Released: 2008, Century Media
Reviewer: Simon Lukic
It seems that after years of excess and false metal, the genre is returning to a time of purity and innocence. An era where man was emerging from the wilderness into an age of exploration and animal skins were our own shelter from the elements. Yes, metal has finally returning to the Norse era and it’s proving to be quite a hit.
One of the leaders of this sound is Turisas, a Finnish Viking metal band from Hämeenlinna who have named the band after an ancient Finnish god of war. Turisas essentially combine folk metal, power metal and elements of symphonic metal to create a sound that could be best described as a mix of Bathory circa HAMMERHEART and TWILIGHT OF THE GODS and Blind Guardian. The debut BATTLE METAL got the ball rolling after the three initial demos and the follow up THE VARANGIAN WAY takes the band’s sound further.
THE VARANGIAN WAY was first released in 2007, so this version has been put together by Century Media to cash in on the PaganFest tour that the band has been a part of, hence it being labeled the “Limited Paganfest Tour Edition”. Those who purchased the original may not be swayed in any way, as it may not justify a repurchase (this is where the bonus material comes in, but I’ll get to that later).
Even though the album has a historical yet fictitious concept about a group of Northmen and their travels down the East-European river route, THE VARANGIAN WAY is an enjoyable romp through various folk inspired tunes that are infectious and entertaining. The inclusion of traditional arrangements and a nude accordion performance (read the credits!) with traditional metal arrangements works well and add to the atmosphere, as well as the story. The bonus material (which is sure to rope many in) is quite substantial and of great quality. The DVD offers a variety of live performances which are culled from various places such as the Rock Hard, Download and With Full Force festivals and seeing the band complete in furs and body paint complete the picture of this very visual band. The bonus video clip of “Rasputin” is brilliant, if you haven’t seen it before and the extras such as a karaoke version of “To Holmgard and Beyond” and various wallpapers only add to the value. For the new fan, this edition is obviously the one to get while those who own the original pressing will need to make their own call. It goes without saying that this edition does offer a lot of bang for your buck, but is it fair to reissue albums only a year old? Roadrunner has been guilty of this for many years now and while it does generate interest in the band and the release itself, it does leave the original fan shortchanged.
Whether or not Turisas is your cup of tea, or type of mead, the band alongside many others such as Finntroll, Moonsorrow et al, have been injecting new energy into the genre for some time now. The simple fact that we now accept the accordion as a valid instrument in heavy metal is an amazing thing, considering that twenty years ago metal fans shunned keyboards. Times have certainly changed...