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It’s safe to say a lot of people probably had a bad feeling about Turisas’ 4th CD. It has disaster written all over it; the title; the cover art; the names of the songs; the line-up changes; the stupid road warrior costumes. Is it really all that bad? Weeeeeell... no. But it’s certainly not very good either, and it’s easily the worst thing Turisas have released so far.
The thing about Turisas is that, for all the fur, red paint and preposterously over the top songs, they always felt like a serious band that just so happened to occasionally wander into camp territory with their battle anthems. ‘Turisas2013’, on the other hand, feels very much like the work of band going out of their way to show just what a wacky sense of humour they have.
Its such a dreadful cliché that I usually hate to see made use of, but at times it really feels like a descent into self-parody; almost like people making a Turisas piss-take or some amateurs trying to emulate the real band but completely misunderstanding what it was that actually made them good.
It largely sounds at least somewhat like a normal Turisas CD, but with the elements all mixed up to hell, and plenty of annoying displays of quirkiness shoved in your face along the way. The expected orchestral elements remain, but in many of the songs are greatly reduced. With nothing else picking up the slack, it leaves the songs sounding dry and empty, or even just plain baffling when the choirs are still trilling or thundering away over nothing more than chugging guitars.
The guitar tone itself is a point of contention too, the meaty tone from ‘The varangian way’ and ‘Stand up and fight’ for some reason ditched in favour of a more washed out, digital sound that robs the songs of most of their punch. New drummer Jaakko Jakku – presumably under instruction – also offers far less variety and inventiveness than the departed and underrated Tude Lehtonen, instead varying between fairly standard double-bass marching and, more often, big simplistic stadium booming.
With the sparer guitar sound and even more stripped back approach from the rhythm musicians, it leave the arrangements feeling rather barren at times, with a greater focus than ever on the vocals of Mathias Nygard. This isn’t of itself a bad thing, as the frontman is ever-improving, and largely the melodies and choruses remain strong. Indeed, songs like “Into the free” and “No good story...” are elevated out of averageness just by the sheer insistence of their choruses.
With accordionist Netta Skog replaced by a keyboard player and Olli Vanska pushed away into the background, the ever-dwindling folk aspect of their sound is all but completely gone. But never mind folk metal, calling large parts of the CD metal at all would be a push. Again, not automatically a bad thing, but the new sounds brought in to compensate just don’t compare to the things the band have achieved in the past.
Having a keyboard player back in the fold though is, on paper at least, a plus. Robert Engstrand certainly offers plenty of options, with a few storming solos being one of the better new additions and some nice Hammond touches adding a bit of intrigue to the otherwise muddled “Greek fire”.
Honestly though, the CD’s biggest problem, to put it delicately, is all the stupid stuff that threatens to ruin many of the songs. The best way to describe it in shorthand would be to say it sounds like the quirky, proggy bits from songs like “Midnight sun” spread across the entire running time. Instead of solid songs with weird little diversions here and there, it’s a bag of zany noises where a semblance of normality breaks through from time to time.
There’s stupid yelped vocals, dumb keyboard sounds, what sounds like a chipmunk choir at one point, and even a “I seriously can’t believe what I’m listening to here” interlude of ‘sexy sax’ and a woman moaning in the middle of ‘Run, bhang-eater, run!”. The production problems, the softening of the sound and simplifying of the arrangements can all be taken for what they are, but when an otherwise decent song is interrupted by the band slapping on you on the ear and saying “Hey, did you hear that? Mad, innit? Mad!” it turns the CD an endurance test.
Whether ‘Turisas2013’ is intended as a one-off experiment or really is the sort of style the band are going to be pursuing in future is an irrelevance at this stage; their 4th full-length isn’t quite the disaster it could have been, but it certainly isn’t an easy one to love either. Pushing the envelope and refusing to rest on one’s laurels is to be applauded when it’s done right, but ‘Turisas2013’ is evidence that just trying to sound weird for the sake of weird will more often than not leave you with nothing more than a big bag of wank.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
There's one thing you HAVE to give to the guys in Turisas. Regardless of whether this album tickles you in all the right places, or (like the majority of people out there) if you think this album is complete trash. These guys have guts.
A few facts are undeniable about 'Turisas2013'. One, the cover is uninventive and dumb. Two, the name might be the worst metal album name in recent memory. And three, the songs and styles on display on this album are WILDLY different than those on Turisas2013's predecessors.
But, when evaluating this album, it's worth noting what Nygard and company had in mind when they created this album. They weren't going for the symphonic flourishes and bombast of 'Stand up and Fight,' or the hard-hitting folk punch of 'The Varangian Way.' They were going for a more rocking sound. They were going for a LIVE sound, a sort of energy that hard rock bands have been channeling for decades. This album isn't supposed to move you in the same ways that 'The Varangian Way' was. The premise is entirely different, and is a bold rejection of what has won the hearts of so many fans around the world - hence, guts.
