Turisas

support Crimfall
author NB date 17/03/11 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

Tonight sees the return of the mighty Finnish god of war to British shores. Turisas toured their last album exhaustively for four years, paying many visits to the UK. After a long hibernation at a recording studio in Hämeenlinna, they're back with their latest album, "Stand Up and Fight". I'm multitasking tonight, performing joint roles of interviewer, reviewer and photographer. Yes, it's my first foray into the photo pit, so I can only apologise for the results, but I hope the review and a chat with Mathias make up for it.

Crimfall

Who? Crimfall, too, hail from Finland, but it isn't only nationality which this band shares with tonight's headliners. The five piece also seems to have been to the same boutique Viking fashion house for their wardrobe. Or perhaps they've been to the 8th century equivalent of Primark, because their imitation of Turisas' aesthetic can only be described as "half-arsed". At one end of the spectrum, the male vocalist is wearing the full furry armour (not that kind of furry); on the other end is a guitarist with only a ripped black tee shirt. In between stands the robust female vocalist in standard gothic outfit No.1. Each member's level of enthusiasm reflects the quality of his or her attire. It's all a bit uncoordinated.

You might wonder why I've spent so long describing the band's look. It's because I didn't want to talk about their music. I basically ignored the first three songs whilst I was trying to fit the band's members into an unsuitable camera lens. Crimfall calls its music "epic folk metal", which is probably justified. It's part thrash, part death, part orchestra-backed folk and part gothic operatics. The band seems to have thrown in elements of any band vaguely related to the genre: After Forever style female vocals and melodies, the acoustic guitar work of Ensiferum, some Turisas orchestration and violin, a trace of Finntroll Humppa, death metal male vocals and occasionally slow, layered soundscapes which are reminiscent of Summoning. Whilst it's not particularly subtle, with sections clearly cherry-picked from one genre being crowbarred between others of an entirely different style, it does achieve a nice variety and is fitting warm-up for the main attraction.

Turisas

I enter the photo pit again for the start of Turisas' set. As usual, the band enters to the intro from their debut album: the striking brass of "Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus" leading into "As Torches Rise". But, after one more oldie, we finally get to see what the band have cooked up with their new album. Mr. Nygård has made sure to bring us plenty of tracks which work well in a live setting. The first of these on tonight's set-list is "The March of the Varangian Guard", an uplifting, classically structured song with an anthemic sing-along chorus. The chanting and fist-pumping of the crowd reveal that fans are already familiar with this material, most of which was released only a month ago. The same revelry continues on into the stadium-rock march of another new track, "Take the Day!".

It's all new tonight as the Finns are debuting their new get-up as well. Whilst faces are still plastered with shocking red and black warpaint, a modern theme has edged its way into the rest of the costume. The leather jackets, with their zips and chains, echo a post-apocalyptic vibe. This is evidently a reflection of the contemporary themes which Mathias was keen to bring into the music.

The front-man brings his usual charisma to the set with some between-song rhetoric, but, after a brief nod to St. Patrick's Day with a few notes of Whiskey in the Jar, the band gets back into their crowd-pleasers. Each band member acts with his usual maniacal ferocity whilst the audience degenerates into a melee. I say "his" because notably absent is Netta Skog, the accordion playing Swedish belle. This isn't mentioned, and her parts are effortlessly covered by the violin playing sensation that is Olli Vänskä, as we are treated to the rest of the band's bombastic repertoire, mainly selected from among the more upbeat songs of the two most recent records.

The new material is played without a hitch, despite Mathias lamenting writing such an exhausting song as "Hunting Pirates", but, as the night wears on, and the red and black face paint slowly loses its nightly war against the tide of sweat on the contorted faces of the band, we reach the inevitable climax of the show. The crowd is divided among fiddler and front-man to compete in chanting the build-up to what has become a Turisas ritual: the disco-metal cover of Boney M's "Rasputin", and the song that started a genre: "Battle Metal". I don't think anyone among the band's fanatical war party is left disappointed.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus
  • 2. As Torches Rise
  • 3. One More
  • 4. The March of the Varangian Guard
  • 5. Take the Day!
  • 6. Whiskey in the Jar
  • 7. To Holmgard and Beyond
  • 8. The Great Escape
  • 9. Violin Solo
  • 10. Five Hundred and One
  • 11. The Messenger
  • 12. Stand Up and Fight
  • 13. Miklagard Overture
  • -- Encore --
  • 14. Hunting Pirates
  • 15. Rasputin
  • 16. Battle Metal

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