Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Stand Up And Fight" by Turisas - Serious Review

 Originally written Monday, February 28, 2011

Stand Up and Fight is the 3rd full-length album from Finnish Folk-metal stars Turisas. The band entered the studio in March of last year, and effectively lived there for several months, hammering out and polishing their most ambitious release to-date. The band stated before started production that their plan was to make this the album where they started headlining tours, as opposed to the supporting roles they'd played up until then, and It shows. The album is extremely ambitious, incorporating real horn and orchestral recordings as opposed to the samples used in their previous album The Varangian Way.

Track 1: The March of  the Varangian Guard
Those horns I mentioned earlier? They're what starts this album out, and they immediately know what you're up for. This is an album that's going for a BIG feel. Turisas want you to feel like you're experiencing an epic tale of power and fantasy, and they definitely achieve it. This song tells you exactly what you're into; liberal use of violins, trumpets, and a choir backing the riffs that Jussi Wickström belts out on nearly every track. Those looking for a more conventional sounding metal album may be turned off, but for fans of Turisas' other work, this song won't disappoint.

Track 2: Take The Day!
This is, pure and simple, a stadium rock song. It's still got the metal overtones, especially with Tude Lehtonen's drumming, but at it's core I'm sure it's here to give the band something to get every butt at their shows out of the seats. There's a powerful, and more importantly LOUD bridge that absolutely blazes with energy. There's several bits in the beginning that act as build-ups to it, and it gets you pumped for the rest of the album.

Track 3: Hunting Pirates
While some Turisas fans would probably have my head for it, this song is reminiscent of the sound of the band Alestorm. Not to say that they're aping off of somebody else' s style, but it seems more an homage to the Pirate-themed metal band's jaunty aesthetic. Netta Skog shows her skill on the accordion during this song, with much of the aesthetic of the song coming from her.

Track 4: Veretoi! -  Prasinoi!
This track is pure, unleaded fun. Many times folk-metal bands make a more "dancy" tune, it ends up breaking the mood of the album, either by sounding too odd compared to the rest of the album, or the song being too one-note. Neither happen here, with the whole song keeping the feeling of the album despite it being (for the most part) much more upbeat. It's certain to become a favorite at their shows.

Track 5: Stand Up And Fight
This was the first and only single released for the album prior to release, and oddly enough it's probably the most forgettable track on the disk. It's still and enjoyable song, but comes off feeling too long, as if the band had the song done, but decided to slow it down to pad out the album. Not to say it's "bad" per se, but compared to the songs around it, it just isn't anything special.

Track 6: The Great Escape
This song starts straight out building up to a powerful, frenetic, and dark sound. This is the first track to feature Mathias Nygård growling a lot, and he pulls it off well. As a whole it's a big step up from the title track, with a much more layered sound, as well as reintroducing the Stadium Rock feel from Take The Day! I again feel it could have been shortened some, as there's a section towards the end that very much feels like it's padding out the length. Still, a strong track with a lot of energy.

Track 7: Fear The Fear
Hands down my favorite song on the album. It's long, epic, powerful, and feels like a microcosm of the entire album. It's got Mathias giving what is possibly his best vocal performance to date. The songs starts out loud, but then falls to a slowly building guitar strum that's almost reminiscent of Refused's song New Noise. The tune is majestic, bombastic, inspiring, and just about every other positive adjective I can think of. The song changes tempo and rythm numerous times, but it never feels uneven or sporadic, feeling very much like a journey in itself.

Track 8: End of an Empire
On each of their albums, it kind of become a tradition to put a long, epic, and choir-heavy track near the end of the album, and Stand Up And Fight doesn't break the streak. While Fear The Fear was long, it had a fast pace that kept it from feeling like it was 6 minutes. The opposite is true of End of an Empire, but that's not a bad thing. It's slow, but never feels boring, and overall feels much more somber. The first minute and a half are a soft, piano heavy ballad, with the guitars not kicking in proper until the 100 second mark. Everything about this song feels grand.

Track 9: The Bosphorus Freezes Over
Often bands will end an album with a loud, long, and energetic song to close everything out. Turisas decided to go a different path. The beginning of The Bosphorus Freezes Over is soft, and feels like something one might hear in a ballet. The drums slowly kick in, and Mathias performs the whole thing in somber spoken-word. The entire song feels like the aftermath of a great battle, sad but with a kind of catharsis about the whole affair.

Overall, Stand Up And Fight is an ambitious undertaking that's full of energy, power, intelligence, and most importanly emotion. Some long-time fans may be turned off by the more polished feel, but anyone interested in an album with a big sound should most certainly check it out.

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