Before I begin this it is important that I say the following; listen to this album at least twice before forming any kind of an opinion.
I say the above as no matter how many times you are told to change your expectations and are reminded that Turisas change their sound every album, it’s hard to escape the expectation of a Battle Metal II or sequel to The Varangian Way.
On the first play through of this album I enjoyed it, and that was about as strong as I could say, I wasn’t blown away, I certainly didn’t feel ready to quest anywhere and I couldn’t really whistle the tune for anything other than the two songs they released early. I was slightly underwhelmed, something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what so I listened again, and everything fell into place.
I realised on my first play through I was, despite telling myself not to, expecting to hear more of the same and when that didn’t happen I was sort of lost. Once I was over that I could finally appreciate this album for what it is.
This is perhaps the bands broadest effort yet. They’ve scaled down the movie style orchestras from Stand Up And Fight and have presented us a grittier and rawer Turisas. Dare I say heavier as well? Greek Fire might be one of the heaviest riffs and songs the band have released to date and will definitely be a neck destroyer live. Somehow on the first play through this song skipped over me, on the second I loved it. Even writing this I had to go and put it on. This just shows that one play through isn’t enough to form an opinion.
The usual Turisas strangeness is ever present; the brilliantly titled No Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea features a section where the Chipmunks clearly broke into the studio to sing The March of the Vargangian Guard. And for some reason Run, Bhang Eater, Run descends into a 1980s trumpety porn scene (I can’t wait to get my hands on the lyrics to find out what the fuck is going on there). Despite this there are flash backs to In The Court of Jarislef here which should satisfy some of those craving a bit of old Turisas.
One thing that is absent from this release are the big choruses they once had. There isn’t a point that makes me a little too over enthusiastic singing along causing me to knock a drink all over my desk (damn you Varangian Guard, I blame you for the death of my old keyboard). While they may have stripped back the idea of the big chorus, they’ve brought forward the idea of a strong song as a whole. A song is more than a twenty second chorus, and this album shows it. Despite this though, Into The Free has an excellent whoa oh, and I love my whoa ohs, this will be a stunner live for sure.
Now I do have a couple of negatives, the album cover and title are pretty uninspired, but as I’ve said before, it’s the music that makes a product, not the pretty pictures and titles. However, it may be off putting to people who don’t know the band. The name Battle Metal is what first made me listen to Turisas and fall in love with them, if that album had been called Turisas2004 I may not be writing this. This is a minor complaint though, and one easily ignored.
My only other issue is the opening track, while I enjoy it, it doesn’t seem like a big opener in the vein of The March of the Varangian Guard or To Holmgard and Beyond, but once again this is another case of needing to change my expectations. Though I do think The Days That Passed or a more upbeat”big” song would have been best to open.
Overall it’s a great piece of work from the band. I understand why some fans are knocking it already, but as many have been saying, give it more than one or two chances and you’ll hear something special. I definitely think this is an album where the songs will be stronger live than on record though, and with a UK tour on the horizon, I’m not complaining.