Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Turisas - Turisas2013

Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

With two releases under their belt (2004’s ‘Battle Metal’ and 2007’s ‘The Varangian Way’), Finnish based outfit Turisas established themselves as a force to be reckoned within the folk/symphonic metal scene. Both albums were highly acclaimed, and the band’s self coined ‘Battle Metal’ sound was considered a true contender alongside the likes of fellow Finnish acts Moonsorrow and Finntroll.
But with the release of their third album ‘Stand Up And Fight’ in 2011, it was clear that the band were already thinking beyond the confines of their former sound, with the album showcasing a stripped back and more accessible sound. While the album wasn’t considered a classic along the same lines as their former efforts, it was still considered a reasonably strong album.
In the two years since their last release, Turisas have undergone a complete transformation on the line-up front, with vocalist Mathias D.G. ‘Warlord’ Nygård, guitarist Jussi Wickström and electric/acoustic violinist Olli Vänskä the only members remaining from the band’s line up since their last release. Joining the trio within the last couple years is bassist Jesper Anastasiadis, keyboardist Robert Engstrand and drummer Jaakko Jakku, all of who make their debut on the band’s latest album ‘Turisas2013’.
With such a major shakeup within their ranks, and the direction the band were taking their music on their last album, there was never any question that Turisas were going to deliver an album that was going to once again see the band pushing their sound into a completely new direction. But I seriously doubt that few would have expected the band to push their sound as much as they have on ‘Turisas2013’.
The opening track ‘For Your Own Good’ is a perfect example of just how much the band has changed in the last couple of years. The dramatic aspects of the band’s past are still evident within the song’s opening refrain, albeit driven by keyboards and guitars rather than orchestration. After a dramatic opening, the band eventually settles into a far more hard rock rather than symphonic sound, which is either going to have fans throwing their arms up in disgust, or intrigue as to how the band ended up in such a place direction wise (I fall into the latter bracket). Nygård primarily sticks to his clean vocals for the bulk of the song, and provides the song with some strong melodies, while Engstrand’s contribution on the keyboards prove to be the song’s real driving force, giving the song it’s hard rocking sound. Overall, while it took some getting used to, ‘For Your Own Good’ is a good song, even if it sounds as far from old Turisas as you could possibly get.
‘Ten More Miles’ is one of the few tracks on the album that sounds a little more aligned with the classic Turisas sound, with the guitars sounding more upfront, and the huge choir-like gang vocals ringing out loud and clear through the choruses. But that’s not to say that the song doesn’t have some new elements. There’s some strange slide work going on in the background from Wickström that’s hard to ignore once noticed, while the absence of orchestration throughout gives the song an openness that will have many older fans criticising the song’s lack of bombast and epic scope.
Not unlike the former track, ‘Piece By Piece’ has links to the band’s past with its flirtation with orchestral elements and huge gang/choral vocals, and perhaps fares a little better with its heavier and more aggressive sounds, but in complete contrast, there’s the follow up effort ‘Into The Free’, which might have some interesting lines thrown out on the vocal front, but is otherwise standard power metal fare – albeit delivered in Turisas fashion.
The most experimental track on the album has to go to ‘Run Bhang-Eater, Run!’, which features pockets of jazz, traditional Arabic influences and the sounds of simulated sex over a typical Turisas symphonic score. Although the song does have some moments, it has to be said there isn’t anywhere near enough to salvage what is a fairly directionless song from ultimately coming across as filler.
‘Greek Fire’ is noteworthy for its intense aggression, Nygård’s lower end clean vocals and electric violin solo, as to does ‘The Days Passed’, which comes across like Turisas is trying their hardest to combine classic ‘80’s hard rock with their own ‘Battle Metal’ sound, but it’s tracks like the less than serious ‘No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea’ that brings the album down a notch with its less than fulfilling intense blast of predictability.
Thankfully, Turisas finish off the album with the far stronger sounding ‘We Ride Together’ – even if the guitars have a faint western (As in Cowboys and Indians) feel at the beginning, and the orchestration sounds a little thin and synthesised at times. The song is typical Turisas, and really the only track on the album that could have finished the album with any justice.
Although it took me a while to fully understand ‘Turisas2013’, I have to admit that I don’t mind the album. I can appreciate what the band was aiming for, and understand why the album may fall short of what most fans were hoping and expecting of the band.
That’s not to say that ‘Turisas2013’ is in any way a complete success. For the most part, the album is a confusing mix of different styles and sounds, with the band sounding like they were clearly unsure of just where they wanted to take their music. And that’s a shame, because ‘Stand Up And Fight’ felt like a precursor to what was promised to be the next evolutionary step for the band.
In the end, ‘Turisas2013’ has some solid songs, but some real filler efforts as well. I think it’s an enjoyable album, but not one that I think is likely to have many other diehard fans singing its praises.

For more information on Turisas, check out - http://www.turisas.com/

© Justin Donnelly

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