Evaluated on those grounds, 'Turisas2013' makes more musical sense. Tracks like 'For Your Own Good' have an undeniable forward energy to them, an energy that might not drive quite as hard as 'To Holmgard and Beyond', but rather ROCKS in a more AOR or 80s hard rock manner, with its hooky choruses. 'Ten More Miles' seems to harken more to the classic Turisas sound, but throws in the rock twist, making the formula sound much more different and fresh. And it's not like Turisas has abandoned bombast completely: 'Piece by Piece' is driven by symphonic orchestral parts, just like something off of 'The Varangian Way.' The album closer, 'We Ride Together,' channels an almost Kamelot-like power metal gallop, and serves as an energetic end to the record. To be completely honest, at times it feels like the main thing making this record sound so different from its predecessors is the production - the endless layers of 'Stand Up and Fight' are replaced with a much drier rock and roll production, in keeping with the band's aims.
However, it's undeniable that this album has its flops, the most egregious example being the almost copy-paste drums of 'Into The Free' (serious minus points to the drummer, Jaakko Jakku, for such an uninventive performance) or the ridiculousness of 'No Good Story Starts With Drinking Tea,' or the completely unnecessary sex sounds in 'Run, Bhang-Eater, Run!' At times, it feels like Turisas is trying a little TOO hard at carving out a different sound from their past records.
Ultimately, it seems like Turisas's desire to change direction completely may not have been the sagest decision possible. The album is still a very competent rock album, but it's missing something special. That special ingredient is the grandeur that made tracks like 'Miklagaard Overture,' 'March of the Varangian Guard' and 'Battle Metal' such classics. I always tend to applaud changes of direction, and the desire to avoid complacency that results from that. I can appreciate this record for what it is - a completely different album that favors hard-rocking, live energy over bombast and symphonic grandeur. But I do hope that, for their followup album, Turisas goes back to, or at least incorporates elements of, what they do best: fantastic epic folk metal (with emphasis on the epic, folk, and metal!)
I think it would be way too easy to just sit here and say the band should have stuck with what they were good at. But only because this comes up all the time in conversations between musical minds. Either the band changed so much that they start reaching a new fan base and the old fans are bothered by it, or a band releases the same album over and over and the fan base wants something new. It almost sounds like a lose-lose situation, right? The worry-warts and naysayers may have been correct on the release of the Turisass2013 album, as I am now a firm believer that Turisas should have indeed stuck with the battle-drenched folk metal sound.
For me, the only enjoyable track on the first half of the album is “For Your Own Good”. At first listen I felt lost and confused as if I wasn't even sure if this was the same band that I've known for so long. Half of the band's lineup is new, and it's rather obvious. Turisas for me was all about battle metal, that grinding and marching and trudging on feeling was pretty common in their music, and it was a fun listen for the nerd in all of us. The new release is very lighthearted, almost silly at times, and full of diverse songwriting styles. At the same time, it's dry and boring, and stripped of all of the greatness that Turisas is known for. In contrast to their previous releases, harsh vocals are hardly featured in any song outside of a few lines of lyrics, until the track “Into the Free”. And even still, they faded into something less like a vocal style and more like sad wailing from a lost Ancient album.
Turisas in the past, could always transform me into another place and another time. It's really hard for me to go from epic moments like “The Great Escape” (Stand up and Fight, 2011) to the ridiculous track, “Run Bhang - Eater, Run!” complete with a woman moaning awkwardly over “sensual” jazz-like guitar. The album isn't an entire loss as “Greek Fire” and “The Days Passed” are both pretty typical songs we'd expect on a Turisas album. They are exciting and upbeat, keep my attention rather well, and make me feel as if I would really love to see the songs live, which is a feeling I had yet to feel on the album. These songs really have that “big” and “epic” sound that the band was getting to be known for.
I am all for developing and changing, for fucks sake, I enjoyed Sonata Arctica's last album. Turisas2013 feels like it was thrown together quickly to keep a label happy and make sure people keep talking about the band. It's working, just not in the band's favor. As a friend of mine said, it's as if the band put as much creative and musical thought into the writing as they did on the album's title. It may be a play on the fact that people are killing language worldwide with abbreviated internet jargon and hash tags, but it was a huge flop for the once flawless Turisas discography. Other than that sheer guess, I really feel as if this release has no real message or point behind it.
I am definitely going to have to wash out my ears with “To Holmgard and Beyond” and “Battle Metal” so, if you'd excuse me...
