Stand Up And Fight
28 February 2011
by Tom Dare
It’s been four years and a rather famous cover since the warpainted, fur-clad horde Turisas last released a record. Their version of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin‘ is perhaps what the band are most well-known for, and being famous for a cover is not exactly a ringing endorsement of their original output. With Stand Up And Fight, they attempt to put the mad Russian monk to bed.
If you were a fan of the last two albums, chances are you will like Stand Up And Fight too, irrespective of what’s about to be said. The fun of the previous records is once again present , the production value has been significantly increased to include real choir, strings and brass sections rather than synthesisers, so it sounds immense. It’s all moderately entertaining. But there is a nagging sense that it isn’t as joyous as it could – or perhaps even should – be. In trying to work out why this is, a list of problems is revealed- and suddenly the reason Turisas are best known for a cover becomes strikingly apparent. It’s because their original material isn’t generally all that good.
Symphonic metal has been around for fucking ages. We know how the ensemble can work to genuinely enhance, how it can interweave with the riffs and vocals to enrich an atmosphere. We’re also rather good at spotting when it is merely decoration papering over creative cracks like it is here. Much of the time the strings and brass follow the guitars and vocals almost precisely with little or no attempt at orchestration or anything but the most basic harmonising and ornamentation. They are simply there to make things sound more massive, inflating otherwise rather bland, predictable melodies that drip with excessive cheese and covering up the uninspiring guitar work. That there are moments powerfully reminiscent of film scores (Batman and Hook in particular) does not help either.
There is an overriding sense that Turisas have essentially become a flash version of Sabaton, only with less overt homoeroticism, a viking obsession rather than a military one and, crucially, songs of dramatically less authority that aren’t as catchy. There are two exceptions to this, the Alestorm-esque pirate silliness of ‘Hunting Pirates‘ (which is awful) and the more obvious power metal leanings of ‘End Of An Empire‘, which is far and away the best track on the album. The symphonics and massed choirs suddenly have some decent arrangement, the galloping Steve Harris-inspired bass line kicks along and a thoroughly more enthusiastic attack exposes how half-arsed and self-conscious much of what has come before sounds.
Watch Turisas talking about Stand Up And Fight here:
You get the sense Turisas realise they are ridiculous, and this is the fatal flaw- if you’re going to be over-the-top, you cannot be self-aware. You either go at it with Manowar-like conviction of your own awesomeness or it comes across as awkwardly as this. Yet for all the problems, this is still a fairly fun romp through beer-drenched adventures. There may be a fuck-ton of things wrong with and it may have the feeling of something of a transition record as they move into more grandiose territory, and may well have benefited with a hand experienced in this kind of thing – Michael Rodenberg, for instance.
It may be far off genuine quality, but it is enjoyable if silliness and bombast are up your alley, albeit an enjoyment of limited longevity. And no, there isn’t anything here which will overtake ‘Rasputin‘ as their most popular song. Sorry Warlord, looks like you’ll still be singing disco songs for a while longer.
Sounds like: Sabaton, Korpiklaani, 90s film scores
Top tracks: Take The Day!, End Of An Empire
Turisas – Stand Up And Fight tracklisting:
The March Of The Varangian Guard
Take The Day!
βένετοι! – πράσινοι!
Stand Up And Fight
The Great Escape
Fear The Fear
End Of An Empire
The Bosphorus Freezes Over