The Varangian Way
posted on 7/2007 By:
So here’s a brief and very general history lesson. The term “Varangian” is a general term for ‘barbarian’ or ‘Viking’ used by the people in Eastern Europe (namely the Byzantine Empire, Russia and the Ukraine) to describe the Scandinavians that sailed down the Dnieper river and settled in cities such as Kiev and Constantinople. Eventually the Emperor of Constantinople, distrusting of his own soldiers, enlisted these Viking warriors into “The Varangian Guard” as his own personal bodyguards. And what better act than Finland’s Turisas to tell a tale of these nomadic warriors? (for a more detailed, and far more detailed, step by step lesson on each track of the album, I highly recommend you visit http://www.thevarangianway.com/ for an incredibly well done and illuminating ‘tour’ of the album).
With Battle Metal, Turisas released arguably one of the most over the top and epic Viking metal albums ever, mixing the synths of Bal-Sagoth with the driving power metal of Ensiferum and the Viking tones of early Moonsorrow. Well, with album number two Turisas have cranked up the epic notch to ‘11’ and delivered what I can only term as a ‘Viking metal rock pop opera’.
With far more orchestration, more choirs , more clean singing and far more pomp, The Varangian Way isn’t quite as full on ‘metal’ as its predecessor, and that may disappoint some (as it did me initially), however the sheer, tangible grandiosity of the band’s conceptual delivery of their fictionalized account of the Varangians is just too epic to ignore.
At times, even I will admit, Turisas simply cannot be taken seriously, and with their even more grandiose approach, I can picture this being on Broadway with fur clad Vikings bursting into song on a lavish set due to the abundance of clean singing and palpable moods for the songs to convey each chapter of the story (i.e. “To Holmgard and Beyond”, “A Portage to the Unknown”). However, the raspier, more urgent metal is still present in tracks like “Cursed Be Iron”, “Fields of Gold” and “Five Hundred and One” though still almost overwhelmed by the band's heavy handed extraneous elements. Plus there seem to be some odd injections of almost experimental instrumentation that didn’t quite fit the whole Viking theme (“The Dnieper Rapids”). However, personal favorites the jigtastic “In the Court of Jarisleif”, and uber epic and choral closer “Miklagard Overture” still brought a tear to my eye and a tightness to my cod piece.
For all its grandeur and deep story line, I can’t shake the thought of Andrew Lloyd Webber making The Varangian Way a Broadway musical and truth be told, it’s just not as rousing as Battle Metal. Still though, it’s a guilty, chainmail pleasure that makes me smile and want to paint my face like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
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