In combining death metal with traditional folk melodies and sing-along choruses, Ensiferum has been a distinguished purveyor of Finnish folk metal since their formation in the mid-’90s. Their eighth album, Thalassic, is the band’s first release based around a theme—the title comes from the Greek for “sea.” “On our last album, many journalists would ask me, ‘Is it a theme album?’” bassist/vocalist Sami Hinkka tells Apple Music. “And I kept repeating the usual: Because we have different composers in the band, it’s not really possible to do a theme album. But that started to really annoy me at some point, so we decided to do a theme this time.” With a refreshing voice in new keyboardist Pekka Montin joining guitarist/founder Markus Toivonen on clean vocals while Hinkka and guitarist Petri Lindroos handle the death growls, Ensiferum brings what the bassist calls their “heroic lyric mentality” to a collection of songs inspired by maritime tales and seafaring myths. Below, Hinkka takes us on an ocean journey through Thalassic. Seafarer's Dream “For all Ensiferum albums, we have an intro that takes the listener into the story. For us it's always been about kind of fantasy, hero-y things, so it's nice to start the journey with a kind of theme song, like how you would think of a movie. I made the demo with just an acoustic guitar in GarageBand and then sent it to Mikko Mustonen, who has been making the orchestrations for us since 2009. He instantly got the idea. It has a very nautical feeling and kind of reminds me of the Caribbean.” Rum, Women, Victory “This song has an old-school Ensiferum feeling on it, and obviously a kind of party aspect. Lyrically, I came up with the historical fact that the British Royal Navy used to have this daily rum dose that they took until the ’70s. But when they started to have computers on board, they realized they couldn’t have guys who are tipsy, or even drunk. So I just started romanticizing the idea of being on a boat—you're fighting for your queen and for your country, and you get your rum, and you have your brothers. And when you have a day off, you go to the shore and enjoy the warm lap of the ladies. It will be a good festival song, I think. I can’t wait to play this one live.” Andromeda “This is much more Ensiferum’s folkish side. It has a nice dialogue between the clean and harsh vocals. And it's kind of groovy—it has a little of this ass-shaking feeling. The lyrical theme comes from Greek mythology, which is really the cornerstone of many mythologies. Andromeda was about to be sacrificed to a sea monster, and then Perseus saved her and they got married. Many people think of Andromeda as the mother of the Persian people. She was so highly respected that they named the galaxy after her. I love astronomy and space stuff very much, so it was cool to sneak this into our lyrics.” The Defence of the Sampo “These lyrics are from Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. In Kalevala, the Sampo is something that produces riches for the person who owns it. In the story, Väinämöinen, who's like the wise man, and his troops go to steal back the Sampo from the evil witch of the north. But the witch turns herself into an eagle and her troops get on her back and there’s a big fight at sea and the Sampo falls into the sea. There’s actually a legendary painting of this scene with the same name as the song. It’s in one of our biggest museums in Finland.” Run From the Crushing Tide “Even though I love all the songs on the album, this is one of my favorites. It’s a very straightforward, power-metal-ish song, but with a very majestic sea part. I got the story from French coastal folklore—a very local story, not generally known. It’s about a young man and woman who fall in love, but they live on two different islands, so they could only meet when it was low tide—they could walk on the seabed and meet each other. Of course the girl’s dad did not approve of the man, so he makes a deal with the demons to make the tide rise so that they die in each other’s arms. And after that, the two islands were separated forever. The tide never went down again.” For Sirens “This might have been the last one we finished musically. The chorus, the main melody, seems Irish almost. Again, it has a bit of a groove—which is maybe not so common in metal now, really. So I really like this and ‘Andromeda’ a lot, because as a bass player, groove is very important. The lyrics obviously tell about the Sirens from Greek mythology and how they lured sailors to their deaths with their singing. Afterwards, I realized you can actually interpret the song [as being] about addiction. Like, ‘The flesh is weak.’ It was cool to find another level to the lyrics after I wrote them.” One With the Sea “When we wrote this song, we had the idea to maybe ask Marco Hietala from Nightwish to sing on it, but then we got Pekka in the band and suddenly we had strong, world-class vocals, so we knew it would work with him singing. The lyrics come from a science article I came across, about a theory that the Earth has been frozen completely a couple times—and it might happen again. Even though it’s just a theory, I started to go further with this idea. We would probably get extinct, of course, so I thought about how it might feel to be the last person alive, and you see this hole in the ice that you know will be frozen completely tomorrow. You think it’s just too much of a struggle to keep living, so you dive into the water and let go. So absolutely not a happy topic. And of course, I would not recommend anyone to dive into the frozen sea.” Midsummer Magic “We didn’t want to depress the listener by having like 15 minutes of funeral doom, so we go from the very sad song to the happiest song on the album. The lyrics are telling about Midsummer, which is the longest day of the year—the sun almost doesn’t go down at all here in Finland. And there are a lot of magics you can do, like if you watch the lake or the sea, you can see an image of your future spouse. If you put certain flowers under your pillow, you can see the future wife or husband in a dream. If you do this or that, you’re going to get a good crop next year—this kind of old folk stuff. And obviously, it’s a time to drink. So this is the drinking song of the album.” Cold Northland (Väinämöinen, Pt. 3) “Way back on the first Ensiferum album in 2001, there is two songs about the Finnish folk hero Väinämöinen—he’s like the Gandalf of Kalevala, shall we say. Markus, the founder of the band and main composer, had an idea to complete the trilogy so this song sounds like—to use a Finnish expression—it has been carved from the same wood as these first two songs. So he asked me to write more lyrics about Väinämöinen, and we made this song. It’s the longest, most ambitious song on the album, and I really like it. It’s death metal with beautiful Nordic and Irish melodies, which is the two key elements of Ensiferum’s music.”

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