• Ensiferum - One Man Army (2015) - They need some serious help for their songwriting - 58% (05/03/15)

    Ensiferum - One Man Army (2015)

    Ensiferum revolutionized the “folk” melodic death metal scene with its first two groundbreaking releases Ensiferum and Iron, but many line-up changes let the band down in following years. The band’s other records have some great tunes but also an elevated amount of filler material consisting of aggressive, dull, and fast melodic death metal tracks, exchangeable slow-paced folk ballads, and overambitious epics with unnecessary lengths. The new record, One Man Army, follows this inconsistent mixture.

    Among the highlights are above all “Burden Of The Fallen”, “Warrior Without A War”, and “Cry For The Earth Bounds”. These are three great tracks in a row which is a real exploit for such an unstable band. These songs are all mid-paced, convince with enchanting folk melodies, diversified female and male vocals, powerful choirs, and an overall epic atmosphere. The decent title track “One Man Army” is one of the rare exceptions where the band successfully manages to mix melodic death metal passages and folk melodies in a balanced way similar to what it accomplished on its first two records. The greatest hit on this mixed bag of an album is though the atmospheric, catchy, and epic “Heathen Horde” which has both incredibly catchy and almost progressively sophisticated passages.

    The downside of the record is just as elevated as the best moments are. “Heathen Throne Part III” unnecessarily follows the first two parts on From Afar and has been divided into two songs with a total running time of almost sixteen minutes. Both tracks have noticeable lengths and fail to develop a gripping atmosphere, memorable or catchy moments, or at least some smart progressive song writing that would be desperately needed for such a long tune. These songs are just boring, overambitious and plodding. The band should stop writing this kind of epics because they don't know how to do it well. When the band experiments, it always fails. The weird “Two Of Spades” tries to appear new and original, but ends up sounding like a stereotypical and mildly amusing pop song with exaggeratedly epic symphonic and folk metal elements. The band sounds like a pale copy of Turisas in this tune. Another example is the confusing album closer “Neito Pohjolan” which is a mid-paced and rather melancholic folk song without any metal elements that features only female vocals. The sleep-inducing tune doesn’t sound like Ensiferum and only adds to the weird potpourri of an album. This record is a perfect example of a complete hit and miss release.

    The four bonus tracks underline the band’s inability to write with coherent record. Each of the four tracks sounds completely different, from Scandinavian black metal influences over cinematic and symphonic sounds that could come from the score of an old Western and contemporary North American country rock with some bland commercial appeal to weird self-parodical heavy metal sound collages that sounded more amusing by Edguy ten years earlier. This little bonus disc unfortunately resumes everything that is wrong with Ensiferum. This band should immediately rethink its songwriting or get some external support, because almost all of its tracks go everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and waste a lot of great potential. This band is a really desperate case. The quintet still has a lot of creativity and energy but the musicians are completely unable to catalyze these promising elements. Even their usually energizing live shows have recently become rather odd as the band accumulated more weird releases they have promoted on tour. 

    Even though this album has a lot of ups and downs, it’s filled with passionate energy and has several moments of stunning creativity. Therefore, I think it still deserves a somewhat decent rating. However, I really can’t recommend this release because of its bad song writing, which induces some serious headaches.

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