[Originally written for MetalWani.com]
Man...I'm sorry. I'm allergic to alcohol and I totally feel like downing a bottle of hard liquor. Sure I will be violently sick for more than a week. But it sure as hell is better than listening to this tripe. The overall response to the released songs for Turisas2013 have been mixed. One side either hates/dislikes it with a passion while the other side acts like some caring mother to the band, admonishing the dissenters with a stern finger and saying that “They are being experimental so don't judge them” or something like that. You obviously expect me to pay attention to those type of people? Sure, I love experimental metal. Imaginary Sonicscapes is one of my favorite albums of all time and Arcturus can do no wrong. Sure it is great to experiment...unless your influences are 80's Pop Rock, Surf Rock, The theme to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Simpsons's Theme...then you need to call a doctor, you just might be infected with iwrestledabearonce.
Guitars...where do I start. On Turisas's third album, Stand up and Fight, they lost the punchy guitars that graced Battle Metal and Varangian Way. GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! They are back! Well…in some parts. “For Your own Good” and some other songs have them. But only enough to make you want something better. The “lead guitars” (I say this in quotes as there is only one guitarist) are poorly mixed with the rhythm section, as they are buried beneath the chords. If you think about it in a different way, that is a good thing. They do appear louder in the mix in some parts ex: “Ten More Miles”. But then it sounds like shit. Speaking of “Ten More Miles”, during the whole song the guitar noodles its way to oblivion in an obvious, obnoxious and out-of-place surf rock influence. It happens often, loud lead guitar songs like shit (Into the Free), or noodle their way in an under-mixed McFlurry.
The drums borderline between incompetence and pop-rock. In most songs it never goes away from the same drum tempo. “Into the free” pretty much as the same fast paced snare/high hat beat for the whole song. The only thing that changes in “Greek Fire” is the double bass. The snare is the same throughout the whole song. “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea” is a pitiful attempt at punk rock drums.
The Folk/Symphonic Bits are a mixed bag. The old Turisas orchestra feel is back but, like the punchy guitars, only just enough to make you wish for the album to be better. Otherwise they are just fucking bad. Some examples: “Into the Free” and “We Ride Together” have a horribly fake trumpet and the violin is barely present and it's only time to shine is in “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea”
Now, I'm going to spend the next couple paragraphs to talk about the three most notable (a.k.a worst) songs on the album. “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea”, “Run Bhang - Eater, Run!”, and “We Ride Together”. First, “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea”. In short, it is the worst Folk Metal Drinking song in history. You can't even compare it to songs like “One More Magic Potion” or any Korpiklaani pre-Manala song ever. “NGSESWD” (for short) is an attempt to do a folk metal drinking song homage, punk rock drums (at least I think) and pure shit. The song can't decide what it is. The folk parts are accompanied by Olli's Violin but it is buried under the mix when it should have been the standard bearer of the song. The solo itself is a simple arena rock solo. The song itself is simple crap. Oh, and the band has the Tenacity to sing a line from “Battle Metal”...as Chipmunks...You know, I think Nygard is either a masochist or an internet troll. He just wants to be hated.
“Run Bhang - Eater, Run!” tries to pass off as gypsy music, but the intro sounds so fake as they are spit-roasted by “Sahti-Waari” and “In the Court of Jarisleif”'s cocks. The song decides to take a lounge break for a Sac...or Clarinet solo and a guitar solo. All the while you are forced to listen to some woman's moans of pleasure throughout it. You know what? More power to you moaning woman. Just get the fuck out of this album.
“We Ride Together” is the last of the three members of the wall of shame. The intro sounds like a mix of Cowboy guitars and the theme to Star Trek: DS9. The song’s lyrics have some gems like:
“I remember a day, in a time far away when we were both in this together. When we both still had the flame at the top of our game, we were strong. It is times like this we need one another...”
It sounds like at the end of the album, Nygard is remembering back when he was good, and when a majority of fans loved Turisas. He is trying to promise that things will be good for your ears if you continue to trust, hope, and stay strong with him. Protip: Don't. It will just make his delusions stronger. He thinks doing things different is good. Yes, usually it is good. For Turisas, it isn't. It really isn't. Oh yeah, four minutes in, I could swear the guitar was playing The Simpson's theme.
I can't really talk about anything good in this album. The keyboards have some good rock organ parts (For Your Own Good and Piece by Piece) but it doesn't fit. The 80's influenced song “The Days Past” has a great bass guitar, but fails to even be a good generic 80's song. That and I think the guitar solo rips off every rock solo in history then at the end specifically rips off the opening to “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos. “Greek Fire” has a great opening riff, and would be a great song... if it was done by a different band. “Greek Fire” calls for death metal vocals ruined but instead it is marred by Nygard's clean vocals. Olli, the violinist's vocals suck in general. Well, since I think he plays in one song, Nygard had to make him do something...like shitty Oi! vocals at the end of “Intro the Free”
In the end...this isn't a good album. Those who hate have perfect justifications. Those who baby Nygard's ideas like a caring mother and don't want to hurt his feelings are disillusioned
Mathias Nygard wanted to be the Walt Disney of metal. He ended up being M. Night Shyamalan.