Metal and folk melodies are played on lead guitar or keyboard, overlaying heavier heavy metal backing rhythms such as the classic gallop. The band also include fairly frequent use of acoustic guitars, usually at the beginnings of songs. The lyrical themes of their music most often relate to fantastical, archaic, or historic stories that can most often be grouped in with Nordic concepts, usually with heroic sentiment.
Ensiferum was founded in 1995 by Markus Toivonen (guitar), Sauli Savolainen (bass) and Kimmo Miettinen (drums). For the band's name, they took the Latin neuter gender adjective ensiferum, which means "sword bearer". In the next year, Jari Mäenpää was taken into the band as singer and second guitar-player. In 1997, the first demo was released, containing three songs.
In 1998, Sauli and Kimmo left the band and were replaced by Jukka-Pekka Miettinen (Kimmo's little brother, then 14 years old) and Oliver Fokin. In January 1999, a second demo was recorded, which although it did not produce a recording deal, boosted the band's confidence. In November 1999 a third demo, "Hero in a Dream", was recorded, which was successful in obtaining a record deal with Spinefarm Records. The logo that appears on all the bands releases was designed for the third demo by Tuomas Tahvanainen, who also designed the logos for the earlier demos. In 2000, the band went into the studio to work on their first album, Ensiferum, which was released in August 2001. In the same year, Meiju Enho joined them as a keyboard-player.
In 2004, after the work was completed on the second album, Iron, Jari left the band due to conflicts between scheduled studio work on his side project Wintersun and touring with Ensiferum. For the tour with Finntroll, Petri Lindroos from Norther replaced Jari on guitar and as singer, and became a member of the band after the tour. In December 2004, Jukka-Pekka left the band and was replaced by Sami Hinkka (Rapture). Oliver also left in 2005 to be replaced by Janne Parviainen.
The new Ensiferum line-up entered the studio later that year to record an EP to be called Dragonheads, which was released in February 2006. As well as the title track, it also contained two reworked demo songs; an Amorphis cover and a short rendition of the Kalevala melody, as well as a medley of three traditional Finnish songs.
In June 2006, Ensiferum released their live DVD, 10th Anniversary Live, which was recorded in Nosturi, Helsinki, on 31 December 2005.
The recording of the third studio album, called Victory Songs, took place between November 2006 and early 2007, and was released on 20 April 2007. A single titled "One More Magic Potion" (after the track of the same name) was released on 7 February. Following the album's release, the band released through the producer's MySpace page, a music video for the song "Ahti," which included all band members featured as extras. The video was released after the album release due to video filming problems.
On 10 September 2007, it was announced that keyboardist Meiju Enho would leave the band. This was posted in a bulletin on their MySpace page and later confirmed on their website. The band used Emmi Silvennoinen of Exsecratus as a touring fill-in. She later became a permanent member of the band during the recording of the From Afar album.
Ensiferum headlined the Paganfest tour in Europe and North America in 2008. Others playing the tour included Týr and Eluveitie, with Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani also joining them on the European part of the tour, and Turisas in North America. They also supported Megadeth on the opening night of their United Abominations – Tour of Duty European tour. Ensiferum also supported Amon Amarth on their North American Twilight of the Thunder God tour.
Shortly before their Russian tour in 2008, vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos fell "seriously ill" and was unable to participate. The band hired ex-bassist Jukka-Pekka Miettinen to assume Lindroos' guitar duties, while bassist Sami Hinkka took over his lead vocal duties for the tour.
In the first half of 2009, Ensiferum performed at a string of festivals including Frostrock in Belgium, Finnish Metal Expo and Tuska Open Air in Finland, Winterfire, Rocktower, Legacy and Rock am Härtsfeldsee in Germany, Summer Nights in Austria, and Z7 Metal Dayz in Switzerland. In June and July they toured North America as part of the Summer Slaughter Tour with Necrophagist, Darkest Hour, Suffocation, Blackguard, Dying Fetus, Beneath the Massacre, Origin, and Winds of Plague. In August they performed at the Global East Rock Festival in Ukraine, Ankkarock and Jurassic Rock in Finland, and Let's Open Air in Turkey.
Ensiferum released their fourth studio album, From Afar, on 9 September 2009 with Spinefarm Records. The album was produced by Nightwish producer Tero Kinnunen and Victory Songs producer Janne Joutsenniemi, and it was mixed by producer Hiili Hiilesmaa. The limited edition of the album includes a cover of Swedish folk rock group Nordman with guest vocalist Heri Joensen of Faroese band Týr. Following the release, the group embarked on a European tour with Estonian folk metal band Metsatöll and Finnish melodic death metal band Tracedawn. In October they performed at Hellflame Festival – The South Side of Hell and Devil's Revenge festival in Germany, and Tattoo the Mind in France. Ensiferum performed on the second day of the inaugural Screamfest Festival in Sydney, Australia, on New Years Day 2010. In November/December they toured North America with Ex Deo (on selected dates), and Blackguard.
