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 strange line-up…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
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.
Article written by Miska Engström
Their second album "Iron" took Ensiferum one step further, all the way to Copenhagen's Sweet Silence Studios. There in Denmark, during the Fall of 2003, their second album was recorded within the capable hands of producer Flemming Rasmussen, who in the past had recorded such masterpieces as Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and "Ride the Lightning".
"Iron" was a great success and grew the band's popularity to whole new heights. The album also got the band some extensive touring abroad, but these metallic recordings and gigs finally took such a toll on the band that the year 2004 saw three band members depart: drummer Oliver Fokin, bassist Jukka-Pekka Miettinen and vocalist Jari Mäenpää (later known for his work on Wintersun). This was not the end of the world for the kind of warriors that Ensiferum and its mastermind Markus are, they just took along new, excellent members to replace these sudden gaps in their lineup. Aboard stepped bassist / vocalist Sami Hinkka, drummer Janne Parviainen (also known for his work on Waltari and Barathrum), and vocalist / guitarist Petri Lindroos.
The new lineup was tried and tested on the road touring all through 2005, and from the tour the members headed straight for the studio to make a new mini-album. This mini-CD, later titled "Dragonheads", saw the band test their new growler Petri's vocals and their new bassist and drummer's antics in a recorded form. Such fun was the recording that the band did not stop with the mini-album, but also made a live DVD to honour their 10-year career. The "10th Anniversary Live" showed the new line-up playing hits from all Ensiferum-albums, from some of the earliest songs to the latest offerings from "Dragonheads". Selling thousands and thousands worldwide, the DVD was the definitive proof that Ensiferum was as strong as ever with its new members in its ranks.
In the end of 2006, Ensiferum took their gear to Helsinki's Sonic Pump Studios to record their third full-length album with producer Nino Laurenne. And what an album they made! With metallic guitars combined to the traditional sounds of such instruments as the Finnish kantele, a bagpipe, nyckelharpa and bodhrans, the sound of "Victory Songs" was a full, balanced mixture of folk, heavy and battle anthem-like power, complete with the gentle balance between Petri's growling vocals and Markus's and Sami's harmonised choruses.
Victory Songs was released during spring 2007 and right after the album release the band started their European tour, played on several festivals, and did a tour in Finland.
After the Summer Ensiferum again suffered a loss - the band's long-time keyboard player Meiju Enho decided to leave the band.
A replacement was found in the form of Emmi Silvennoinen who has been playing with the band since then.
More touring took place in the latter part of 2007, and the band stayed on the road for the whole year of 2008, even playing their first ever tour in US. Between the release of Victory Songs and the beginning of 2009 they had had 3 European tours, 3 tours in North America and numerous festival shows around the world, a total of 154 shows.
After being very busy writing and rehearsing new material in early 2009 Ensiferum entered studio Petrax (in Hollola, Finland) on the 13th of April to start the recordings of their fourth studio album with recorder/producer Mr Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish, Amorphis etc.) and Janne Joutsenniemi (the producer behind "Victory Songs").
The album called From Afar was mixed by Mr Hiili Hiilesmaa (HIM, Sentenced, Amorphis...) and was released on 9th of September 2009. After that Ensiferum did lots of touring and a bunch of festival appearances in Europe and North America, and also played for the first time in Australia, South Africa, China and Central America.
After victorious touring period it was again time to focus on the new material and in spring 2012 the band entered familiar Petrax studio with Hiili Hiilesmaa who was chosen to be recorder/producer/mixer of the new album. First time ever band had the whole composing/recording session recorded. This material turned out to be almost two hours long documentary called From Symbols to Passion (filmed/edited by Miska Engström) and it was released as a bonus DVD on limited edition of the new album. Unsung Heroes was released in autumn 2012 and got extremely good feedback from media and fans around the world. After spending so much time in rehearsal room and in studio, the band was really eager to get back on the road and play the new material live around the world.
Another big step on bands career was in April 2013 when they made a record deal with the legendary Metal Blade Records