Turisas - Turisas2013 (2012) Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Do you remember the Turisas that got a lot of attention with their mixture of folk, power, and symphonic metal over the last decade with tracks like “Battle Metal”, “To Holmgard And Beyond” or the funny Boney M cover “Rasputin”? Do you recall their stereotypical Viking image, including strange caveman clothes and exaggerated body paint in black and red? Two years after their bombastic and cinematic symphonic metal opus Stand Up And Fight, the band is back with a really weird release that is simply entitledTurisas2013, and features some of the worst cover artworks I have ever seen.
As strange as the odd album title and the ugly artwork happens to be, it’s nothing compared to the music here. This record is a true hit-or-miss release. The band employs many experiments that you either adore or hate, but I’d guess that the vast majority might feel negatively about the band’s progression. This album doesn’t have a clear purpose at all. Each song is quite different and should be analyzed as a single rather than an album track. With each new song, there is a chance for you to find something surprising that you dig or to press the skip button as quickly as possible. In addition to this, the album needs multiple spins and requires time to grow on you. After the first try, there were just too many overwhelming details for me to judge this record on, and I’ve found it’s really tough to review this unique album.
Let’s take a look at the opener “For Your Own Good”. The song sounds like a metal version of a track taken from a gothic musical soundtrack in the key of a Tim Burton movie- with childish but menacing piano and expressive vocals. A few harsher parts remind me of Crematory or Orphanage. The progressive metal influenced keyboard solo à la Ayreon comes as a complete surprise in the middle of the song. At first glance, I thought this song was quite incoherent, and it definitely isn’t a good choice as an album opener. But the song is a courageous grower, and after a while all the different genre elements started to fit together, and the final result works, in fact, very well.
What can one think of a song like “The Days Passed”? It mixes a lot of keyboard beats (reminding me of disco hits from the late seventies or eighties) with overwhelming orchestrations and a few harsher folk metal parts. I would describe this as a weird reinterpretation of Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” by an autistic metalhead that just discovered MAGIX Music Maker or a similar program. The mixture sounds strange, and it is. Old school fans might judge this as being too commercial because of the disco and stadium rock elements. More commercial fans might get upset about the few harsh vocals in here, as well as the eclectic mixture of genres. Only experimental free minds will truly love this song.
You think it can’t get weirder? Enter “Run Bhang-Eater, run!”. Well, the title is very fitting. Indian folk elements meet up-tempo metal passages, childish background voices, anarchic jazz passages, a sample of a woman having an orgasm, hectic guitar, saxophone and violin performances and finally an epic mid-tempo break. The whole thing sounds like a mixture of Panjabi MC, Charlie Parker, UneXpect, Therion, and a sample from a porn site. What the hell did these guys smoke? But, guess what! I like this weird piece of music.
Even most of the Turisas songs that remind me of prior records include a few new elements. The diversified epic mid-tempo anthem “Piece By Piece” features everything that made the band famous: from powerful choirs over cinematic orchestrations to energizing metal music. A few almost spacey guitar chords and keyboard samples in the slow middle section add another surprising note to this.
Are there at least a couple of traditional Turisas songs on here? Yes, there are. The cinematic track “Ten More Miles” would have fit well on Stand Up And Fight, and should calm down the upset old school fans. The vivid up-tempo track “Into The Free” has all the glorious Turisas trademarks. However, it doesn’t sound like the anthem of a Viking movie anymore, but rather like a song for the soundtrack of a Western movie. The closer “We Ride Together” hits the same vein, and is a rather joyful track that has some prominent Queen influences concerning the mixture of orchestral passages, male choirs, main clean vocals, and symphonic rock elements. The instrumentals, including trumpets, make me think of Ennio Morricone instead. These two influences stick together very well and end the record on a positive note for me.
In the end, this record is composed of a couple of well done, more traditional Turisas tracks, and a whole bunch of courageous experimental songs. Even though the experimental tracks are quite eclectic and might not appeal to everybody, I really enjoy most of these original songs. My reasons to cut off a few points were one or two less impressive and memorable tracks, as well as the lack of a coherency that makes this album sound a bit directionless. Apart from that, this album isn’t better or worse than the band’s three previous releases, in my opinion. I guess that it might even grow on me further because it’s so diverse and hard to digest despite its balanced mixture of epic and fun moments.
I would suggest that all Turisas fans give the experimental tracks a few spins before purchasing this record. These spicy songs are very dominant and add a certain something to this album. If you dig them, go and grab the album, but if you can’t build up a connection to them, wait and try again later and invest your money instead in a concert ticket.