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Diversified "Epic Pinball Metal" - 80%

kluseba, May 9th, 2011

Almost four years after their last release, "Turisas" come back with a new record and they have quite changed and evolved since the last record. They have definitely gone away from their folk roots and moved towards a rather symphonic sound that often reminds of historical movie scores and classical music. This development is a mature and logical process. The band sounds more courageous and diversified than ever. Nevertheless, I am missing the power and simplicity of the old days and this record is a perfect example for the fact that less can sometimes be more. That doesn't mean that this isn't a great album and probably even the best and at least most interesting in the band's career but I feel that this step has been a little bit too radical and that they could have kept some of their straighter roots as this new release is sometimes too overwhelming. With "The great escape", there is only one song on the entire record that is a little bit heavier and groovier than the rest even though there are some operatic influences and radio play passages that give this song a progressive touch. This track is a welcome change in style and might please to all fans of the band.

There is a lot of operatic and symphonic score stuff to discover. A perfect example is the entertaining and diversified epic killer “End of an empire”. This song is very much representative for the entire album. It has a big and impressive finale just like a majestic symphony, like a mysterious dark ride or horror movie score. The dark and charismatic clean vocals and the whole song structure remind me a lot of "Kamelot" while the harder passages honour the band's landsmen "Ensiferum". The song has a lot of atmosphere and is surely interesting to get discovered. But the orchestrations overrule the heavier passages. The guitars are not impressive at all, the bass is almost not audible and the drums are quite boring. The song concentrates entirely on the classic orchestrations, the chorals and the vocals. The whole thing sounds like a demo version of a "Therion" or "Nightwish" track. The band doesn't reach the high quality of those two bands yet but I am sure that they might do so in the near future if they continue to develop in this direction for the next two records. Even though there are some flaws in here, the song is highly interesting and entertaining kitsch and I happen to get quite well used to it after a few tries.

In a few cases, the epic sound works even very well. "Take the day" opens like a progressive science-fiction track that could find on an "Ayreon" record before the song gets a rather gothic touch. There are many changes and a lot to discover in this single song but the whole structure is kept together by an amazing and catchy chorus that mixes epic chorals that remind me of "Queen" with energizing death metal growls and those two extreme styles fit surprisingly well together. This catchiness is a thing that misses in a few tracks of the album to be more than just enjoyable and complex. This song is not only easily the best song of the record but probably the most mature and intelligent track the band has ever written. "Fear the fear" is almost as strong with its slight tribal drum and electronic influences while the track is once again kept together by a pumping rhythm and catchy melody.

Some tracks are though too exaggerated. The opener "The march of the Varangian Guard" reminds of the opener of their last record and could easily be a Hollywood score of an epic fantasy movie. But while the opener of the last record still had some power, the orchestrations of this track slow the efficiency a little bit down. The closing "The Bosporus freezes over" could almost be a pure orchestral piece and develops a lot of atmosphere but I feel that this step came a little bit too soon for the band. There is not much metal about it but as I like movie soundtracks I happen to like this tune and it is surely better than the way bands like "Rhapsody of Fire", "Manowar" or "Chritsopher Lee" approach to the topic even though this track reminds a lot of all of them and the path is quite small. A track like "Hunting Pirates" with its stereotypical orchestrations might please to the masses and hit the commercial nerve but we already have a band called "Alestorm" out there and don't need a second one as this genre is quite saturated and popularized in the metal sector nowadays. This song simply goes too far and is covered by kitsch and stereotypes that make this track the worst of the album.

In the end, there are many ways to describe and categorize this record. There are operatic elements and a lot of classical music influences. Many historical fantasy movie scores seem to have influenced the band as well as a whole spectre of different rock and metal opera bands that I have mentioned in my review. A lot of times, the dark and epic sounds remind me of the early "Pinball" games for my computer that played in haunted mansions. That sounds funny but I think that this description fits quite well.

To keep it short, even though its overwhelming flaws and even though the new "Turisas" take their evident influences from many other bands, this record is my favourite one of them even if it took me some time to accept and appreciate it. Listen to this album as if you would listen to a new band and don't expect this record to be very "metal". The album is epic, diversified and courageous and seems promising to me for the future of the band. The album grows more and more on me and with every new try, the album sound more logical and coherent to me. It's the perfect alternative if you can't decide between a symphonic metal record and a classical movie soundtrack and as I like both genre I give this album a quite good rating.

If you happen to think those two genres are not heavy and powerful enough you won't appreciate this surprising record and you should be warned by my review. The not very well chosen title "Stand up and fight" might create the illusion of a powerful and heavy Viking metal record but you will instead discover epic symphonic metal songs with a lot of classical music influences and some overwhelming kitsch. The album should have rather be called “End of an empire” as the old “Turisas” ends here while a new band with a new sound arises like a sunning phoenix from the ashes.