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Turisas - Stand Up And Fight

Century Media
Produced by Mathias Nygård

During a recent festival show in England, Turisas singer and founder Mathias Nygård made an unexpected announcement to the crowd - "Rasputin is dead, he isn't coming back". A bold statement indeed, and perhaps to some a bit hasty for the band to reject their famous cover version so publicly. But then, Turisas probably knew something we didn't – they knew that they had something special in store. Something that just might be significantly better than everything that came before it.

Now, there's nothing especially wrong with the band's first two albums, but at the same time neither of them quite hit the mark either. In particular, The Varangian Way attempted to tell an epic story of a group of vikings making their way from Scandanavia all the way down to the Byzantine empire. It was a decent enough record but failed to really portray the epic adventure that the band were no doubt going for, instead being unfortunately overshadowed by the cover single released around the same time. That's not to say it didn't have its moments, but as a concept album, it wasn't entirely there.

However Turisas have taken their time whilst working on its sequel, Stand Up And Fight. Almost four years since their last album, within the band's third release is evidence that despite often considered a novelty, Turisas should never be dismissed as such. Attention has been paid to the faults of previous work, and in writing and producing this album the band have improved and expanded upon their sound. As a result of this, the band have continued their gradual shift away from their more folk metal origins seen more prominently on Battle Metal, towards a full symphonic metal sound. Gone are the keyboards and in it's place is a full orchestra – which frankly is the only way to effectively do symphonic metal.

Good symphonic metal (and indeed, many forms of 'epic' metal) is often best when the music itself invokes the imagination of the listener. Perhaps because we have been fed images of grand adventures in film and television we have began associating the accompanying symphonic music with the visual content, or perhaps it is just the grandeur of the music itself. Either way, the mark of truly brilliant record in this genre is when the music practically paints its imagery in your mind.

In this regard, Stand Up And Fight is a true success. The music on this record is full, powerful and inspiring. The Varangian Way might have had the narrative of the adventuring Varangians, but Stand Up And Fight truly brings these stories to life. One can't help but feel like they are witnessing a chariot race in Greece on Βενετοι! - Πρασινοι!, or sailing across the seas at the end of The Great Escape. The March of The Varangian Guard introduces itself gloriously, even calling back to The Varangian Way by musically alluding to To Holmgard And Beyond. Even the somewhat out of place pirate tale Hunting Pirates sounds vibrant and full of life, invoking the romantic themes of a pirate's life without resorting to the usual, comical clichés. It never needs to burden the listener with additional material such as film or literature to convey its story; what the singer can't convey, the music conveys for him.

Speaking of singers, Mathias Nygård is truly on form on this record. His well established shouted delivery is of course still present and done well, but its when he sings that he truly shines. On Fear The Fear, his delivery is so word perfect it's almost like he is delivering dialogue in a broadway musical, whilst at other moments he croons like a celebrated lounge singer. Even when he delivers spoken word, such as his closing words on the album's final piece The Bosphorus Freezes Over, his tone is so rich and charismatic that he makes words that might have ended up cringe-worthy sound perfect.

The imagery and production aside, the music itself is constantly strong and catchy. The album's title track – possibly the least influenced by the band's symphonic-heavy direction – is most certainly a big live anthem for the future. Likewise, Take The Day sounds equally terrific, especially during its chorus, with huge vocal harmonies sounding reminiscent of Blind Guardian or Queen's Flash.

Perhaps at times the band's huge sound can be a bit much. By the later part of the album, the theatrical pomp is so over the top that it would make the likes of Nightwish blush. This might have the potential to divide listeners – the huge cinematic climax of End of An Empire, for example, might prove far too much for some and mouth watering to others. Certainly detractors of this breed of metal will find much to point and laugh at here, but one can't help but feel that the degree to which Turisas push themselves makes the album all the more appealing.

What's perhaps most exciting about this album though is seeing how far the band have grown since their last release. In production value, musical execution and song writing skill, Turisas have improved in leaps and bounds. It truly is rare to find any band who are willing to push their sound to its limits, as opposed to either sticking to the same sound until it becomes tired, or bowing to commercial pressures and diluting themselves. As a result of all this, Stand Up And Fight will most likely convert new fans with what is a strong and highly entertaining metal record.

Whatever your perceptions of Turisas might be, with Stand Up And Fight it is time to change them, one way or the other.

“ a true success ”

Tracklist: The March of The Varangian Guard / Take The Day / Hunting Pirates / Βενετοι! - Πρασινοι! / Stand Up and Fight / The Great Escape / Fear The Fear / End of An Empire / The Bosphorus Freezes Over

Photo(s): Jarmo Katila | www.jarmokatila.fi

Written by James Donovan
More: 2011, Albums, Folk Metal, Symphonic,

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