Turisas2013We all knew Turisas2013 was going to be a controversial record when the title was releasedTurisas2013 doesn’t read like a particularly inspiring name for this Finnish ‘folk metal’ band’s latest record. One commenter quipped that it sounds like what they called the folder where you store the .wav files, not the title of the record itself. On top of that was the remarkably short turnaround time. Turisas isn’t a band known for its quick work, and they were coming off a remarkable and fascinating record from 2011 that I flat out loved. Recent history teaches us that ‘fucking with the formula‘ is generally a bad thing; if a band needs 5 years, give it to them! But just as Orphaned Land faced label pressure, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Turisas2013 was produced under pressure from a label that doesn’t want the world to forget that Turisas exists1. Whatever the reason for looking at a Turisas record in 2013 with the half-baked name of Turisas2013, it’s here—and it’s really not everything you feared.

First, let’s talk about what Turisas2013 isn’t. The record is not The Varangian Way and it sure as hell isn’t Battle Metal. Instead, Turisas2013 sounds like a stripped down continuation of Stand up and Fight. The extreme metal tendencies continue to be pushed into the background, being replaced by progressive elements and a 1980s rock influence. But unlike Stand up and FightTurisas2013 isn’t quite the grand, epic conceptual piece that one might expect of Turisas. Instead, it’s a combination of two strains of the band’s personality: the fun and the epic. Frankly, it’s the former that is probably going to throw a lot of metal fans—famous for taking themselves a little too seriously—into a fit. I expect more than a few face-painted fanboys to have panic attacks when Turisas starts wandering into Korpiklaani or Alestorm territory on “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea,” or the bizarrely brilliant “Run Bhang-Eater, Run!” complete with its cutaway to porn sax and moaning and, later, wickedly harmonized saxophones (or a sax and an oboe?) that evoke ’90s weirdo alternative band Morphine playing klezmer than any metal band I could name.

In fact, musically, Turisas2013 is a diverse record. While it has many of the epic elements that we all love about Turisas, it also features weird surfer guitar and pseudo-slide playing on “Ten More Miles,” a track that almost feels like a punk rock anthem with horns and Turisas Finnish Men’s Choir stylings on “Into the Free,” while “The Days Passed,” is straight up ’80s hair rock with throbbing bass like a long lost cousin of “Eye of the Tiger.” Gone is the accordion entirely, and where orchestras were to be found on Stand up and Fight, they have (often) been replaced by a distinctly more minimalistic keyboard sound that also harkens back to an era of tight rolled jeans and mall bangs. This soundscape gives the record a very stripped-down feel at times, even if the music is decidedly anything but.

What’s odd is that it works. There is something strangely compelling about these tracks, even if they sometimes feel out of place when contrasted with classic Turisas fare like “Piece By Piece,” which utilizes the Turisas Finnish Men’s Choir in combination with what sounds like genuine orchestrations, or “Greek Fire,” which features a fiercely groovy riff and an electric violin solo. The latter sounds like it could have been left over from the mightily epic Stand up and Fight. My personal favorite on the album is the closing track “We Ride Together,” which is about as epic as the band has ever sounded, including real orchestra and a huge arrangement—even if the song starts with a gallop that calls to mind an old war film before punching in crunching guitars. Hell, even the end of the bizarre “Run Bhang-Eater, Run!” features beautiful orchestrations à la Stand up and Fight.

Turisas 2013

The continued progression in the band’s sound is even more noticeable in the lyrical content. While using epic battles as metaphors, and in some ways sticking to heavy metal conventions, Mathias Nygård seems to be wistfully coping with some of the most gripping political questions in Europe right now: questions of freedom and culture. “We Ride Together,” strikes a nostalgic tone about solidarity and could be an effective analogy for a splintering society, while “Piece By Piece” seems like a letter to the children of enlightened Scandinavian social democracy coping with immigration, while the controversial “For Your Own Good,” is about forcing ‘freedom’ on people who don’t want it. It’s possible that I’m reading into it, but lyrics like “Laws to tell her what to wear or not / Laws to set her free / (The cage is open, why don’t you leave?) / You’re misguided, but I blame you not / How could you have seen?” (“For Your Own Good”) and “To my eldest son, I leave the right to speak his mind / And my daughter shall be free from oppression of any kind / I have sacrified, worked all my life / As have the ones before me / So do not squander, do not gamble, watch it carefully,” and “The tide is turning / The Reichstag burning / They’re at the border / Need law and order / It was not my child / I did not speak out / When they come for me / Who will be left to speak for me?” (“Piece By Piece”) leave me convinced that Nygård is grappling with something quite different than Vikings interfacing with the Byzantine Empire.

Where Turisas2013 doesn’t live up to its predecessors is the holistic consistency and attention to detail for which the band is known. Frankly, there are moments when Turisas2013 feels half-baked. And yet, I can’t stop listening to it. It has been stuck on my playlist since the moment I got it and it won’t come off. Nygård and company continue to be remarkably agile in their writing, with hyper-modern, but deft, mixing and mastering and performances that never leave any doubt as to the band’s ability. Turisas2013 sometimes feels like it could have used another 6 months of arrangement, but tell that to my OCDesque urge to listen to it over and over and over again.

Rating: 4.0/5.0 — Delightfully half-baked.
Label: Century Media
Websites: turisas.fi | facebook.com/turisas
Release Dates: EU: 2013.08.23/26 | UK: 2013.09.02 | US: 2013.09.03

Show 1 footnote

  1. Note: this is entirely speculation. No one told me shit.
  • “Mall bangs”…that made my day, maybe even my weekend.

  • Your review has me sold to give it a shot… if anything it sounds really compelling just for sheer oddness. Having listened to it, do you think the album title, silly as it is, may have some intended subtext behind it?

