Label: Century Media
So the fourth studio album from Turisas came out the other day, leaving most people wondering how they could be so completely uncreative in naming it Turisas2013. Let’s not bother getting into that though. It is what it is and we can’t change it, so it’s best just to forget the album has a name altogether. From now on, I’ll be thinking about it in terms of “the Turisas album that came out in 2013.”
I familiarized myself with it before sitting down and giving it a solid song-by-song listen-through. If I may, I’d like to share my stream of thoughts upon paying attention to these songs with you. Have a listen to the album yourself while reading! Also, keep in mind I don’t know much about the lyrics, catching this one on Spotify. This is complete first impression, and my opinions tend to change after a few detailed listens.
Here’s the Spotify link, if you want to listen along:
1. For Your Own Good
Okay, this is not an intro track. It’s actually kind of abrasive as a first track, but let’s see where this goes. Ooh, ominous, I kind of like that. Hello keyboards. Mathias Nygård, you’re sounding nice. Now we get into it and my head’s bobbing a little. It’s not their normal stuff. It’s not really what I’d hope for, but I don’t hate it. The drums are kind of uninteresting… pop drums. This is neither offending my ears, nor is it gripping me in the clutches of raw awesomeness. Haha, keyboard solo! I hope Robert Engstrand rocks that on a keytar live. Wait, why is the keyboardist doing the solo? Where is Olli Vänskä? Come to think of it, I haven’t heard him at all. He’s half the reason I love this band… suddenly I’m feeling sad. Growling outro, adding a little extra heaviness, that’s alright. I did like the lyrics.
2. Ten More Days
This is immediately a bit weird. Rugged and robust? Tooting your own horn a bit, eh? I bet you wouldn’t have called yourself that when Netta was still in the band. Okay, you stopped, thank you. And it’s building up, subtly, that’s good. I dig it… aaaand chorus. You’re doing this thing still? Ugh, I can’t really think of many bands off the top of my head that can get away with shouting their own name followed by talking about how excellent you are. You know who else shouts their own name a lot? Manowar! Ah, here comes the choir to save the day. Is that a violin back there? It’s so hard to tell, getting swept away so quickly in the river of other instruments, choirs, etc. Now it’s normal, Nygård is normal, and there is a hint of guitar wankery in the background. It actually sounds kind of country-music, in a weird way. And say what you will about Nygård, but the man’s voice is just fantastic. Oh, now you’re doing it again. Yes, I know what your band’s name is.
Lyrically, if this is, as I’ve read, a song for the fans who were inspired by Stand Up and Fight, that’s kind of cool.
3. Piece by Piece
This sound is definitely different, yet still notably Turisas. I’m sensing a believable progression for the band, if not overly outstanding. Would I call it a step back or forward? I’m withholding my judgment for the moment. This is heavy, and heavy on the chorus. Chugga-chugga rhythm guitars… I’m hearing mostly rhythms so now I’m still wondering where Mr. Vänskä is. It’s been three songs and I miss him. Oh, that could be the lead guitarist. Still, I want violins. Now this is getting a tad repetitive. This song isn’t bad, but there’s no hook. Oh, solo-time! Was that violin? No, I think that’s the keyboard. Damnit…. Ah, here’s the classic Turisas slow-down. Wait, almost nothing happened during that. Yay, music again! And there was almost a build up to an explosive part, but that affected me like a really bad orgasm. Weak build, weak climax. Now shall we repeat the same stuff over and over until this song ends? I’m getting a little tired of it.
4. Into the Free
Oh drummer, look at you go. This is okay. Chanting, chugga-chugga rhythm guitar-y again, good and energetic. I do like me some energetic Turisas in the morning. Haha, trumpet? That’s fun. Is it a buggle? (“Take the Day” joke, sorry). Mmm, chanting, cool. Still, I’m waiting for the violin and the “hook.” I think I’m hearing some guitar again. Wait, what was that at about 1:33? A crazy homeless man running through the back of the studio screaming nonsense and they decided it would sound good in the song? Weird. Rhythm guitar again. Over and over. Haha there’s that buggle again! This is spastic, in kind of a fun way, but repetitive. Ooh, even bigger chants! I forgot how much I like their chants. I like it better than their occasional overuse of backing vocals. “Oi-oi!” That’s fun. Could be a good mosh-pit song, but I still can’t say the hook ever found me, sadly.
