam they were expected to lose with the departure of Jari Mäenpää in 2004. While the album itself was varied, gone was the energy of past releases. Songs in their traditional style were uninteresting, while the new ventures were uninspiring and confusing; Ensiferum had released an album that could be considered downright clumsy. So with this, what can be said of the follow up, One Man Army?
After the intro, March of War, sets the scene with the use of traditional folk instruments, Axe of Judgement explodes out of the speakers with frantic drumming, melodic death riffing and vocals that are spat out with venom, Ensiferum are here to show that they’re back and they mean business. Heathen Horde slows things down with a catchy chanted chorus that breaks down into an ending folk section narrated by what seems to be a call to war. Ensiferum are doing more than making up for any previous lack of inspiration by kicking it up a notch inspiring their listeners in the process. The title-track deserves praise for its magnificent riffing and soloing that is complimented by cinematic keys and vocals, it’s another highlight in an album that appears to be full of them.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the album has to be Two of Spades, a song that would not sound out of place on a Turisas album. The song features some interesting old school heavy metal style riffing, but the most peculiar aspect has to be the 70’s disco breakdown that really should not work, but does completely. Many bands would not be able to pull this off, however Ensiferum seem to work it perfectly, with the only flaw possibly being that it slightly affects the flow by injecting humour into what seems to be a more serious album.
The heart of the album would have to be the 11 minute opus Descendants, Defiance, Domination. It’s a track that is very epic in scope, featuring an acoustic intro that is followed by the bass and a guitar solo before kicking into full riffing that is backed by a rather progressive rock sounding organ. The song features all of Ensiferum’s classic components, yet on a grand scale that continues the cinematic theme of the album and could be compared to the soundtrack of a final battle. Descendants, Defiance, Domination would be the perfect way to end One Man Army, but this is unfortunately not the case. Unfortunately, not because final track, Neito Pohjolan, is bad by any stretch, but because as a Finnish country song, it is an anomaly that offers nothing other than confusion to the album and seems extremely out of place. It would work much better as a bonus track.
With One Man Army, Ensiferum have truly returned to form, with no real flaws apart from some issues that affect the album’s flow. The album is very nicely accompanied by some tight playing all around and a powerful vocal performance with a very nice (predominantly) analog production job. The cinematic effect of One Many Army is excellent, and although it does not reach the heights of previous outings, such as their self-titled debut or From Afar, it is a mission statement that shows they are revitalised and back on the right track. These are Ensiferum’s victory songs.