Ensiferum were also confirmed to play Bloodstock Open Air at Catton Hall, United Kingdom in 2010. In October 2010, Ensiferum embarked on their first ever South African tour. This tour consisted of four shows in two cities, and they were accompanied by numerous local metal bands including Riddare av Koden, Empery and All Forlorn. The final show, at The Black Dahlia in Johannesburg was filmed to potentially appear on their next live DVD. In early 2011 Ensiferum embarked on The Ugly World Tour 2011 with labelmates Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth, Machinae Supremacy supporting them for segments of their tour in the U.S.A and Canada. The tour took place within a 4-month period of time and spanned 23 countries.
According to a statement on Hinkka's official Facebook page, the band plans to enter the studio in early 2012 to record their next album. According to their website, this album will be released in the fall of 2012, and it will contain approximately 10 tracks.
According to a statement made by Hinkka on the band's official Facebook page, recording for the new album, called Unsung Heroes, was finished on 3 April 2012.
On 27 June 2012, the band announced the release date for Unsung Heroes to be 27 August 2012. The announcement can be viewed on their official Facebook page.
After 13 years, Ensiferum has left Spinefarm Records and has now signed with Metal Blade Records.
On 26 August 2014, the band announced writing for the new album was complete and was set to enter the studio 8 September, on November 17 the band announced the new album was complete and to be titled One Man Army, the album is scheduled for release on 20 February 2015 in Europe, 23 February 2015 in the UK and 24 February 2015 in North America.
On 6 March 2015, Ensiferum announced on their Facebook page that Emmi Silvennoinen would not be able to make the European and North American "One Man Army Tour" due to personal commitments at home. Former Turisas accordion player Netta Skog filled her role for the tour. Skog performed clean vocals on the One Man Army songs Cry for the Earth Bounds and Neito Pohjolan.
On 31 March 2016 it has been announced that Emmi Silvennoinen would take a leave of absence from the band because of personal issues. Netta Skog has been confirmed as her permanent replacement.Markus Toivonen – guitars, backing vocals (1995–present), clean vocals (2004–present)
Petri Lindroos – harsh vocals, guitars (2004–present)
Sami Hinkka – bass, clean vocals (2004–present)
Janne Parviainen – drums (2005–present)
Netta Skog – electric accordion, backing vocals (2016–present)
Sauli Savolainen – bass (1995–1998)
Kimmo Miettinen – drums (1995–1998)
Jari Mäenpää – harsh & clean vocals, guitars (1996–2004)
Jukka-Pekka Miettinen – bass (1998–2004)
Oliver Fokin – drums (1998–2005)
Meiju Enho – keyboards (2001–2007)
Emmi Silvennoinen – keyboards, backing vocals (2007–2016)
Victory Songs (2007)
From Afar (2009)
Unsung Heroes (2012)
One Man Army (2015)
Two Decades of Greatest Sword Hits (2016)
10th Anniversary Live (2006)
"From Afar" (2009)
"Twilight Tavern" (2009)
"One More Magic Potion" (2010)
"In My Sword I Trust" (2012)
"One Man Army" (2015)
"Tale of Revenge" (2004)
"One More Magic Potion" (2007)
"From Afar" (2009)
"Burning Leaves" (2012)
"In My Sword I Trust" (2012)
"One Man Army" (2015)
Demo II (1998)
- "Old Man (Väinämöinen)"
Demo III: Hero in a Dream (1999)
- "Dreamer's Prelude"
- "Little Dreamer (Väinämöinen part II)"
- "Warrior's Quest"
- "White Storm"
"Into Hiding" (by Amorphis from Tales from the Thousand Lakes) − Found on Dragonheads, 10th Anniversary Live as a live version and Victory Songs Special Edition
"Battery" (by Metallica from Master of Puppets) − Found on "Tale of Revenge" single and Iron digipak
"Lady in Black" (by Uriah Heep from Salisbury) − Found on "One More Magic Potion" single and Victory Songs digipak and Japanese version
"Breaking the Law" (by Judas Priest from British Steel) − Found on the digipak version of their eponymous album. Song was covered again in 2010 and released as a bonus track of "Stone Cold Metal" digital single.
"Vandraren" (by Nordman) – Found on the limited edition version of From Afar
"Wrathchild" (by Iron Maiden) - Released as a bonus track of "Burning Leaves" digital single
"Bamboleo" (by Gipsy Kings) - Released as a bonus track on "Unsung Heroes"
"Battle Hymn" (by Manowar)
"Enter Sandman" (by Metallica)
"Fight Fire with Fire" (by Metallica)
"Näitä polkuja tallaan" (by Matti ja Teppo)
"Olen suomalainen" (by Kari Tapio)
"Run to the Hills" (by Iron Maiden)
"The Trooper" (by Iron Maiden)
- "Hero in a Dream"
- "Eternal Wait"
- "Battle Song"
- "Guardians of Fate"