Turisas

support Norther + Alestorm
author AP date 12/03/08 venue The Brook, Southampton, UK

First off, let me declare my humble apologies for the delay in reviewing this gig. Its sole culprit is the fact that in the past two weeks or so, I've been sober exactly four days. It's also in humility that I say I still can't put a name on most of the band's songs, and had I been asked about them before their gig at The Brook in Southampton, I couldn't have said much. But after consistent hype and praise by a good friend, I decided to tag along with him to witness one of his favorite bands, Turisas. His tastes lie, after all, primarily in metal, yet has had to endure one scene band after the other with me in the past six months. And so with blue and white face paint I braved my first ever battle metal gig.

Alestorm

And what better way to kick off such an evening than with some good ol' pirate metal brought to us by Scotland's very own Alestorm (formerly known as Battleheart). Judging by the audience's response - not to mention their attire - most people are here tonight to see either Alestorm or Turisas, and it's not long before swords, viking hats and toy parrots merge in one enormous pit downstairs, dancing and moshing along to some pirate swing. The kind of feelgood that's radiating from the stage rapidly transports the sold out pub back to 16th century Caribbean, and suddenly the band pauses to pay tribute to rum. Lead singer Christopher Bowes pulls out a bottle, and soon the viking horns once prominent in the crowd are serving their owner's by facilitating rum flow from the stage to the crowd's gaping mouths. Before launching into the set's final song, Bowes casts what bottles of rum he has left into the audience who receive them with welcoming chants. This is going to be a good night, I think to myself.

7

Norther

As Norther enters the stage, they do so to a far less enthusiastic reception. On the other hand, as this Finnish quintet launches into the first track, it's also obvious that this is a band that expects to be taken seriously, despite Petri Lindroos' silly looking metal skirt and bare upper body. Norther's set fails first and utmost in the fact that the band completely fails to connect with the audience. They simply pound through one song after the other and as such the remarkable similarity of every song to each other does little to help.

I'm willing to forgive Petri for his static stage persona because playing such complicated guitar arrangements while also doing vocals is both admirable and difficult, but what's up with the rest of the band? The overall impression I'm getting is that this is a routine show in some country village and they'd rather be somewhere else. One thing strikes out though, and that is the incredible passion with which lead guitarist and back up vocalist Kristian Ranta delivers his solos and clean vocals. It's inspiring to see someone truly live and breathe his music on stage. Thumbs up also for his ability to an unleash an even more passionate clean voice on stage than it is on record. Unfortunately one person isn't enough to redeem such a lackluster performance, and that shines through all too well in the crowd. With the audience dispersed at the various bars to consume pints of beer in preparation for Turisas, the amount of people downstairs in the pit has halved and the response is almost indifferent. Playing the band's cover of "The Final Countdown" would most certainly have helped, as even tonight's setlist is dull, lacking such gems as "Mirror of Madness" and "Going Nowhere". Oh well, at least Norther was tonight's only band to emerge from backstage to talk to their fans and promote their own merchandise.

5

Turisas

Now, battle metal isn't something I've ever thought much of but when Turisas enters the stage I'm blown away by their dominating stage presence. One after another, these warrior-clad men and women wearing black and red war paint man their respective instruments including a violin and an accordion aside the usual guitar, drum, bass and microphone. And holy fuck does it sound good when they launch into the opening song. Vocalist Mathias "Warlord" Nygård boasts with such godlike confidence it's hard to stare elsewhere, especially as he consistently makes fierce eye contact with each and every member of the audience.

Violinist Olli Nygård deserves more than just applause, as he advocates the demise of guitar solos with an electric violin. Try imagining that sound for a second: distortion and shredding on a violin. I, for one, have never in my life heard anything this awesome. On the other side of the stage, Turisas' infamous accordion player Lisko (Lizzard) is apparently missing, and in his spot stands 17-year old Netta Skog who plays the instrument with baffling speed and precision. The crowd is particularly impressed halfway through the set when Netta and Olli launch into a kind of Humppa jam (Humppa is traditional Finnish music) as Warlord carefully introduces each band member. At some point Mathias pauses and roars "We came here hung over, expecting just a routine show and a bit of rest for the show in London tomorrow, but you guys gave us the best reception on this tour so far. I say fuck London!". His praise sounds sincere and judging from the crowd's response so far, the band is right to be impressed. "But," he says, "We've been touring the United Kingdom for quite some time now and I still haven't tasted proper English beer." A generous member of the audience then hands him a pint of English ale, which seems to fuel an even more explosive performance through the next song. By the end of this track, twelve pints of sorted English ales stand on stage courtesy of The Brook's bar staff and I can tell Mathias is impressed.

Even if the image of six men and women clad in fur-armor, wearing black and red face paint and singing about heroes and battles sounds like your worst nightmare, I'd still recommend seeing Turisas live. There's something extremely intriguing about their curious blend of traditional Finnish music and battle metal, something about the inclusion of an electric violin and an accordion that works for their great benefit. Battle metal bands might not be rare, but Turisas certainly succeeds in being unique.

9

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