posted on 3/2005 By:
Growing up as a youth in England I was involved in the golden era of Viking/Dark Ages reenactment. Not the rule obsessed strict bullshit they have now, or the poncy LARP and SCA groups the US has to offer. Real shit, we hit each other with real swords; I've seen sides spilt open and fingers cut off. Why am I telling you this? Well, as I write this review, I am fully regaled in all of my gear that I took out of storage and dusted off for this review. Chainmail, helmet, fur loins - everything. Typing with a Scramasax was harder than I thought, so I resorted to using my hands, although seeing my monitor through my helmet’s eye slots was challenging. That my friends, is the only way to listen to this album. Not on a bus crowded with crying babies, not in an office cube and not at a wedding. Because surely after the opening notes of “Victoriae and Triumph Dominus” you will be filled with blood lust and will cut down the nearest person to you.
Any band that thanks and cites Finntroll, Ensiferum, Moonsorrow and Korpikilaani as influences is automatically godlike in my book, but I feel one other band should be mentioned here; the mighty Bal-Sagoth. Sure, Turisas encompass all that is great about Finnish pagan/Viking metal, replete with loads of beer hall choirs and upbeat, rousing riffs, but the synth/Hammond/vibraphone work of Anti Ventola is so gregarious and garishly over the top, it compares with Bal-Sagoth’s early work. And of course, that makes the album that much better. Turisas are so epically in your face and laden with Viking cheese, they actually make Ensiferum look like Darkthrone - it’s that over the top. From the artwork to the great inlay photos of the blood caked band members slaying Christian knights, the album literally should come with a chain mail hauberk as a free gift. I’ve looked forward to this album since the band's Heart of Turisas demo a few years back and it does not disappoint. Self deprecatingly pompous and unashamedly over the top, Turisas weave a hair raising, pulse quickening display of blackened power metal that is more Ensiferum in its styling but with obvious nods to all of their peers. After the suitably epic intro, Turisas dive into “As Torches Rise” which initially cements the Bal-Sagoth keyboard influence but also offers some galloping violin work, but its end section is pure Bal-Sagoth. The glorious title track sees the rousing choirs kick in and will have you yelling “BATTLE METAL!” in awkward situations (hint: don’t listen to this album before a family christening). A strange electronic beat opens possibly the album's best cut, “The Land of Hope and Glory”, a clever piece that alternates between Middle Eastern vibe (the Vikings did a lot of trading with Arabs) and their own Nordic influence with a simply breathtaking “lei lei lei” midsection.
Each track on Battle Metal is a grandiose work of heathen art that despite its overt influences from other bands, simply does it perfectly. The rollicking pace of “The Messenger” and “Among Ancestors”, the Korpikilaani-like heathen pub rock of “Sahti Waari (Old Man Ale)”, the tempered mid paced gait of “One More” and female vocals “Midnight Sunrise”; every track is just killer. Of note is the duo of “Prologue” and “Rex Regi Rebellis”, an immensely epic tale of the march of the Finnish cavalry during the 30 year war of 1618-1648. It’s slightly more muted than the rest of the album, but has an austere militaristic ambience. The suitably placed instrumental closer “Katuman Kaiki” (also historically relevant) ends this brilliant album with a fitting somber end note. Battle Metal is easily one of the best pagan/heathen/Viking metal albums I’ve heard, sure it’s thick with cheese and is laughably grin inducing, but it’s so damn additively satisfying and outlandishly catchy, it makes my cod piece tight.
The only downside of this perfect album is non musical. At the time of writing the review, I had not heard from either label or band about a US release date (American fans are hardly clamoring for Finnish war metal, while they gorge on the likes of Lamb of God and Shadows Fall), so this album remains as a rather expensive import only option, although I found it on the evil eBay empire for a decent price. Either way for fans of the genre it’s absolutely a must have.
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