Ensiferum the Finnish masters of melodic folk metal are back with their latest album Two Paths. The album is a great selection of songs tailor made for any fan of high energy, anthemic metal with that ever constant folk presence. With the albums release date shortly incoming, we had a chat with bassist Sami Hinkka to hear all about the album, the bands lineup changes, live dates and the metal scene in their native Finland.
Your new album Two Paths is out now. Can you tell us a bit about the album and its creation?
Two Paths is our seventh studio album and the writing process was pretty similar as it always is, everyone can bring ideas, melodies, riffs to the rehearsal room and then we compose and arrange the songs together as a band. On Two Paths we used analog equipment as much as possible to guarantee the best possible sound and dynamics. We wanted to capture the live energy of tha band so when we recorded drums everyone played at the same time and some of the basslines from dumrecordings ended up to the album. Really old school but the groove is incredible compared to most metal albums.
Is there any significance to the title of the album?
Of course. Two Paths is quite an obvious title and it refers to choices. Not just big decicions in life but everyday moments when you choose to do or not to do this or that, everything will have consequenses and everything has a price.
The albums first track Ajattomasta Unesta definitely sets the scene for the album that follows in a very anthemic and bombastic way. Did you include that as a precursor to the music that follows it?
The idea of this kind of intro has been in our minds for few years already and everything just clicked.
How was it working with producer Anssi Kippo on the album again?
It was really easy since we already did One Man Army with him. Anssi is so awesome producer/recorder because he has incredible working moral and he has the ability to create very supportive and relax atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, he is really strict producer but that’s the way we like it.
You have included two alternate versions of God Is Dead and Don’t You Say on the album. What are the differences between the other versions on the album and did you feel it was important to include both?
Ensiferum has always had harsh, clean male and female vocals and choirs so it’s always fun part of the arranging the songs when you ponder vocals. Me and Markus sang clean vocals on those two tracks but just for the hell of it we asked Pete to try how would they sound with harsh vocals and since those versions sounded great also, we decided to include them also to the album.
As with your previous albums especially One Man Army, there is a huge amount of energy on Two Paths. Did you what to capture the energy and vibrancy of your live show with this album?
That was the goal for this album (and One Man Army) that the album would sound as much as possible like tight live album. We used analog tape recorder as much as possible to guarantee the best possible sound. And when we recored drums the whole band was playing at the same time so that there would real live groove. Because Anssi recorded everything, we used basslines from drum recordings for few songs. So it was really old school! We also focused much more on the energy and feeling of each take instead of technical perfection. I’m really proud of the result!
This is the first album with Netta Skog as a full time member of the band. How is she fitting in and what did she bring to the album and its sound?
Netta started as a tour substitute of our ex-keyboardplayer Emmi so we had already toured with her quite much when Emmi told she wants to step down permanently. The change went really smoothly. We told Netta to brave bring her own ideas to rehearsal room and tell her opinio while we compose/arrange songs together and she did. I’m very happy that there are parts on the new album that she composed.
Do you have a favourite song from the album yet?
Not yet, but let’s see when we get to play them live.
One thing that strikes me about the album and Ensiferums previous material is that although it is undeniably heavy, you always sound like you’re having fun with the music and that is makes you such a great live band. Is that your intention when creating your music?
I think you have to like what you are doing. And that’s the way we compose, we write music that sounds good to us and what we like to play live. Since we all are metalheads with twisted sense of humour it naturally can be heard in our music. And I guiess that’s something that unites our fans too.
Are the folk elements of your sound still as important to you as they always have been?
Yes they are. Folk aspect is one of Ensiferum’s cornerstones. On this album, the material turned out to be more heavier so we didn’t “glue folk elements” on top of the music just because “we have to” but we listened the songs and what they need to be perfect. Maybe the next album will be much more folkier, let’s see.
You worked on demos for the album as long as seven years ago, did you want to keep the material from release until it was just how you wanted it sound?
Heh, well there is one song on the album that took like seven years from the first raw demo till it was recorded properly. But other songs took years to be complete also. That’s the way we work. We will not record a song if it’s not ready and everyone is satified about it. It’s a slow method but this way everyone can stand behind every song.
Can you tell us a bit about the artwork for Two Paths?
The cover art was made my Gyula Havancsák who also made the cover for One Man Army. We had raw idea what we want on the cover so that it will fit perfectly with the themes of the album and Gyula liked them and added some of his own ideas and the result is really awesome!
What are your touring plans in support of the album when it comes out?
There are plans to tour on every continent in years to come, so it’s going to be busy but that we love to play live so can’t complain.
Will you be playing much new material when you hit the road? I’d love to hear For Those About To Fight For Metal live?
Naturally we will play new song because the upcoming tours are promotin the new album but of course there will be older material and maybe even some rare songs.
What has been the most memorable tour that Ensiferum have ever done?
Sorry but it’s impossibel to name just one. We have done great tours with great bands and met wonderful people around the world and hopefully we can keep doing it till we die.
Who would you love for the band to tour with in the future?
Iron Maiden and Nightwish
What has been the best gig that Ensiferum have ever played and what made it so special?
Again, impossible to say just one. There has been countless gigs that I will remember forever.
You released your first album back in 2001, how has touring and the metal scene in general changed since then?
Ensiferum started touring outside Finaland 2004 and from our point of view metal scene is doing fine and year after year there is more crowd. I guess one big change has been the dramatic decreasing of record sales which forces bands to tour more and that way there are “too many” tours going on all the time so sometimes it might be even hard to book a tour because venues are taken already. And it’s cool to see different generations in the crowd. It proves that being a metalhead is not just a phase but a way of life.
What have been some of your personal highlights from being in Ensiferum?
Every gig so far and obviously finishing every album.
Who are your main influences as a musician?
I listen to lots of different kind of music and I think that is really healthy as a musician to explore all genres. But if I have to name a few bands that influenced me a lot especially when I was young: Iron Maiden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and Faith No More.
What are your top three metal albums of all time?
I’ve noticed that it’s impossible to name the absolute top three because it changes but here are some that are definitely in my top list:
Iron Maiden: Seventh Son Of The Seventh Son
Metallica: …And Justice For All
Dark Tranquillitly: The Gallery
What is the metal scene like in Finland at the moment?
I guess it’s doing well because there are new bands coming all the time, metal bands hit number one in official album charts every now, metal festivals are doing very well in here and then and old bands seem to tour a lot around the world so it’s a great time to be alive as a Finnish metalhead.