The late 90s created a number of genuine curiosities, as the lines that separated Extreme Metal and mainline Heavy Metal influenced music became blurred while also venturing into outside territory. In the midst of this is TURISAS, a band that by all accounts merges together some of the most over-the-top imagery and Hollywood fanfare inspired imagery imaginable since MANOWAR first began sporting their biceps of steel. Forget about any notion of deep philosophical meaning or justification of human strife, this is where you stop asking what the purpose of battle is, for the battle is its own purpose. And like with all celebrations of triumph, the mood is always upbeat and glorious, and the musical risks taken are few, apart from maybe some quirky instrumentation such as electric violins and accordions.
“Stand Up And Fight” can be summed up as the most concentrated, most uninhibited version of MANOWAR battle glory meets RHAPSODY OF FIRE sounding symphonic majesty that this outfit has put out, slamming down the giant choruses and bombastic orchestral sounds to the point of making METALLICA’S “S&M” sound like a small chamber music affair. The songs follow the predictable regiment of catchy verse hooks and even catchier refrains, and most of the metallic elements are put into a simplistic, almost support role box amidst all of the other stuff going on. Unlike SUIDAKRA or ENSIFERUM, this is a band that doesn’t really get to heavy on the aggression. Vocalist Mathias Nygård is somewhat atypical of a Power Metal band in that his husky baritone rivals the depth of Matt Barlow, minus the melodramatic operatic element, but otherwise this is a safer version of what was presented on “Warriors Of The World”.
Despite the fact that from the standpoint of depth and stylistic relevance this album is pretty plain, it’s a barrel ride of a good time. Listening to catchy, almost pop-like anthems out the SABATON format such as “The March Of The Varangian Guard” and “Stand Up And Fight” even once will find the average Power Metal enthusiast raising his fist in the air, though like with said Swedish outfit, these songs may get repetitive after several listens. The riffs are few, the melodies abound and any emphasis on lead guitar is brief, though occasionally borrowing from the Luca Turilli model of sweep picking and occasional singing slower points. There’s also room made for novelty songs such as the orchestrated trip back to the Renaissance faire with an emphasis on swashbuckler tall tales in “Hunting Pirates” with accordions and folksy clichés aplenty, and also a Greek war anthem in “Venetoi! – Prasinoi!” that brings up some equivalent vernacular sounds along with a heavy enough dose of symphonic pomp to make Wagner blush. And for those who want their music to be kept simple, fear not, for even the longer winded epics in “Fear The Fear” and “End Of An Empire” are simply extended versions of the same format meshed with the MANOWAR practice of lengthy narrated portions.
This is the sort of album where you can pretty much guess where every chord is going to be struck, and can have a small margin of error with regards to what the lyrics will read, but it’s still a fun experience simply for how well it’s executed. There might be something to the assertion that this doesn’t quite qualify as metal in the purist sense because of all the other, outside influences diluting the riff work, but that alone doesn’t necessitate this being a bad album. Anybody who is addicted to the popular themes of Viking adventures and warfare between ancient and contemporary civilizations told through the prism of a highly accessible blend of catchy songwriting and stylistic eclecticism, this is an album to be reckoned with.
(Online April 11, 2011)