5. Run, Bhang-Eater, Run!
I don’t even… what am I listening to? There is certainly a level of Turisas flare in this song, but I’m not sure where the logic is! It’s starting weird, and now it gets kind of funny and enjoyable. A little heavy and I almost find myself falling for its charms, oh, but now it gets slow and I am bored… then… sex noises? What? Am I suddenly listening to “Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses? What is the point of this? I hate this. It’s ruined! Now it’s heavy again, but I’m so tainted by the little Axl Rose interlude that I can’t even bring myself to care about the rest of the song. I wonder where they found a snake-charmer to play on this track (sarcasm). Now it’s funky again but I’m too jaded to enjoy it. Oh but what? Now it’s going melodic. My budding aneurysm is throbbing. And then it fades out in the dullest way, only to build itself back up with the quality of one of the old Turisas epics. Then again, a completely dull fade-out and I’m left wallowing in my own confusion over what just happened to my ears.
6. Greek Fire
This is going well. Some heaviness, some of Nygård’s low vocals. A hint of backing vocal, and some proper growls. And yet still, nothing to crack the barrier between good and great. Where is the catch? Where is that thing that I’m waiting for, the thing that will make me love this song? I don’t hate it, but it again just doesn’t stand out. Also, somehow I’m just not quite digging the vocal sound of the choir. I can’t quite explain it. It’s like listening to a singer whose voice I can’t quite decide if I like or not. Except it’s a bunch of voices. This song was actually exceptionally dull.
7. The Days Passed
Okay, I kind of dig this. It’s catchy. Some guitar riffs to catch my attention at last. Nygård’s purring voice. Some growls and a hint of heaviness. There’s a positive hype-up vibe, a tad reminiscent of “Take the Day.” I’m into it, though that catchy line is being repeated over and over. I’m getting a little bored of such repetitiveness. Ah, here comes the C-part. It’s changed up a little, my boredom has ebbed. And now some soloing. It’s not rocking my socks off, but still good. Is that a violin or a guitar though? It should be a violin but it doesn’t sound like it. I remain skeptical. Except now we’re back to repeating the same catchy line over and over. I could love this song, but they took the clincher and overused it. Again, I’m disappointed, but this one didn’t leave me bitter. I still kind of liked it.
8. No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea
Oh man, it’s Lemmy! Motörhead! Oh wait, that’s not Lemmy. Hey look, a drinking song! This is kind of fun! Yay, sing you silly… Vikings? Whatever you are, sing! It’s like Korpiklaani without all the suck! OH! I can hear Olli! Hurray! Wait… wait wait wait… what the hell was that? Alvin and the Chipmunks singing a clip from “March of the Varangian Guard?” Damnit, Nygård, why do you keep doing this to me? Fortunately, now there’s some soloing and I’m starting to forget. What was I complaining about? Was it this weird, crappy shouting, because that’s annoying.
This might be a sarcastic drinking song of mockery, but not done all that well.
9. We Ride Together
Hmm, interesting. My curiosity has piqued. I thought I heard violin, but I think it’s just guitar. Kind of explosive though, we’ve got a bit more old-style Turisas here. And as a long-standing Iron Maiden fan, I am digging the galloping style. The backing vocals are strange but not enough to bug me. The change-up is solid. It’s keeping my energy up. Nygård again sounds delightful. Entirely solid so far! Around 4 minutes in, it changes again without disrupting my feelings towards it. Here comes some shred. Nothing to boggle my mind, but you’ve still held my attention this long, keep going! Yes, this is going well! I’m actually enjoying this song! It’s not as dynamic as “Miklagard Overture” or as dramatic as “End of an Empire.” Actually, in comparison, this is mämmi next to triple chocolate cake, but when you compare it to the rest of the album, you’ve still ended things on a high note.
