Review Summary: I'm not angry at you, Turisas. I'm just incredibly disappointed.
One of the reasons I enjoy power metal is the consistency; and there's certainly a wide range of artists out there, covering the complete spectrum between exceptional and laughable, with every shade of mediocre in the middle. However you tend to notice that mediocre bands will consistently release mediocre records; so if mediocre power metal is what you adore, that's what you'll consistently get. Which leads me to my main contention with the latest effort (although I use the term 'effort' lightly) from Turisas; it's a mediocre release from an exceptional band. Although a latecomer to the Turisas bandwagon, 'Stand Up And Fight' was one of my highlights of the year, a gloriously unabashed celebration of bombastic power metal, filled with triumphant battle anthems, galloping rhythms and monumental orchestrations which would make even Andrew Lloyd Webber blush. So coming off the back of three incredibly strong albums, it confounds me how or why this incredibly talented band could make an album this dull and lifeless.
Perhaps Turisas is a band which simply needs to be given proper time to hone and craft their art. While 'Stand Up And Fight' was released four years after previous effort, 'The Varangian Way', the embarrassingly titled 'Turisas2013' was released in half that time. There were also a number of lineup changes between albums, with change of drummer, bassist, keyboardist and loss of accordion player Netta Skog. Whatever the reason, 'Turisas2013' is album which screams 'contractual obligation'. It's not that there's any genuinely terrible material; and in fact there are some interesting ideas to be found throughout. Everything just sounds uninspired, with predictable song structures, less complexity in the songwriting and no discernible theme or concept throughout, an element the band had previously embraced.
Things kick off with rock opera styled 'For Your Own Good' and the heroic anthem 'Ten More Miles', two of the better tracks on the album. Unfortunately it's mostly downhill from there, with songs such as 'Piece by Piece' and 'Into The Free' epitomizing middle-of-the-road power metal. One the greatest disappointments is the downplaying and indeed simplifying of the orchestral elements, which had considerably improved with every release. Even on debut album 'Battle Metal', the orchestral elements were more refined than this, with the strings, horns and traditional folk instruments working in harmony with the other components of the band, yet also managing to display distinct melodies and ideas of their own. Unfortunately in the case of 'Turisas2013', the much more stripped down orchestra sounds repeatedly fail to create interesting themes, often functioning to simply provide background ambiance. It's an extreme regression; and a listener not familiar with the band would perhaps place this before 'Battle Metal' in the Turisas discography as far as the progression of the sound goes.
In some cases the band even attempts to make up for the lack of compelling ideas with 'novelties', such as the curiously gypsy sounding introduction to 'Run Bhang - Eater, Run!', which then fails to lead anywhere interesting; and the punk inspired drinking anthem 'No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea', a formula arguably done better before, such as with Korpiklaani's 'Vodka' and Alestorm's 'Rum'. Even the attempt at an epic closer with 'We Ride Together' falls short when compared to previous epics, lacking the uplifting power of 'End Of An Empire' and the mightiness of 'Miklagard Overture' which brought 'The Vangarian Way' to a conclusive resolution.
In all honestly 'Turisas2013' is not a bad album; and in the case of many bands I'd count this as a solid release. Yet Turisas is a band which has already proved that they can deliver so much more; and it's partially this comparison to previous material which makes this such an unsatisfying listen. However with three solid records under their collective battle-metal belts, hopefully this album simply represents a stumble along the creative path and will give the band some time reflect, take a break and perhaps spend a little longer working on the next release.
For Your Own Good
Ten More Miles
We Ride Together