Ensiferum - One Man Army
Metal Blade
Folk/Melodic Death Metal
Disc 1: 11 songs (53' 5") Disc 2: 4 songs (14' 9")
Release year: 2015
Ensiferum, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Andy

Ensiferum's melodeath/folk combo needs no introduction to most metalheads; after their glory days when Jari Maaenpa was part of the band, they still made some good albums, but with steadily a decreasing ability to captivate. Not to say they were terrible, but they lacked a lot of the magic of the old days. This year's One Man Army won't completely reverse that trend -- it's an unimaginative album --, but it's also a fairly solid one that's still better than Unsung Heroes.

With that album it had felt like they were putting more of an emphasis on the folk side of their music, which was unfortunate as it resulted in a softer, mid-tempo sound that was far less palatable. With One Man Army, not only is the music heavier and faster, but the sound feels (at least to me) to be bigger and more epic. Witness Axe of Judgment, which is fast enough beat-wise to rival a Dragonforce song, but is at least three times as heavy, or Heathen Horde, a plodding, bass-driven sing-along with a completely over-the-top thousand-man chorus. The first indication that they haven't returned completely to their old selves, though, is the title track, which is fast and fun to hear...and immediately forgettable. Warrior Without a War, however, is nicely epic, though I think they cribbed 90% of the melody from one of Mithotyn's demos, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; if you're going to borrow someone's Viking metal melody, you might as well grab something good. The production is excellent and shows off the chugging riffs of this one and the others on the album, though sometimes that becomes a weakness when they overindulge in long songs -- really, did Descendants, Defiance, Domination have to be twelve minutes long? It's not just that one. Cry for the Earth Bounds contains at least two minutes of choral sighing, and its sole purpose seems to be to allow the listener time for a nap.

That being said, Ensiferum can still write a kickass folk metal song -- such as Two of Spades, which is bound to get heads nodding and eventually headbanging. It's heavy but quick on its feet and nicely combines the folk music and metal. Other later tracks are weaker; My Ancestor's Blood is pretty generic, and then comes Neito Pohjolan, which is quite a bit different, but not in a good way; it's basically a 70s Finnish pop song with female vocals. The remaining songs on my copy are bonuses: A cover of the 1958 cowboy song Rawhide, the Barathrum cover of Warmetal from their Suomi Warmetal EP, and what appears to be an English version of Neito Pohjolan called Candour and Lies (why would we want to hear that twice?). None are particularly compelling.

The bonus tracks sum up a lot about Ensiferum at this stage of their existence: A band that can produce really good tunes here and there, and which produces album-filler retreads of their older stuff that nobody wants the rest of the time. If there's anything to underscore it, it's the final bonus track, Bonus Song, a completely generic Ensiferum song in which the band mockingly tells the listener in the lyrics that they wrote this song about "magic, swords and dragons" just to make him happy, and that this is what he gets for wanting more. Funny, yes -- but also self-parody, which I can't help but think reveals a band that may not really like what they're doing much anymore. Even if they're still capable of killing songs.

Killing Songs :
Axe of Judgement, Heathen Horde, Two of Spades
Andy quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Ensiferum that we have reviewed:
Ensiferum - Thalassic reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes reviewed by Chris and quoted 59 / 100
Ensiferum - From Afar reviewed by Kyle and quoted 94 / 100
Ensiferum - Victory Songs reviewed by Cody and quoted 85 / 100
Ensiferum - Dragonheads (EP) reviewed by Kayla and quoted no quote
To see all 8 reviews click here
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