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Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the best album released so far during 2011, Turisas' "Stand Up and Fight"! Having slowly acquired fame in the folk metal-scene over the years, Turisas is now among the most renowned bands in the genre and not the least because of their concerts. Their energetic live-shows have forced many people who haven't liked their studio-offerings to at least acknowledge their talent in rich and entertaining performance. After the absolutely glorious debut "Battle Metal", they have released one album before Stand Up and Fight. "The Varangian Way" took the symphonic nature of the debut further with orchestral samples and told us a tale of Vikings travelling to Constantinople. Both of those albums are magnificent masterpieces that beat almost any album but the debut is a bit better in all its honesty and young fury. However, with Stand Up and Fight, Turisas learned how to fully master their new, matured sound and produced a spectacle beyond amazing and their best work to date.
On Stand Up and Fight, Turisas have finally got the chance to add something to their music they have probably dreamed of since the beginning of their career: a full-blown orchestra. This new feature enchances Stand Up and Fight's atmosphere to even more gigantic proportions than what it was on the previous albums. Flashy, triumphant symphonics give the album a strongly cinematic feel of adventure and glory. It matches perfectly with the themes of the songs and really makes the band blossom and bathe in divine epicness. The orchestra is the all-embracing core of Stand Up and Fight and Turisas have actually stepped quite a bit away from their folk metal-roots. Besides the symphonic side and folk-elements, the music is characterized by some progressive features, a slight 80's AOR-vibe and power metal-esque feeling. In a way, the lyrics follow the concept of The Varangian Way with focus on Constantinople but this time they also deal with general issues of rise and fall of an empire, heroic acts and such.
Turisas leaves no doubts of what is their aim on Stand Up and Fight: it kicks off with a bombastic tune "The March of the Varangian Guard" which overshadows even "To Holmgard and Beyond" from The Varangian Way. Warlord's voice sounds better than ever as he builds up the intensity before the chorus is unleashed. He has always been one of my favourite vocalists but now his deep, impressive baritone seems to be forged of pure gold. Olli's electric violin is another trademark of Turisas and once again it creates blissful melodies that lift my heart somewhere near my throat. "Take the Day!" is an equal masterpiece that builds steadily into a stadiumrock-influenced anthem. Among the highlights in this song are the breathtaking choir vocal-melodies of the chorus. Awesome stuff to sing along to, which can be said for the whole album though.
The next track, "Hunting Pirates", is the most folkish one on Stand Up and Fight. Musically it's quite close to something you might find on an Alestorm-album but transferred to fit Turisas' style. It's catchy as hell, funny and positive! Strange is the person who doesn't go along with the vibe and start to smile and dance. "Venetoi! - Prasinoi!" follows and behold the glory and majesty! It's near impossible to put into words how triumphant this song is. Imagine the most awaited festival of the olden days with chariot-races, gladiator combats etc. and all that organized to please the most powerful emperor mankind has ever seen. Hundreds of men blasting fanfares and anthems from horns and trumpets, massive crowd cheering wild for the competitors. That is the essence of Venetoi! - Prasinoi!
Faithful to Turisas' new style, the title-track continues mixing calm, atmospheric parts to intense passages fitting to tell about great deeds. It has a darker undertone than most of the songs on the album but it's still uplifting and pompous and definitely of superb quality. Then comes "The Great Escape". The song starts with a tasty, groovy guitar-riff and continues with progressive touches, evolving into a journey through the most fascinating story on Stand Up and Fight. Following a Viking's quest of escaping from the emperor's service to return to his homeland, it includes a variety of ingenious elements. No matter how surprising it might sound after the descriptions of the majesty of the previous songs, The Great Escape explodes to the most epic passage on the album after the first half of the song. Soaring like best soundtracks from the elite of adventure-movies, it sends chills down my body every time I listen to it. And there's just no way I could do that without turning the volume really loud. After this orgasm-producer, the song fades beautifully and leaves the listener to want more.
The next two songs are, however, the ones that aren't perfect. "Fear the Fear" deals with heroism using modern imagery along with the usual medieval approach. First it was a bit hard to digest this song and it's relationship to Turisas' traditional style to handle themes but then I realized that I was being narrow-minded and that Turisas had broken the chains of predictability while still managing to hold the entirety together. For the most part. I still found myself rating Fear the Fear lower than all the other songs. It is well written, epic and doesn't slip from the mood of the album but it also doesn't have the kind of hooks I was waiting for. It has some changes that don't seem to work so flawlessly and I kinda get the feeling of a song not fully complete. I have to make it clear though that it is only bad compared to most of the songs but it's still kick-ass and certainly nothing to skip over. "End of an Empire" is another song that doesn't quite live up to the standard quality of Stand Up and Fight. It is somewhat long and progressive track that winds up and down presenting us a selection of features. From less over-the-top, though definitely glorious, choirs to fast and badass metalfest, End of an Empire is of quality most symphonic metal-bands can only hope to reach at their best but in comparison to Turisas' works, it lacks some of the top-notch catchyness and consistency they usually master. Great song but, alongside Fear the Fear, one of the two slightly flawed tracks here.
"The Bosphorus Freezes Over" closes the album and returns the level of quality of the six first songs. This wistful song functions as perfect end credits to the album, beginning with Warlord's emotional story-telling, going through a wonderful chorus of Finnish hymn-like singing and ending with mighty symphonic part, a farewell to this adamantium album. The bonus-tracks need to be mentioned here as well. Both "Supernaut" and "Broadsword" are amazing covers of songs made by Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, respectively. Turisas has stayed faithful to the originals and just morphed the songs to fit their style. As much as I love the original Supernaut and Broadsword, I'm a big enough fan of Turisas to claim that they've surpassed Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull and created something truly memorable in their own class.
All in all, Stand Up and Fight didn't let me down a single bit. On the contrary, it has become one of my favourite albums of all time. It accomplishes numerous feats, not the least being the fact that it contains one of the strongest row of songs I have ever come across with its six first tunes. If you want some triumph and triumph and some more triumph, all of that constructed with admirable skill, grab Stand Up and Fight. As for myself, I'll be ready to jump to the next Viking ship that sails by the coast of Finland and travel to Constantinople to conquer it. Cheers!
(Originally written for http://reflectionsinthousandlakes.blogspot.com/ )