'Up Close and Personal!'
After entering the studio for the first time in the latter part of the '90s, ENSIFERUM — Latin for "Sword Bearer" — has consistently sharpened its sound, dispensing epic music heavy in both atmosphere and attack.
With their most recent opus Victory Songs, which will be reissued by Spinefarm Records with US exclusive bonus material on October 13, 2009, ENSIFERUM took "Folk/Viking melodic metal" to a new level of grandeur.
Metal Maniacs called Victory Songs, "the kind of metal for which the beer Steiner was invented. Catchy in spite of its heaviness, it's yet another quality offering in a genre that everyone would love if only they'd embrace the Pagan within."
ENSIFERUM had its first two albums — 2001’s Ensiferum and 2004’s Iron — officially released for the very first time in the US last spring via Spinefarm Records. Both albums contain exclusive bonus material.
And out now on Fontana/Universal is the 2009 release from the Finnish Folk Metallers, their fourth album overall. 'From Afar' was produced by Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish, Amorphis) and Janne Joutsenniemi and was mixed by Hiili Hiilesmaa (H.I.M., Sentenced, Amorphis).
Chatting one-on-one with Sami Hinkka (bass/vocals), I first wondered what had been her musical influences growing up and how many still factored into her music today? "Markus founded Ensiferum in 1995, he wanted to combine melodic side of folk music with strength of metal. At that time he really was in to bands like Dark Tranquillity, Amorphis and Iron Maiden which is still nro. 1 band for most of us. Of course we have grown as musicians and composers since the early days but the basic idea of our music is still the same."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard your previous three albums, and was thinking of buying your new album ‘From Afar,' how would you yourself describe your sound? "On From Afar album we added some bigger orchestrations than before so its a awesome mixture of beautiful folk elements, powerful metal and majestic orchestrations. I think music will speak for it self much better than my explanations."
How has the band’s sound changed since Emmi Silvennoinen replaced long time band keyboardist, Meiju Enho? "Not much, because Markus is the main song writer, but maybe on the next Ensiferum album she will bring more her own melodies/ideas."
Tell us more about your new, 'From Afar' ... does it tell a story and why that particular album title in general? "From Afar is not a concept album but themes like mortality, death and after life are present in every song. We wanted the name of the album to be as open as possible and leave room for listeners imagination. Lyrics were inspired by real life issues, dreams, Nordic myths, nature and Kalevala (the national book of Finland)."
Is there any particular track on the new album that you are most proud of and why? "I'm really proud of Heathen Throne part 1 & 2. They are both over 10 minutes long monsters. In the beginning of composing session we almost made one huge track (over 20 minutes long) of those two but we soon noticed that they work much better as individual songs and splitting them in two worked much better for the whole album also. I really like those songs because they grow slowly through different kind of parts towards furious end. I also wrote all lyrics and in those songs Im very proud how music and lyrics fit together."
How did you guys hook up with Nightwish producer Tero Kinnuenen, Victory Songs producer Janne Joutseniemi, and then have it mixed by HIM producer on this new album ... and what was the experience like? "Our manager knew Tero and he recommended Tero to us. We made demo versions of new songs with Tero and he turned out to be absolutely great guy and very professional so we wanted him as part of From Afar -crew. Janne Joutsenniemi is incredible producer when you talk about guitars and vocals so we wanted to use his expertise also."
"Two producer/recorerders -tactic was very good choice, this was definitely the most relax studio session that I´ve been in. And working with the legendary Hiili Hiilesmaa who mixed From Afar was also a privilege. I really hope we can work with all these gentlemen and top professionals also in the future."
When not writing or performing what types of activities or hobbies do you guys like to do? "I try to read and swim as much as possible. But for last few years it has been pretty hectic because of all band issues."
Indeed, how easy (or hard) is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry then infusing traditional Finnish Folk/Viking rhythms? "Hehe, you make it sound very hard. But the fact is that we don´t think that kind of things. We just try to stay honest to ourselves and simply compose music that we like. We don´t follow what´s hot in metal, etc."
Being a badass viking metal band full of octane how does your music compare to that of your ancestors pillaging with swords and shear might? "Maybe we scandinavians have always had too much energy? ;)"
Your press release states you’re planning on touring North America in the near future. When can I look forward to seeing you in the states? "We are coming back to North America in november with Hypocricy, Balckguard, Ex Deo and Swashbuckle. It´s going to be insane tour because Hypocricy is also releasing new album and all bands have something different to offer than others so it´s going to be very interesting for audience. We did Summer Slaughter -tour this summer. It was our fourth time in North America and we realized that we have played more gigs for example in New York and Montreal than in most of the cities in Finland."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why?! "Twisted Sister - 'I Wanna Rock.' That was the first song that came to my mind, it's a good song and I used to like Twisted Sister when I was a kid so it would be nice to make a tribute to them also."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Penguins are very cool animals but if you talk about ice hockey I have to disappoint you. Even though I don´t follow ice hockey very actively I´ve always liked Montreal Canadians. But I really hope one day we have a day off on tour and there is NHL game on that city that day. I would love to go to NHL match and feel that atmosphere that so many people have told me about."
Again, thank you again for conducting this interview with us and we wish you all the best for the future. "You're welcome! Take care. :)"
Interviewed by Ken Tebo
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