Turisas - Prepare for Battle

Turisas, the architects of battle metal.

It’s not every day a new musical genre is shaped by your hand and made famous in your honour, yet that day belonged to Turisas. Noted by Terrorizer as the architects of Battle Metal, this Finnish ensemble has broken barriers since and don’t look to stop. With sword and Mead in hand Metal As Fuck caught up with vocalist Mathias Nygard as he waits in anticipation of the bands debut  Soundwave Festival appearances, to discuss history, hidden messages and that mean fiddler.

Mathias, good to hear Turisas will be gracing our shores once again. What has the band been up to since the latest release, Stand Up & Fight in 2011? “We have had three tours since the album coming out in January 2011, a Northern US tour plus Europe throughout the spring then the crazy summer festivals; winter is getting mighty boring at the moment so we are definitely looking forward to hitting the Australian Soundwave Festival circuit. We enjoy touring, but it’s such a long time on the road, after a month you start to get a little rigid”. And Turisas are headlining America’s ‘Paganfest’ set for March 2012 I have read recently? “Yes headlining for five weeks all throughout the States, looking to be a great tour”. Mathias confirms eagerly.

So the name Turisas, where does it come from? “Turisas is from Finnish mythology – he is the god of war, when we formed the band, it sounded and felt sensible, it’s a cultural reference for us on a personal level and not so blatant to other cultures”.

Turisas gave rise to the unofficial genre of battle metal. For the uninitiated how would you describe this kind of music? “Hmmmmm” there was an extremely long pause; I thought I had lost connection only to hear Mathias at the end of the wire giggle with a “good question”. “Battle metal to us is stepping out of the pages of our history and telling the stories by way of music with that same epic and melodramatic feel. It’s what we feel is interesting, the stories and battles of our Country's history, we employ the use of traditional instruments as well as modern instruments”. What’s included in the music to have it branded battle metal in your opinion? Well it all comes pretty natural to us, we like to include elements that lean slightly into the 80’s stadium rock feel, incorporate ideas from Broadway musicals; the influences are very diverse, it all adds to the sound, that heroic virtuoso sound”.

And what makes Turisas’ style most magnetic is the use of that cranking fiddle, how does the band, (particularly Olli) integrate those modern and innovative violin methods into the music? “In the beginning of Turisas, the debut album started out quite finicky, two guitarists and the violin, we were working through and discovering the aesthetics to the sound of Turisas until in 2005 our original guitarist [Georg Laakso] was in a severe car accident and was left basically disabled. We didn’t want to bring in another meat instrument so the violin took a step up as we could use it to provide the effects and distortion to enhance our music to that melodramatic level that the guitars just couldn’t get to. The music has evolved from this. Granted the style is more electrified and amplified rather than traditional violin” Mathias adds with a chuckle.

So the latest album Stand Up & Fight has been implied as a loose continuation to the bands sophomore release The Varangian Way. Let’s squash any rumors, is it a follow-up? “In the beginning the concept to create a story was evident but it became quite clear to us early on that we wouldn’t be able to squeeze all this information into one album so all the works have been planned over all three albums”. The current album doesn’t seem to be as structured as the first two, was this deliberate? The current album had less groundwork yes; and it had taken its own path, as it’s more about feeling and following that feeling. The meaning behind Stand Up & Fight does have that historical reference and connection to both Battle Metal & The Varangian Way as a chronological story however it also focuses on an underlining message that all people can relate to in any grim situation, to stand up & fight”. 

Keeping this in mind, I asked the question – in what other aspects does this album have value with the contemporary listener? “Using fairytales and history as a forerunner is cool however if the essence is just that, it can come off fairly bland, we try to keep the music of Turisas deep and varied, so that the historical references can breathe new life with topics that are justified for the time we live in. Stand up & Fight is a chronicle, a ‘what happens next’ – that’s the framework, but also deals with courage and the journey to find it. It applies as much as it does now as it did back then”. How do you manage to blend so many notions and influences in one album? “It’s definitely a matter of keeping an open mind; I began to notice the people and the world around me would fall into a trap of what they think the audience wants, creating a pastiche of yourself over and over again, copying yourself kills creativity in my mind plus its really, really boring. Blending notions and influences as you say is courageous, courage is admired; sometimes it’s perceived as foolish rather than courageous yet metal fans aren’t simple, and aren’t to be underestimated, the fans want to be filled with new ideas. Record labels don’t want change, something that stays the same is easy to market, yet my opinion is that you should never play it safe……… what was the question?”. [Laughs]

Through the banter we are told we have one minute remaining in our interview, urgently shuffling through my mountain of questions I proceeded to conclude the interview. What do you think keep’s Turisas at the top of the game in your style? “What we do is look forward, based on what we wanted which were new and cool ways to express our position and viewpoint. There are so many bands that jump onto the circuit and just blend in rather than stand out”. Mathias went on to explain that if a band was to introduce say, Emo-Core you know that’s something new. Although I heavily advised against that wave…… Mathias and I parted airwaves and agreed to meet bright and early at 11.00am on Sunday the 26th February 2012 on the green pastures of stage 4 with sword and mead in hand!