Turisas - _The Varangian Way_
(Century Media, 2007)
by: Yiannis Stefanis (
Before I say anything about the Finnish sextet Turisas and their second full-length release _The Varangian Way_, I have a confession to make. The impression that I had shaped in my head regarding these battle-painted musicians was that of a very boring and uninspiring outfit, and that was mostly based on the erroneous associations I had made with the music of Fintroll. Don't get me wrong: I like folk elements in metal, and I also appreciate sing-along choruses and anthemic refrains, so long as they are presented in the right proportions and in a professional manner. Well, these are the exact formulae on which Turisas compose their music, and that is why my experience of listening to _The Varangian Way_ left me with the best of impressions.What makes _The Varangian Way_ such a good album is the coherent way in which it combines a variety of musical styles and elements, creating a very inspiring musical concept in the process. Turisas are presented as a symphonic epic metal band by their label, a description that is justified based on what I came across in the opening track "To Holmgard and Beyond". The song's anthemic melodies and symphonic parts are definitely those which will attract the attention of their fans, yet there are many more things happening in the background in terms of compositional skills that enable Turisas to stand out from bands of a similar musical orientation. A good example of such separatist tendencies is "A Portage to the Unknown" -- a composition based on a beautiful accordion theme whose symphonic parts bring together elements from bands as diverse as Dimmu Borgir and Rhapsody of Fire.Half way through the album Turisas started sounding more complex and inspiring, thus raising my interest to much higher levels. With more medieval / classical parts on offer and with vocal performances ranging from atmospheric narrations to passionate death metal growls, songs like "Fields of Gold" and "Five Hundred and One" raise some positive comparisons with the German outfit Haggard, whereas the beautifully arranged female operatic / choral vocals in "The Dnieper Rapids" could easily claim to be influenced by the mighty Therion. As far as my personal favourites are concerned, I found no difficulty in choosing "Cursed Be Iron", based on the strength of its mind-blowing main riff, and the closing opus "Miklagard Overture": the one song where the musical intelligence of this band is conveyed through a variety of jazz and progressive sounding solos and other forms of musical experimentations.There are many words that one may choose to use in the process of describing the music of Turisas, but my close encounter with _The Varangian Way_ made me realise that none of them is capable of doing justice to the musical monster that these six Finns have created here.
Having managed to break through the barriers of the genre that they are supposed to represent, these young musicians have brought to life a colourful album that sounds more appealing than most similar-minded releases that are currently enjoying the appreciation of metal fans world-wide. If you are looking for a more intelligent approach to the musical rumblings of Fintroll, then Turisas is the band for you.
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