Turisas is, my favorite band, the one that introduced me to heroic metal, and for that matter, all Metal. The Varangian Way was the album that first introduced me to this genre and the hundreds of sub genres I love and hold dear now. And even after hearing hundreds of albums from so many bands, I always return to the first one I truly listened to and loved. The Varangian way is Turisas' second album following the folk tinged, aggressive but more than anything else, fun Battle Metal. Whereas their debut concentrated on battle, drinking and Finnish folklore, the Varangian way takes Turisas onto their historical route that would take them all the way through two albums. The Varangians were Scandinavians who went down the Eastern River Routes of Ukraine and Russia to reach Constantinople / Miklagard, the Great City. The album tells of this remarkable journey, from setting sale at Holmgard / Novgorod through portage, courts and rapids to their final destination to serve the Emperor at what was then the most impressive spectacle of the era.
The album being with Turisas' most renowned track aside from Battle Metal - "To Holmgard and Beyond", it's a pounding, epic and heavy yet melodic masterpiece of strong clean vocals, grinding guitars and the accordion and violin tinging the sides as the song progresses in sheer epic strides. It's a powerful opener and is best heard live as the crew of the Varangians set sail for their epic journey Southwards down the rivers. Track 2 is the seaman's song "A Portage to the Unknown" with choir like choruses and that orchestral feel in the backing as the men continue on thier voyage, carrying their boats on waters too dry and shallow. "Cursed be Iron" is an unusual track lyrically and is based on a mythology standpoint about the iron workers from the view of our narrating protagonist. It's heavy with rough vocals and the kind of mining atmosphere only countered perhaps by Rammstein's "Sonne".
Fields of Gold, the song describing the fields on the side of the rivers in Ukraine, yet also a track about the good things in life and appreciation, is fast, lyrically sparse (yet when it does come it comes bellowing out with a force unlike any other) and a great song overall. The next track is the somewhat strange and almost demented "In the Court of Jarisleif" with a vocalist that sounds like the Go-Compare man having an epileptic fit and refusing to shut up. It's an entertaining, whimsical and downright puzzling piece. And then we have one of my three favorites on this album, "Five Hundred and One". This track begins with a haunting piano melody before kicking in with heavy guitars and rough vocals. We then get a track which goes from tough decisions to roll call and eventually choir singing finale of sheer power that is only matched in the final track.
The final two tracks are "The Dnieper Rapids" and "Miklagard Overture" which are both two masterpieces, the former an atmospheric and frantic ride down the rapids with pace, orchestration perfectly delivered and rough vocals throughout. And then the latter is the epic of the album, Miklagard Overture, containing two female choir segments, multiple key changes and Turisas' first guitar solo - which after two albums in Metal is restraint unto itself (previously it was all done on Violin). The final track ends the album magnificently and with great prowess of Turisas' achievements.
Bonus track on here is Rasputin, the disco-metal hit Turisas conceived and has become one of their most popular live songs with its funky styling, excellent lyrics and manic pacing. So that concludes this review of my first and favorite album of all time, thank you Turisas, you delivered me to Metal, will never forget it.