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Album Review: TBA

Friday, August 16, 2013

Album Review: Turisas – Turisas2013

Let’s get this out of the way right now – who in their right mind calls an album Turisas2013? It’s just two words wedged together that, even when separated, mean next to nothing. Mathias Nygård, the band’s lyricist and principal songwriter, feeling the need to explain it up front, calls it “the perfect combination of self-titled with a touch of Black Sabbath’s Vol.4 and Van Halen’s 1984.” Those are not the sort of album titles to try and live up to. The former was forced on the band by the record company who wanted to call it Snowblind and the latter actually appeared on the front cover as MCMLXXXIV – still awful but at least it looked a little more interesting like that. No, sir, it’s a needlessly ambiguous, slapdash and horribly misguided eyesore of a title. Still, what’s in a name — it’s all about the music, right?


Well, get ready to expect a lot more power and a lot less folk. Turisas‘ battle metal ethos is still there but the beats per minute have shot up and the steady, emotion-draining builds have all but gone. The musical structure now has less additional elements and fewer layers. The Turisas onion has, essentially, fused together and consequently the initial hit is earlier, harder and more direct. As an example, check out the bluster and pomp of “Into The Free”; behold the jagged guitars, the hammering double-kick and the heroic chants. Elsewhere, “Piece By Piece” and “For Your Own Good” serve up a more balanced perspective, offering a little rough and a little smooth. If you don’t pick up the power aspect from the rousing chants, the songwriting, the overload of melody or the fantastical dramatics, the penny will drop when those proggy synth solos come steaming through.

So where’s this urge for change come from? Well, it has all been kick-started by a disturbingly large number of personnel changes since their last album. Thus far they’ve waved farewell to drummer Tude Lehtonen, Netta Skog (who took the band’s only accordion with her) and bassist Hannes Horma (and, incredibly, his replacement Jukka Pekka Miettenen). Robert Engstrand’s keyboards are the most noticeable addition to the band and they are the most pungent aspect of this new-look line-up and sound. None of these things are the worst of the changes though. The real kick in the teeth is the lack of a concept — Turisas’ number one calling card. Mathias has pointed out their need to “write more varied songs” when “the stories are not connected”, and you can understand this desire to explore other territory when you consider their live impact. Some might argue, however, that their live reputation has already been built on these conceptual pieces and that cutting their tracks loose just dilutes their talent for creating epic studio art, drawing their work back into the territory of those with far less talent for songwriting around a theme. Turisas can bring legends to life like no other, but they need more than a 4-minute time slot to do it in.

When they do lengthen the running time a notch or add a unique dimension, they are able to fire in stunners like “Greek Fire” and “We Ride Together”. The former is loaded with bottom-end and comes with a guitar-driven backline that shreds away like Freddy Krueger, whilst the latter is a stirring, armour-clad snarler of a track; a thrill ride atop a galloping horse heading into battle. If they’d continued in that vein, they’d have made the transition without a hitch.

Sadly, the majority of tracks are too short and too loose. They bring the dance (Turisas’ other calling-card) for “Run Bhang-Eater, Run!”, kicking off a wild party in an Arabian tent, but they upset the rhythmic flow when they cut it short to create a three-part drug and orgy monster, complete with sex noises, jazz sax and guitar solos. They also reprise their love for the drinking song with the speed-happy, pop-punker “No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea” but end up with more beer down their tunics than in their gullets – let’s just say Alestorm‘s “Rum”, Korpiklaani‘s “Vodka” and even their own “One More” put it to shame. Yet even these two have more to say than “The Days Passed” which attempts and evokes nothing inspirational and just comes across as an impassive, middling concept track missing its concept.

If you’re a fan of day-glo fantasy power metal (à la Gloryhammer or Dragonforce) then this will all cry out to your inner elf. If you’re thinking “fuck off, I’m a Viking, not some fucking pointy-eared pansy” then you’re going to be just a little pissed off. May I suggest you do a bit of burning and pillaging to make up for this strangely muddled collection. Setting fire to your incredible Stand Up And Fight graphic art cover in protest might be a step too far though, but you can burn this one — it sucks balls. Big red and black balls.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy = http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2013/08/15/turisas-turisas2013/
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