Heavy Metal Meets Byzantium! Contact Between Scandinavia and Byzantium in the Albums ‘The Varangian Way’ (2007) and ‘Stand Up and Fight’ (2011) by the Finnish Band Turisas
By Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie
Wege der Kommunikation zwischen Byzanz und dem Westen 2: Menschen und Worte, eds. Falko Daim, Dominik Heher and Christian Gastgeber (Mainz 2018)
Introduction: Byzantium as a research subject fills entire libraries, but has not had as much impact on popular culture as, for example, the Classical world or the Vikings. Particularly in music, there is hardly any echo of this empire, which existed for more than a thousand years as the continuation of the Roman Empire, thus being the longest existing medieval empire (4th-15th centuries).
The Finnish Heavy Metal band Turisas has focused on the subject of Byzantium and its relations with Scandinavia. They have not only devoted a song to Byzantium but created two concept albums on the migration of the »Eastern Vikings«, the Varangians, to Constantinople (today Istanbul) and their experiences with the Byzantine Empire: »The Varangian Way« (2007), and »Stand Up and Fight« (2011).
The first album describes the journey of a group of Scandinavians along the »Way of the Varangians to the Greeks«, as it was called in a 12th-century chronicle, to Constantinople via Holmgard (Novgorod), the waterways and the feared Dnieper Rapids. The first album ends with the magnificent epic hymn on the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the »Miklagard Overture« (Miklagarðr / Miklagard being the Scandinavian name for Constantinople).