by Ana Krunic
VANCOUVER – There are few live acts in metal today that are as unironically fun as Finland’s Ensiferum. Their particular folky/power metal branch on the genre tree is pretty much the antithesis of doom. Beaming faces and accordions are not what you’d expect to see on stage. When you write what sounds like drinking songs for mild-mannered Vikings, it’s easy for your shows to get pretty rowdy, which was even the case on their most recent all-acoustic tour.
“Even though we’re playing ballads and stuff, we’ve still got mosh pits and crowd surfing and all the normal wild things going on,” says vocalist and bass player Sami Hinkka. “We’re playing songs we haven’t been able to play normally, since it’s tough to mix an acoustic song in the middle of a metal set. So we decided to just go for the acoustic tour concept. We just come onstage as ourselves, sit down and we get to drink a bit more,” he laughs. “It’s been great for the really hardcore fans. It’s a chance to see a lot of songs that we’ve never played outside of Finland.”
Ensiferum as a concept is best encapsulated in their live show. In an effort to catch that in studio, their most recent album, Two Paths, was recorded analog rather than digital.
“The goal was to have an album that sounds more like a live album,” says Hinkka. “Because Ensiferum is absolutely a live band. It’s really hard to get into that state of mind when you’re in the studio. So the whole band would be playing at the same time when we would be recording the drums. For example, on the last album there are two songs where the drums and bass are from the same take from beginning to end, and that’s pretty old-school. It gives it a whole different groove.”
Because folk metal is such a different animal from the many less immediately embraceable metal subgenres, it’s exploded in popularity in the last 15 years and its epicenter was almost certainly in Finland. Ensiferum, along with other Finnish bands like Finntroll and Korpiklaani, helped to popularize it in the early 2000s.
“How a lot of us got into metal was melodic style death metal – that had a really big impact. So I guess folk metal is easier for people to approach because it’s got catchy melodies,” says Hinkka. “While there are so many serious songs with serious topics, we’ve got lots of tongue-in-cheek moments. Like, come on, let’s drink and have fun before we die!”
Surely not many people would argue with that.
Ensiferum plays the Rickshaw Theater on January 18 with Septicflesh, Arsis and Scimitar.