    • Definitely…seems like a satirical poke at our culture of social media and reducing every important issue to a #hashtag.

      • Oh, duh. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

        • From Heavyblogisheavy: “Mathias Nygård, the band’s lyricist and principal songwriter, feeling the need to explain it up front, calls it “the perfect combination of self-titled with a touch of Black Sabbath’s Vol.4 and Van Halen’s 1984.”

  • MeatWolf

    New album rocks, it’s a triumph of absurd in Turisas field, while SUaF was too much in the old vein to present this new concept, Turisas2013 is just that very circus metal album Mathias probably wanted to make from the start. Fun and sometimes hinting lyrics, stupid music, but so fun and catchy that I can’t call it bad by any means. Rock, metal, sympphonic stuff, folk stuff, all mixed together For Your Own Good.

    Piece by Piece is probably an allusion of sorts to ‘First they came …’ Niemöller poem.

    I wouldn’t rate this album so high because it has its downs and they are not so few, and some songs just don’t click enough, still it’s much better than I expected.

  • Angel of Deaf

    The problem with me buying this album instead of pirating first is, if i don’t like i’ll throw it away and be angry at myself and Turisas for a shitty record but if i like it i’ll have an album named Turisas2013…

    I don’t know why the name of the album bothers me so much, but it does

    Btw, i hope you’re not implying that going into korpiklaani or alestorm territory is a bad thing… i already flipped a table, don’t make me flip another one mister!

    • Realkman666

      If you don’t like it, you can give it away.

  • Turisas! Mallbangs!? I will be checking this one out for sure. It sounds like it’s pretty weird, but in a good way.

  • Chris

    Great review. Your comment “And yet, I can’t stop listening to it.” sums it up very well. There are a ton of things that I don’t like about this album. The stupid name. The sex sounds bridge in ‘Bhang Eater’ (which damn near ruins a fantastic song). The chipmunk sounding callback to Varangian Guard during ‘No Good Story’. The often eye-rollingly lame lyrics (“By checking this box/I acknowledge…” Really?). The lack of an overarching concept.

    However, the songs are so well written and so damn catchy that I just can’t get them out of my head. It’s simply a hell of a lot of fun to listen to…something I don’t get to say very often. Much like SUaF, this one took a few listens to click. Now that it has, however, I simply can’t stop listening to it. I was prepared to be disappointed by this album, but it really is quite fantastic. Absurd, bombastic, and sometimes ridiculous…but fantastic nonetheless.

    • EXACTLY. Though, I do actually love, love, love the chipmunk callback to Varangian Guard during “No Good Story…” I laughed hard and it was smartly done.

      But it’s weird how Turisas records always lead me in with a “Meh,” and then get under my skin. I can’t think of another band that has so consistently done that for me.

      • Johan Chandy

        “I do actually love, love, love the chipmunk callback to Varangian Guard”

        I felt it was brilliant as well.
        Excellent review AMG(you never disappoint and I absolutely adore this album. I’m really digging it m/….I haven’t had this much fun in ages!

  • It’s weird. I totally agree with your review, as well as the score. I love the album, and I really did think they were going to drop the ball after hearing “For Your Own Good.” But to my delight, the material is deceptively strong, and the songs really stick.

    However, I can’t really get over how thin the production is. You call it “hyper-modern”, but it sounds to me like they mixed the vocals and the synth/symphs and forgot to finish the rest. That guitar tone is weak sauce. The leads sound super clean and twangy, like the 9V on the actives was running out of juice and they had to lay down the tracks before it was totally dead. Drums are quiet, bass is mostly inaudible throughout.

    It doesn’t ruin the experience, and I know it was intentional, but it just feels off.

    • That’s interesting. What are you listening to it through?

      • Car stereo speakers. Maybe it’s the fact that my other current obsession is Fleshgod’s newest (everything is FUCKING LOUD), but overall the mix just sounds a bit tinny to me for a metal album.

        • I’m listening to it through headphone monitors and my computer system (HD Audio) and it doesn’t sound like that to me. Definitely hard to compare to Fleshgod’s newest record.

  • dave2112

    I grew up listening to Metallica, Anthrax, Manowar, Tool, Type O Negative, Dream Theater, and Rush as some of my bigger influences. Although my tastes have morphed throughout the years (I’m now 36) Turisas reminds me most of Manowar. But their lyrics have always captured me because they are mostly POSTIVE and uplifting. “Fight for SOMETHING” is what I get from Turisas. I hear a lot of bands compiled in one with just this album alone. The voice of Peter Steele meets James Hetfield, the crunchy guitar of Adam Jones. Some keyboard sounds of Jordan Rudess. There’s even a little bit of Geoff Tate at the beginning of “The Days Passed”. But it all has the complexity of something Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson might come up with. Add the makeup and you’ve got elements of Kiss and Gwar in the mix, too. SUAF is still my fave, just because I’m old, and it has that epic ’80s sound.(“Take the Day” reminds me a bit of “The Final Countdown” by Europe.) I even heard a bit of Steve Vai on the “sex” part of “Run Bhang-Eater, Run!”. This is definitely a solid album to add to my playlist while playing cards with my wife. She normally doesn’t much care for my “metal” sounds, but she likes Turisas. The only qualm I have is that I don’t hear enough Ollie on this album. He is one factor that makes Turisas SO unique.

  • Alex Ryan

    The more I listen to “Greek Fire”, the more i wonder if it couldn’t be a metaphor (or several) for the Greek debt crisis (the bit about burning up our futures, or about pouring water and feeding the flames?). But then i start thinking that’s stupid…

    Great review by the way!