Turisas at Southampton Guildhall

Thursday 28th September 2008

Photo by Ossi Laakso, (c) Turisas 2004

Metal / Black Metal / Death Metal

“A band with Swords and Uggs”

LISKO – Acc.

“Toor-izz-ass, clap, Toor-izz-ass, clap, Toor-izz-ass, clap”… then onto the stage at Southampton Guildhall exploded several large blonde men (and a laydee) clad in lumps of dead sheep and (mostly) wearing ill-fitting uggs.

And Lo, this was Turisas come unto us.

Turisas is a Finnish viking metal band from Hämeenlinna. They were established in 1997 by Mathias Nygård and Jussi Wickström and designated almost at once as a Viking Metal band – named after an ancient Finnish God of War.

When I saw them last night  on their current tour (supporting ‘Dragonforce’) they exclaimed their music was mighty ‘battle metal’. Since they use accordion and violin, I find this a little hard to swallow. Since when do the massed bands of Her Majesty’s Household Division (for instance) lug squeeze-boxes and fiddles onto the battleground? But because of this morris-dance affectation, the band could also be pigeonholed into the folk metal genre ( see also Finntroll, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and Moonsorrow.)

The supposedly heavy metal guitars in this band are, to be honest, almost extraneous and the rhythm guitar is often employed just for that-chugging out some rhythm- whilst the bass plunks away unobtrusively. The featured instrument in this band is the violin, courtesy of Olli Vanska. According to Turisas this meek little humble instrument is about to re-adjust the cosmic equilibrium that has been altered by those arrogant upstarts- the wicked electric guitars! Haven’t they heard of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ in Finnish-land?

Any band that has, as a major feature of its repertoire, Boney M’s singalonga-cossack ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ is OK by me. This song always was plagiarism at its finest, mixing some trad. Turkish anthems with Cozy Powell’s ‘Dance With The Devil’ beat and pretending to be authentic disco. So why shouldn’t a viking-metal band claim it is their anthem?

Even though Turisas has bouzouki and balalejka-themed pretensions, this is ultimately music that Klingon’s would listen to around the campfire whilst droning on about the House of Duras. Lots of anthemic battle-shouting and Oi Oi Oi’s, then plenty of strutting about doing semi-nazi saluting type stuff. The average age of the crowd at Southampton was about 15… so maybe this is something to be a tiny bit concerned about.  But, no, this is he-man stuff, it is comic book stuff, it is Blue Peter teenage mutant ninja turtles in a bit of sticky-back plastic stuff. A bit of dressing up (albeit as a Viking goat-ostler) and striding around looking big and sounding scary is just fun and didn’t ever hurt anyone. Did it?. When was the last time Finland invaded anything (other than the Eurovision)? And, to be honest,  these leering viking-skulls in their leather nappies are no more fierce, frightening or imposing than your average school music teacher.

Unlike power-metal, there is not much symphonic context within the sound of Turisas, just a lot of growling and some riff-based hokum. There isn’t much light there either, the dirges are battle anthems for the office of the dead. On the whole, the Nordic jeremiad’s are less pessimistic than they ought to be, relishing and celebrating death and honour rather more like football anthems than proper warrior eulogies.

The blackness is not really in there either (unlike Opeth, Trivium, Annihilator, Wintersun etc) mainly because: 1) You can’t take men wearing uggs and sheepskin throws seriously and 2) because any band that plays Boney M disco covers is about as manly and masculine as Julian Clary wearing a pink tutu whilst dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in this season’s ‘end of the pier’ performance of Round the Horn. So this is not a band for death metal/black metal heads.  It is just a fun ‘show-band’ for the kids.

Southampton is noted for being the home of the RMS Titanic and the Spitfire, both went down well. So did Turisas. That says a lot.

© Neil_Mach
Sep 2008

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