Ensiferum

Sons of Winter and Stars (Live in Studio) (2012)

Once in a while I come across music that is so beautiful (in my subjective opinion) that I just want to cry when I hear it. The Finnish band Wintersun does that for me.

I don’t know when I consciously realised that as much as half of the music I love the most is Finnish. My music collection is stocked up with bands like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amorphis, Turisas, and Norther. I couldn’t really account for what it is about their music and culture and languages that so intrigues me. I’ve seen a couple of Finnish bands perform live here in Melbourne, Australia, namely Ensiferum and Apocalyptica. I get the impression that a number of the bands are connected to each other. Here’s hoping Wintersun make their way here at some point in the not too distant future. Otherwise one of these days I’m going to have to take a metal fan pilgrimage to Europe. From what one of my husband’s German-born metal-loving co-workers tell me, let alone what I’ve managed to glean from watching YouTube videos with a profound sense of jealousy (!), Wacken sounds like an amazing metal festival. (Then again, I was able to nearly be showered in German metalhead vomit thanks to a very drunk fan watching the Rammstein set at Australia’s Big Day Out festival in 2011, so we do get to enjoy some of the sights and guttural sounds of the European metal scene over here.)

I love the folk metal genre in general, too, and it’s not just the Finnish bands. I saw Swiss band Eluveitie perform in Melbourne a couple of years ago and they were just brilliant. Easily one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen (a room full of bearded heavy metal fans moshing to bagpipes and low whistle has to be seen to be believed – it’s glorious). I was first drawn into folk metal via accidentally stumbling across Scottish pirate band Alestorm on a community radio station as I flipped through the channels. Since then, it was a short leap from Pirate music to Viking music. I fell in love from the first moment I heard a melodic scream about Valhalla (thank you, Swedish metallers Amon Amarth). On a completely related note, I named one of my cats Odin.

I find it interesting that I was always drawn to Celtic and Norse mythology and music inspired by those cultures. After a few years of my being helplessly drawn in that direction, my genealogy-researching history-geek sister uncovered a few direct lines of ancestry through our family to the Vikings and the Normans – we have evidence for Norwegian and possibly Swedish Viking heritage, and there’s also a thread in our heritage that appears to trace back to Finland, many centuries ago. It’s kind of cool to me to realise that countless generations ago some of my direct ancestors came from a part of the world that had always held a hitherto unexplained fascination for me. I feel like that validates my interest in learning more about a part of the world that’s about as far away from Australia as I can imagine. So, in the meantime, I’ll keep listening (and picking up random words in other languages as I attempt to learn the lyrics to the non-English songs).

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Lai Lai Hei (2004)


It’s hard to describe how or why I ended up reaching a place where I had to admit to myself that I was completely and utterly hooked on Finnish folk metal. I suspect it was a gradual awakening. First it was by encountering the folksy metal and rock music of bands like Scotland’s Alestorm and Ukraine’s Los Colorados. I suspect that Eurovision also had a bit to answer for in opening my Aussie eyes to the wonder of Europeans in elaborate costumes performing outlandish songs.

And then, one glorious day, I stumbled across the glorious sounds of Finland’s Ensiferum. I don’t know quite how to describe them – battle metal seems to be the term I hear most often. And when I saw them perform live in concert in March 2013 in Melbourne there were a lot of people in Viking costumes. One guy looked like he’d stepped straight of a Scandinavian fairy tale, all tall and blonde and dressed in what my untrained eye could only guess was some sort of traditional Northern European folk outfit – not the sort of guy one would normally encounter in Melbourne, Australia.

 

‘Lai Lai Hei’ was one of the first Ensiferum songs I heard that I absolutely loved. Of course, to be able to sing along means needing to get a bit of a grip of Finnish. Somehow the other concert goers on the night had it worked out – similar to the other Rammstein fans singing fluent German when I saw them (in 2001 and 2011) – but for this English-speaking Aussie, lyrics like “Hän katsoi maan reunalta tähteä putoavaa / Nyt kauniit kasvot neitosen peittää karu maa”* aren’t the easiest to get my head around. That doesn’t stop me from trying to sing along, of course.

 

*Lyrics from www.metrolyrics.com

 

16 March 2013 - Me, antisocially staring into my phone waiting for Ensiferum to walk onstage.

16 March 2013 – Me, antisocially staring into the dark abyss of my iPhone waiting for Ensiferum to walk onstage.

 

16 March 2013. Ensiferum. St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. Photo taken on an iPhone.

16 March 2013. Ensiferum. St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. Photo taken on an iPhone.