Turisas - LIVE: Islington Academy 2011

Stand Up And Fight Tour
London - March 17
Capacity 800

On most nights, the streets of Islington dripping with red liquid could mean all manner of horrors, such has been the image the tabloids like to paint of the place. But fear not, for on this day (which also happens to be St Patrick's Day), the red on the floor isn't the red of blood, but the red of face paint. Yes, it's time for yet another Turisas headline show. Prior to the band taking time out to record third album Stand Up And Fight (and what a divisive record it has proven), the band had been such regular visitors of our shores that it's rare to find a metal fan who hasn't yet seen them. That might account for the gig having not sold out before hand; though as the crowded venue proves later, the band are still a decent draw in London.

Everyone must know the deal by now. There's many in the crowd adorned in the red and black face paint, some even going as far as wearing furs, or brandishing plastic and inflatable weaponry (more convincing weapons were being confiscated by security). Almost as a lingering in-joke, cries of 'BATTLE!' are quickly responded to with similar cries of 'METAL!', often loudly and enthusiastically. Whether you like or dislike the novelty factor that comes with folk metal, especially Turisas, one can't help but admire and enjoy the energy and fun that their crowd has, even this early in the evening.

Fellow folk metallers from Finland Crimfall open up with a short set as the crowd still linger on yelling and drinking. Whilst certainly keeping some folk metal rhythms, Crimfall almost fit into symphonic metal territory. The band are rather heavy, especially with their male vocalist's growling, but it's their front woman's operatic vocal style that gives the music it's real power. The band play a solid set – mostly consisting of songs from the band's forthcoming second album on Spinefarm records, but it's noticeable in between songs that the crowd isn't entirely into them. Oh sure, those at the front are as enthusiastic as you might expect, but there is a much louder disinterest at the back. This is a shame of course, because Crimfall put on a decent performance and are great players, even if they lack the star power to come anywhere close to toppling tonight's headliners.

Nope, tonight is all about Turisas and after a longer than expected wait for the band to finally make it to the stage, the atmospheric backing tape we've had to endure for the last half hour is replaced with the band's introduction. There are very few crowds as loud as folk and power metal crowds, and Turisas really seem to have one of the loudest, hanging on every song they play. After finishing As Torches Rise, the band move into the well loved drinking song One More, a song with a sing along chorus that almost everyone knows. It sure isn't very deep, but it's certainly entertaining and highly enjoyable.

They move into new material after that, breaking out third album opener The March of The Varangian Guard, and the epic, glorious Take the Day!, again another loud, crowd inspiring track. This being St Patrick's Day, the band opt to do a short but very fast version of Whiskey In The Jar (made famous by Thin Lizzy, of course), before heading To Holmgard And Beyond for yet another crowd pleasing sing a long.

That's really the appeal of Turisas as a live spectacle. In all fairness, the band could easily show up, play a tape of their greatest hits, and the main entertaining element of their shows would still be there - the enthusiasm their fans have for their music and image. It's a tribal attraction – knowing that you are there with your brothers and sisters, full of booze, shouting songs of beer and fighting. Tonight, Turisas themselves do seem to be missing that special spark. Perhaps its simply a case of being one member down – accordion player Netta Skog being noticeably absent. Perhaps the band are simply tired or not used to the longer sets; the band have finished a long seven week tour of the US, as singer Mathias is all too quick to point out. At one point he even admits; “London, you're killing us!”.

Perhaps it's just that nagging feeling that despite having written some impressive epics the last couple of albums, Turisas still often find themselves being a bit of a novelty. This becomes rather apparent with the band's encore, opening with Hunting Pirates (whilst hardly as novelty-focused as almost anything Alestorm have written, still pandering to the same audience), before heading straight to Rasputin. At Sonisphere last year, the band's last appearance in the UK, Mathias proclaimed that Rasputin was dead. Tonight it seems he has eaten his words. "You can't run from your past" he informs us, before the band play the disco classic complete with utterly ridiculous disco lights. It is a shame that the band still find themselves in this situation, and it's not for want of great material or a crowd that wants the band's more serious songs. Some of the biggest cheers are not necessarily for the band's sing alongs, but their epics as well. The likes of Miklagard Overture, a lengthy eight minute epic that closes the band's second album, is met with huge cheering and just as much crowd interaction as Hunting Pirates. There's plenty of material the band can draw upon, surely it's about time the likes of Rasputin were dropped once and for all?

Either way, perhaps it isn't all that important. What has mattered is that the tribe have gathered, adorned in their garments, and have sang to the tribal hymns handed down to them from their warlord. As an 800 strong audience shouts "Battle Metal" for the ten thousandth time tonight, the hot and heaving venue finally empties out into the sea of drunken, St Patrick's Day revellers. Those dressed up for tonight's show will probably get some strange looks from those in Guinness hats and leprechaun outfits, but they are unlikely to care. Tonight, Turisas haven't been entirely at their best, but with the tour only just started it's almost inevitable they'll return again – this time as a fuller, more practised entity, ready to give their new album the show it deserves. One can only hope that by that point, Turisas will have shed some of their lingering novelty factor.

“ a tribal attraction ”

Setlist: Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus / As Torches Rise / One More / The March of The Varangian Guard / Take The Day! / Whiskey In The Jar / To Holmgard And Beyond / The Great Escape / Violen Solo > Five Hundred And One / The Messenger / Stand Up And Fight / Miklagard Overture // Hunting Pirates / Rasputin / Battle Metal

Written by James Donovan
More: 2011, Folk Metal, Gigs,

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