Turisas - The Varangian Way
(3 reader votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

by Ben Perry

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Band Name: Turisas
Album Name: The Varangian Way
Release Date: July 17, 2007

Band on Record:

Mathias “Warlord” Nygard: Vocals, orchestral programming, and keyboards.
Jussi Wickstrom: Guitars.
Tuomas “Tude” Lehtonen: Drums, percussion.
Olli Vanska: Violins.
Hannes “Hanu” Horma: Bass, backing vocals.
Janne “Lisko” Makinen: Accordion.

Track 1: “To Holmgard and Beyond”
This song is just so friggin good, the balance of fast riffing (which, is some of the best I think I may have ever heard) and the breaks of slower parts is timed perfectly to prevent your ears from being tired out. The accordion sounds great and adds the melody in there, additionally the violin breaks it up just as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this song, and is one of my favorite all time songs.
Song Rating: 13 out of 10


Track 2: “A Portage to the Unknown”
Starting off rather unconventionally with straight accordion before blasting into fast riffs and sing-a-long verses that are tempered with good, clean vocals that play perfectly within the music. I particularly enjoy the musical breakdowns; good way to get the blood pumping and the harsher vocals work with the feel. Accordion solos are also quite a treat to hear and rare for metal.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 3: “Cursed Be Iron”
Playing the harsh and clean vocals on this track truly shows how effective the different styles work in the music in order to create an atmosphere that directly affects the music and its impact, as well.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 4: “Fields of Gold”
The added keyboards and samples add a nice touch to this song, especially the flute to make up for the sheer brutality of the guitars in a contrasting pattern. The flute and keyboard effects do serve as a pastoral feel that goes with the name of the song, and the song itself is not bad, but different than some of the other tracks on the record and previous recordings from the band.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Track 5: “In the Court of Jarisleif”
Mostly an instrumental track that has an air of a party, both in the style of music the violin evokes as well as the chanting of people in a dance fashion. The vocals that do occur are also in a style of singing for a king, whom the name Jarisleif is alluding to an old Russian Grand Prince in Kiev, Yaroslav I, the Wise.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 6: “Five Hundred and One”
Changing things up once again, straight piano opens this great song. I love the guitar tone that is achieved in the background of the bruising music; it has a warm overtone that directly plays with the vocals. The keyboard semi-solo is also the band showing their great musical diversity and not just blasting away with the guitars and drums. There are some harsh vocals, but with everything this track has in the way of good music and clean vocals those play almost no part in hurting the song.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 7: “The Dneiper Rapids”
Named for a river in Russia, following the story of the album; “The Dneiper Rapids” combines the elements that have made this album great so far and then changing up the guitar riffs so that it has more of an alternative metal feel. The bass also rears its head more on this track along with a choral section that actually sounds good, reminding me of the Iced Earth choruses on tracks like “Angels Holocaust.” The vocals are largely growls on here, that’s the only bad part.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 8: “Miklagard Overture”
The longest track on the album, and the culmination of everything that was truly great on the record. That includes musical, vocal, and lyrical elements that make this album a journey that follows the Varangians from Finland to Russia. There really is nothing to add that has not been stated before, except if you want a taste for what this album contains this would be the place to go, except there is a bit of harsh vocals that is not necessarily representative of the entire album. It’s an epic song, no doubt.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10

DIRECTOR’S CUT BONUS TRACKS:

Track 9: “Rasputin”
A cover of the Boney M song, if anyone remembers that disco tune. Turisas take the tune and truly make it their own to make listening worth the extra cost of the disc or buying the Rasputin CDS.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 10: “To Holmgard and Beyond (Edit)”
Just copy the review of “To Holmgard and Beyond” here and you know how good the song is, if anything this is better as it cuts out some dead time at the end of the track and reduces the amount of slower instrumental for a faster fire up.
Song Rating: 13 out of 10

Overall Review:
This is a more or less concept album about a voyage across Russia that began from Finland, the home of Turisas. The album is great in its description of the voyage, almost in the line of description that books like The Odyssey provide, except more metal, of course. Not only that, but there is also a rich sense of the mythologies of both ancient Russia and the beliefs of the Old Norse religions. Turisas themselves take their name from the Finnish god of war.

The music takes perfect form with the traveling theme of the album as everything ebbs and flows from crushing guitars and pounding bass and drums to more accordion and violin driven sections. “To Holmgard and Beyond” is a perfect example of this counter balancing of music that shatters and also lulls. The vocals provided by Warlord Nygard also have this duplicity expressed in songs like “Cursed Be Iron” that both growl and scream along, but also have a melodic singing counterpart.

A powerful part of this album is the intimacy of the lyrics that take the listener in and make him or her a part of the journey that is occurring, to get to Holmgard and the Russian lands beyond, all the way to Constantinople as described in “Miklagard Olverture”, in order to discover the origins of the Bastard who controls the ship. Each member of the voyage is named and given a life to become a three-dimensional person instead of just a name in a song. Then, the question is asked directly to those listening if they are going to be “chained to your bed, chained BY YOUR LIFE” in “To Holmgard and Beyond” as if to claim that they can either sit around or get out into the world and make something happen. This notion is expressed in the song above as the fates and their operation in the world is described and it is noted how each of the threads they weave is spun together, whether long or short, showing the interlocking lives of the human race that may never cross if someone does not get out there and cause the connections to happen.

In an album that combines so much history with the ancient names of the Russian geography and rulers and the inclusion of mythology that is no longer studied in great detail, nor widely known the dimensions of this album grow to more than just a metal album, but also serve to teach what is commonly not told. All of this is provided in a fun story of adventure that fits the style of music of fast paced metal perfectly to convey the fun and speed of the mission. The music is some of Turisas’ best and builds off of their first album and into new heights. If you’re a fan of power metal, folk metal, or just metal and are looking for a new band that has great potential this album is a strong place to start looking.
Overall Rating: 9.5 out of 10

 

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