Live review by Travis Baumann
05/08/2008 House of Blues, Los Angeles
Turisas are a Scandinavian band that epitomizes "Viking Metal" as a movement. They combine conventional metal-band mentality and tools of the trade with fiddles and accordions as well as donning furs and armor and covering their skins in war paint.
They sing of battling enemies under the midnight sun, drinking ale and mead with brothers in arms, and of meeting each other in the warrior's afterlife when they die.
I bought their first album "Battle Metal" on a whim years ago and was pleasantly surprised by their incorporation of Celtic style folk melodies and ripping metal song structure, melding the two so successfully.
My birthday present from my wife this year was their second awesome album "The Varangian Way" which took them to new levels of the aforementioned combination. I was so excited for Pagan Fest because I was finally getting a chance to see these guys live, and in the process get introduced to a number of other like-minded bands.
The Pagan Fest itself was an awesome idea and having Turisas there made it an event to be set aside for in the calendar. The opening bands included Sukidakra, Eluveitie, and Tyr and they were really awesome so it was a pleasure experiencing them while working up to Turisas coming on stage. Turisas had the second to last spot with Ensiferum being the only group after them.
They were painted in red blood colored war markings with black stripes for effect. They wore furs, leather and metal, ready for battle. There was Warlord Nygard at the lead and accompanying him were his band mates, a guitarist, bassist, drummer, a really lively violin player, and a woman on accordion. They would all sing on chorus and choir parts which is one of the facets of this type of music I love the most.
The power of a multitude or even a small group of voices raised in unison is apparent in churches and other choral experiences and these guys lent that type of power to their music when applying their voices in tandem.
Their mixture of aggressive metal and camaraderie-building folk songs to be sung amongst fellow warriors won over the crowd instantly and cemented my love for them as the real deal. They had the power to carry that mentality to you and sweep you up in it like bards of old.
My favorite songs were all done live including "To Holmgard And Beyond", the first song off the new album which sums up all that is awesome about Turisas in one song.
It has the chorus of warriors singing together, it has the Viking mentality in its lyrics, it has rocking guitars, a fiddle that induces a jig-dancing mentality, and the best use of accordion I have ever encountered.
"One More" is a phenomenal drinking song. "When the sunlight hits my eyes, I stand and raise my pint up high! One More for our brothers who fought besides us, One More and Forward Again! One more Divide and Conquer, Until we meet again!"
They ended the set with the title track from their first album, "Battle Metal" but played a trick on everyone and started with a really slow, sappy ballad. As that wound down he threw down a white towel and said that was it for the evening.
The whole audience was "Ahhww man". A moment into the reaction Nygard smiles and they broke into "Battle Metal" itself with everyone cheering and hollering. With that exciting end, Turisas finally took their leave and left many a new fan in their wake. "Onward to lands unknown!"
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