Wait, is the album over already? That was… quick. Metaphorically so, perhaps? Heh…
On averaging my thoughts then, this album gets a rather weak 4/10. On the downside, it’s horridly repetitive, there are basically no songs that stand out and grasp me, demanding I listen to them over and over until I hate them, and my beloved violin was almost nowhere to be heard (and when it was heard, it sounded like a guitar). Oh, and sex noises. That’s a thing that happened. If there was a point to that in the song, it was lost on me.
Lyrically, I can’t complain much about the change. I do dig a band who sticks a good message in their music. In this case, it’s all about learning from past mistakes, and making history relevant to the present. They’ve dropped the specific events, and have gone metaphorical, and that’s cool by me. While I did love Nygård’s telling tales like a heavy metal grandfather, I’m not going to turn up my nose at the change of pace.
One strange element I noticed was the lead guitars were performed on the album by a non-member. The band is now sporting vocals, violins (presumably, though I don’t know why they even mention Mr. Vänskä when you can never hear him), keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar, drums, and yet with all of these members, they still brought in someone else to play the guitar tracks. Why, I wondered, don’t they use Olli Vänskä as their lead guitarist anymore? Why has he been distorted to the point that he doesn’t even sound like a violin half the time? I don’t know about the rest of you, but it was those initial violin solos – Vänskä in his fuzzy pants riling up the crowd, and then just shredding until his bow was in tatters – that made me love Turisas. Where did that go? When did he get crammed to the back, behind the keyboards and non-members and choirs? If they are weeding him out slowly and surely, that’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me. Even with all the volcanic orchestration in “Stand Up and Fight,” he was still featured on some songs and noticeable on most of the rest, albeit less so than in earlier albums.
On the plus side, Nygård’s purring wolverine voice was as sharp and tasty as it’s ever been. And I will give these guys some serious props for having the testicles to do whatever they want without worrying about the consequences. I won’t deny that I want The Varangian Way II, but what I don’t want is a forced album by someone uninspired, pandering to the fans. If they don’t want to make it, I know I won’t want to hear it.
Granted, I don’t think this album was great in its own super-special way. I think it was mediocre as can be. I do think I might have enjoyed it more if it came from a band who hadn’t shattered my mind with amazingness a mere two albums ago, when I discovered them. If it was a band I expected nothing from, I think I’d have loved it. But coming from one of my former favorite bands, it didn’t satisfy me the way I had hoped.
I owed it to these guys to come at this album with an open mind, and so I did. But in return, they didn’t come through for me. The poppy sound, the uninteresting riffs, the repetition… nothing stood out. It felt rushed and uninspired. I like it when a song walks up to me, slaps me across the face, and says, “YOU REMEMBER ME FOREVER!” and I watch it walk away with a blush on my face and a strange and inexplicable infatuation in my heart. This album mostly made me feel like I got accidentally groped by someone on the metro who may or may not have been attractive, and I’m not sure if I’m cool with it or not.
So in summary, it’s not an overly dynamic album. It’s adequate. If you listened to Turisas for the folk metal, and were starting to get skeptical after “Stand Up and Fight,” this album might be the one that puts you off them for good. However, if you can handle a giant leap away from what you’re used to, a little drop in creativity, and something totally new as a result, you can give this a chance and you might like it. Me? I’m going to go listen to “To Holmgard and Beyond” and remember the good old days fondly.
Rating: 3/10, 2 stars.
01. For Your Own Good
02. Ten More Miles
03. Piece by Piece
04. Into the Free
05. Run, Bhang-Eater, Run!
06. Greek Fire
07. The Days Passed
08. No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea
09. We Ride Together