Album Review: Ensiferum – One Man Army
Posted by Reggie
Label: Metal Blade
Song: 15 (including four bonus tracks)
Length: 68 Minutes
Previous Albums: Ensiferum (2001); Iron (2004); Victory Songs (2007); From Afar (2009); Unsung Heroes (2012)
Genre: Folk Metal
I like the opening riff to One Man Army (the song not the album). It isn’t revolutionary in terms of guitar riffing, but the way it kicks off the song reminds me of early thrash metal; energetic and enthusiastic. Take away the folk elements from this song and its core is pure speed/thrash metal. Before you dismiss Ensiferum’s One Man Army (the album) as just another niche folk metal album, think again. Yes, you will hear all of the fundamentals of a folk metal album, but if you take the time to peel away the layers you’ll hear there is more buried between the swords, spears, and pre-battle hymns than you might expect. And I will say this…the folk parts seem much more tame compared to older albums.
Interesting thing about Two of Spades. I bet this comes off as a really fun song live because somewhere around the 2-minute mark, it breaks down into straight up 70s disco. Like, where did that come from? Took me completely by surprise. Overall, it plays out in true anthem form with a chorus that should instigate a full-spectrum sing along from listeners. Get your beers ready, it’s perfect for the live setting; probably written that way intentionally. It comes off quite well and goes without saying that in between all that “fun” stuff, it’s just as fiery as One Man Army.
March of War is your highly expected pre-battle hymn introduction that sets up for Axe of Judgement to kick the album into overdrive. Oh, I forgot to mention axes in addition to the swords and spears from earlier. There are axes as well. Of course, my personal favorite goes out to the longest song of the album, the one that overshadows all others in terms of song length, Descendants, Defiance, and Domination. It exhibits among the widest ranges of tempos on the album. Yeah, except for that disco bit in Two of Spades, this heroic tune starts off quite slow and builds into an infectious rhythm that I can’t seem to stop listening to. The big problem with this song is that I drive to work faster than I can listen to this entire song. I don’t think I can drive any slower without pissing someone off. But, if they knew what I was trying to listen to, they might understand. The drums hold down the timing and the rest of the instruments follow suit. In some early parts of the song, it even sounds a bit prog like around the 3:11 mark. The clean signing is a nice addition to the mostly angry (snarling) vocals throughout the album. More importantly, the song does change its tempo several times which, of course, keeps it interesting over the course of 11+ minutes.
As I mentioned, it can be easy to pass off One Man Army as just another niche folk/Pagan album as I am sure some have. Trust me when I say it has more to offer especially if you get the bonus songs. Seriously, Rawhide? It’s ballsy and fun. I don’t think many metal bands could pull this cover off very well. Warmetal is a ripping cover originally recorded by Barathrum. It’ll kick you in the nuts…or whatever is applicable. The aptly titled bonus song called Bonus Song is another anthem styled song that is simply good fun. I highly doubt Ensiferum’s intention was to take themselves very seriously with this selection of covers and bonus tracks. Therefore, take them for what they are worth…fun songs that would you would probably never expect.
In the end, One Man Army is a well-packaged selection of song that are true to form, but also offer more than standard folk-related compositions. It’s worth the time if you were teetering on whether or not to dive into another Ensiferum album. Check out these clips and see for yourself.
4 out of 5.