Markus Toivonen played guitar with some friends in a band
called ”Dark Reflections” which played mainly
covers of certain heavy metal bands including Megadeth, Pantera
and many others. Later on Markus felt that the band in which
he was playing offered him very little inspiration and wanted
to play something different. Markus was hugely inspired by
folk music and also found himself fascinated about melodic
death metal bands, like Amorphis and Dark Tranquility. Then
one day Markus asked the band’s drummer, Kimmo Miettinen,
if he wanted to play heroic folk ’death’ metal
with him. Kimmo agreed. Next Markus and Kimmo asked their
friend Sauli Savolainen, if he wanted to come and play the
bass. Fortunately he said yes. Now they had a band. Only trouble
was that the band had no name at the time. One day Markus
was visiting Sauli at his home, when he found a book. A Latin
Dictionary. Markus casually opened the book. And from the
first randomly picked page he glanced at a word. Ensiferum.
Markus found the word fascinating and when he read the translation
he got really excited of this word…
Ensiferum started it’s training in January 1996 at the
Pasila Youthcenter in Helsinki (the same place their earlier
band Dark Reflections had their rehearsals). Markus begun
writing songs in 1995, which he got finished later 1996. The
songs were ”Knighthood”, ”Old Man (Väinämöinen)”
and ”Frost”. Later in the same year Markus lured
Jari Mäenpää (at the time a member of a band
Immemorial and an experienced solo artist) to join his band
as a singer and a second guitarist. Jari came aboard with
some great skills and excellent musical ideas. Thus the band
was no longer a trio, but a quartet. Jari proved to be a skillfull
lyricist and wrote the lyrics on ”Old Man”. The
two other songs required no new lyrics for Jari to write,
because Markus had done the original lyrics on ”Knighthood”
and Sauli to ”Frost”. So Jari just improved them.
Ensiferum had their first concert at Pasila Youthcenter in
December 1996. Ironically, they perfomed just one song, ”Old
Man”, which was the only song including finished lyrics.
Jari went to army in January and the band was in halt. The
rest of the guys used this spare time to improve their playing
skills. Ensiferum had two unofficial gigs in Pasila (the other
in the Youthcenter and the other one outside of it) with a
Jari finished his duty in the army in the fall of 1997 and
Ensiferum started training heavily for the first demo, which
was recorded at Kivi-Studios in November. The demo included
three songs, ”Frost”, ”Old Man” and
”Knighthood”, and the demo had the spread of almost
300 copies in the following year.
At the release of the demo Ensiferum did yet another two concerts
in Pasila. New songs got finished, including ”Little
Dreamer (Väinämöinen II)”. But Ensiferum
had to take a little breather. And things didn’t get
any easier because Kimmo Miettinen joined the band ArthemesiA
and Sauli Savolainen concentrated on his job and school. That
year Oliver Fokin had quit playing drums in ArthemesiA and
had a few short jamming sessions with Markus in an old bomb
shelter at Munkkiniemi, Helsinki. One thing led to another
and Oliver agreed to play drums in the band. So one might
say that Ensiferum and ArthemesiA had a change of drummers.
Roughly about the same time Sauli was freshed out of the inthusiasm
toward Ensiferum and was replaced by Kimmo Miettinen’s
little brother, Jukka-Pekka Miettinen. Funnily, at the time
he started to play bass in Ensiferum he was only fourteen
years old. Now there was a new line-up ready to head the challenges
of the second demo. And they had a new training facility:
the bomb shelter in Munkkiniemi.
The second demo was recorded in January 1999 at MD-Studios.
The demo included 4 songs: ”The Dreamer’s Prelude”,
”Little Dreamer (Väinämöinen II)”,
”Warrior’s Quest” and ”White Storm”.
The second demo was technically evolved and although it missed
narrowly giving a record deal to Ensiferum it gave confidence
to the band. They gained more experience in a local band contest
and after that they started to record their third and final
demo in November 1999 once again at MD-Studios with the help
of Janne Joutsenniemi (a member of Stone and Sub-Urban Tribe)
who recorded and mixed the demo in a very short studio session.
The demo included 4+1 songs: ”Intro”, ”Hero
In A Dream”, ”Eternal Wait”, ”Battle
Song” and a bonus song ”Guardians Of Fate”,
which was recorded at Jari’s home with a drum machine.
”Eternal Wait” had a guest female vocalist Johanna
Vakkuri, a friend of the band. The demo was released with
a new band logo, which was designed and conceived by Tuomas
Tahvanainen, the same guy, who designed the two earlier logos.
The third demo had great reviews and was awarded to be the
top demos of the month in several different publishes. And
it also got the eagerly awaited attention amongst the record
labels. Once Spinefarm record company got hold of the demo
they contacted Ensiferum immediately and started negotiating
about the possability of a record deal. In the meanwhile,
Ensiferum went in a local band contest and was among the top
finalists of that year. Roughly the same time a record deal
was finally made with Spinefarm. Ensiferum recorded their
debut album in November 2000 at Sundi-Coop Studios in Savonlinna
with Tuomo Valtonen (studio engineerer). The album featured
such guest musicians as Trollhorn (keyboards), Johanna Vakkuri
(guest female vocals) and Marita Toivonen (kantele).
In the spring of 2001 the debut album was mixed by Tuomo Valtonen
in his studio. Tuomo Valtonen made the record ballsy, as he
always does. At similar times Ensiferum had a new addition
to it’s line-up: a keyboard player. Meiju Enho joined
Ensiferum and so the band became five-membered. Debut album
”Ensiferum” was released in July 2001 and the
feedback was tremendous.
To record "Iron" Ensiferum travelled all the way
Sweet Silence studios in the summer of 2003. The reason for
choosing a foreign studio was the studio´s owner, the
famed producer Flemming Rasmussen, who has in the past recorded
and produced such famed albums as Metallica´s "Master
of Puppets" and "Ride the Lightning". "Iron" was then recorded, produced and mixed by Rasmussen.
After the recordings Ensiferum announced with a sad heart
that their singer/guitarist Jari Mäenpää had
made the decision of leaving the band. The search for a replacement
was started immediately due to the band´s busy touring
schedule, and soon a new singer was found in the form of Norther´s
lead singer Petri Lindroos. Soon the temporary replacement
for Jari took over his duties when Ensiferum toured Europe
with Finntroll and The Wake during the Spring of 2004.
Article written by Miska Engström