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Markus Toivonen: Guitar / Vocals
Sami Hinkka: Bass / Vocals
Petri Lindroos: Vocals / Guitar
Pekka Montin: Vocals / Keyboards
Janne Parviainen: Drums

The last time that Ensiferum left the studio with a new album, the world promptly shut down due to the covid pandemic. The Finnish folk-metal Melodeath sensation maintained a prolific release schedule since their first demo in 1997, gradually increasing in stature until eighth album Thalassic crowned their ascent in 2020. The nautical opus went on to top Finland’s album chart, reaching #3 in Germany, and top ten in Switzerland, Canada and the USA. Eventually Ensiferum would take Thalassic on two massive world tours and to festivals like Wacken, Hellfest, Summer Breeze and Ragnarök, but the global health hoo-hah ensured that the four-year wait for Winter Storm is the longest in the band’s near-30-year history.

Much of the new material emerged in the lockdown era, when Ensiferum‘s founding guitarist Markus Toivonen set himself the challenge of finding new ways to make music – eventually composing every song except the rousing, anthemic Fatherland, written by bassist Sami Hinkka. Even though the Helsinki quintet’s infectious brand of folk-metal has always evoked atmospheres of olden times, Markus found himself unexpectedly embracing 21st century methodology: “When Thalassic was done, everything looked good, almost too good to be true,” remembers Markus. “Then covid hit and obviously ruined everything. I had way too much time at home, so as an old-school composer I learned to make demos with the computer for the first time ever.”

Getting to grips with Logic Pro, Markus found his belated dalliance with modern technology far more stimulating creatively than he’d imagined. “I was able to try and experience how the ideas would sound by building the ‘band’ with digital midis, adding stems and other neat stuff into songs,” he enthuses. “All that fed my inspiration, and I felt making music was even more fantastic than it had been before. Displeasure with covid probably was the reason why the songs might be a little bit more epic and gloomier than before, and of course composing with a different style added up. When I had most of the song structures ready, we went through them in our rehearsal room where the final arrangement happened with the band, then the recording process was quite easy and uncomplicated.”

The addition of singer/organist Pekka Montin’s crystal-clear melodic high notes provided a tremendous boost on Thalassic. But on Winter Storm – a fantasy concept narrative written by Sami (“The way I see it, this album is more like a ‘musical’ than a traditional album,” says the bassist) – Pekka’s super-strong voice finds its optimal place in Ensiferum‘s sound. Bringing to life such grandiose, heroic material, the singer emerges as one of the greatest vocal discoveries of the decade. “That’s true,” affirms Sami, “Pekka is an amazing singer and very creative musician. To be honest, he has so much potential that I feel that people have only heard a fraction of his skills so far. As a composer, it’s awesome to have bandmates who can perform everything you come up with, and they will even go further from your original ideas, on every aspect. When a band has vision and skills, then only the sky is the limit.”

Undoubtedly, Pekka’s potent pipes aided Thalassic on its journey up album charts and multi-million streaming figures worldwide. Markus admits this level of success can create an anxiety within the band to continue outdoing themselves: “Of course an album that did well brings some sort of pressure,” admits the guitarist, “but my faith in the new songs is huge, so I don’t really think about it. I think Thalassic was a more ‘easy listening’ album; Winter Storm needs a few more spins for sure before all the epicness opens up.”

The band are certainly keen to make up for any lost time. With Winter Storm still hot from the oven, Sami reveals that work has already begun on Ensiferum‘s tenth LP, “so it shouldn’t take too many years until we hit the studio again“. 2025 will mark 30 years of Ensiferum; gearing up for this landmark year with his creative flame still raging, how does Markus feel looking back at all that the band has achieved? “I remember when starting this, all I hoped for was to be able to do a show and maybe even get a deal and record an album,” he ponders. “After we did a few shows in Finland and recorded the debut, I started to dream of playing gigs abroad. The more you get, the more you want. After nine albums and hundreds of shows around the world we are hungrier than ever! There’s always room for dreams and much more to achieve. Next thing could be supporting Iron Maiden!


Sami wants to tell us (some bits of) a story…

The lyrics of Winter Storm are based on part of my unpublished fantasy book. Yep, you read right. One day it will out… Here are few lines of the story, but I don’t want to reveal the plot or details too much.

Winter Storm Vigilantes and Fatherland tell of two factions in this long tale. The Vigilantes have gained knowledge to utilize certain rare elements, and even though there was already magic in this world, with this new epiphany they have reached a completely new level. This element seems to interact with living things in a way that even the wisest men don’t completely understand. And through generations of trial and error, they have refined a skill to expose their horses to the element and managed to break the law of gravity, making their steeds fly. But they became ruthless and greedy on their quest to gain more of this element.

A small tribe in the north keep on fighting for their land, which the Vigilantes plan to take over. These North Folks will literally fight until the last man… Other characters include a Vigilante castaway, the last shaman of the North Folk and a mysterious widow. The album ends with a great battle against the Vigilantes and the unholy alliance of the castaway and the North Folk shaman, who has transcended into a spirit wolf. Who will prevail? Will this be the final battle of the book? Time will tell… I understand that all this sounds very far out (well, it is a fantasy book), but believe me, it will be truly an epic story!

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