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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Album Review: Turisas - The Varangian Way (Director’s Cut)

With a tour of the UK just kicked off, it’s time to don furs and war-paint and join us in celebrating the thrilling battle metal of Turisas. If you’ve never been to one of their gigs before you’re in for one hell of a surprise! When asked to describe how their style of rousing folk-flecked music came about their lead singer, Mathias ‘Warlord’ Nygård, responded with “This comes from deep inside. We play around with history, there’s fantasy imagery there, but I hate fantasy metal with all those dragons or whatever. There’s no substance there. We actually believe in what we’re doing”.

Their latest album is a fine example of what he‘s talking about. ‘The Varangian Way’ tells the tale of a group of 11th century Vikings, or Varangians, and their journey through the Baltic on a quest for glory. It’s literally bubbling with orchestral instrumentation amidst a thunderous momentum that propels you through the tracks. ‘To Holmgard And Beyond’ is the rousing lead track and it has a blinding battle-cry to which few can resist. Then there‘s ‘Fields of Gold’, bright and sparkling, with striking lyrics like “Is a draw the only win? Would a tie double the loss?” It bristles with a steady rhythmic underscore, pulsating drums, sweeping keys and brutish vocals. Which brings you to the utter joy that is ‘In The Court Of Jarisleif’ with a mesmeric accordion that simply dances over a sequence of tub-thumping.

The whole album is a pure celebration. It’s uplifting and, actually, quite oddly amusing. I defy anyone who hears this album for the first time not to smile. What it does best of all, though, is provide something different to the trend of machismo that runs through heavy music and, therefore, something thought-provoking. With a talent for writing such theatrical pieces you could easily imagine Nygård to move to composing soundtracks or directing movie musical scores. Who knows, this album itself may even end up in the West End! In a way, it truly is a work of art, a symbol of what can be achieved with a little imagination - and Nygård certainly isn’t lacking in that department. “Okay, people think this is crazy but there’s a reason it works. There are so many interesting, inspiring old stories that are still connected to our reality. These aren’t just meaningless lyrics, we’re telling a tale here”. And he’s right; this really is the most fun you can have while learning history.

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