Home > Folk Metal > Ensiferum – Symphonic Heroic Folk Death Metal

Ensiferum – Symphonic Heroic Folk Death Metal

Ensiferum - "From Afar" (2009)

Ensiferum – “From Afar” (Spinefarm Records, 2009)

Folk metal – it sounds like a joke or an oxymoron at least. It conjures up images of some bastard offspring of This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind and a Viking reenactor convention. But folk metal, the sub-genre that melds metal to traditional European folk music, is the most hip and happening thing in the sprawling land of metaldom right now. Folk metal bands are doing something unusual – they are moving units and selling a lot of concert tickets. You don’t believe me? How about this anecdotal information? My posts on Pitch Black Brigade about Finntroll and Eluveitie get 10 to 12 times more hits than any other post . . . every day!

Ensiferum is one of the pioneering Finnish folk metal bands. One fateful day in 1995, Markus Toivonen, who was toiling in a cover band that churned out Pantera covers, asked his friend, Kimmo Meittinen, a drummer, if he wanted to play some “heroic folk Death Metal.” Miettinen replied, “Hell yes!” (or whatever the Finnish equivalent of that phrase is) and then they went out and recruited Sauli Savolainen on bass. Now the only thing left to do was to come up with a name for the aggregation. One day, Markus happened to open up Sauli’s Latin dictionary – we all have one lying around – and came across the word, “ensiferum,” which means “sword bearer,” a pithy little tag for a Finnish band serving up heroic folk death metal, right?

Ensiferum have been busy since 1995. They’ve dished out four albums and one EP, and they have toured relentlessly. Their latest disc, “From Afar,” hit turntables in 2009. “From Afar” is vocalist’s (and guitarist), Petri Lindroos, second album with the band.

What does it sound like? “From Afar” features the ever present metal-ish guitars married to “galloping” drums. The keyboards, as usual, carry the folk part of the program. The vocals are one interesting aspects of the album. Lidroos’ leads are sung in the typical Death Metal growlies, but many of the songs utilize group parts where the vocals are clean.

What separates Ensiferum – and this record in particular – from other folk metal acts? The symphonic elements. In fact, I would have to categorize Ensiferum as a symphonic heroic folk death metal band. “From Afar” has orchestral arrangements – at times it seems like Jean Sibelius’ symphonic poem, “Finlandia” is going to erupt from the background at any time. And it is more than the usual synthesizers imitating an orchestra – I think from listening closely that they actually had strings and horns in the studio.

Listen to both of these songs and I think you will hear the symphonic element immediately.

Ensiferum – “From Afar”


Ensiferum – “Heathen Throne”


Now this is a sound that is hard for them to recreate live unless they travel with a 20 or 30 piece orchestra.

In the end, I think that “From Afar” is a testament to the maturation of the folk metal as a sub-genre. It is evidence that folk metal has evolved to the point that it supports several different and distinctive styles, including symphonic heroic folk death metal.

Categories: Folk Metal Tags: ,
  1. sarahlcrawford
    January 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

    As folk metal bands go, Ensiferum are one of my favourites. But then I’m a fan of bands using symphonic elements.

    I’ll be seeing them in April supporting Bodom and I can’t wait!

    ps. Thanks for subscibing to my blog!

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