Review Summary: Týr's first album with Heri Joensen as the lead vocalist offers original folk-inspired metal from the Faroe Islands with creative use of the guitars and a great listening value.
Eric the Red is the second studio album of the Faroese folk metal band Týr. It is their first album to feature Heri Joensen as the lead vocalist (he played guitar on the previous album though) and Terji Skibanæs as the other guitarist.
Týr can not be blamed for lacking originality. Alone the fact that they come from the Faroe Islands is enough to awaken one's curiosity (”They come from where? I've never heard about such place before!”). Their genre is not easy to define but they are something like heavy metal with progressive elements while their lyrics are inspired mainly by Norse mythology. They also do rearrangements of traditional folk songs. Why would I not simply label them as folk metal? The reason is that they lack such instruments that often are associated with folk metal: flutes, violins, accordions, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdys etc. Their line-up consists simply of a vocalist, two guitars, a bass and drums. Yet Týr has a unique sound.
I find two key factors that make Týr sound brilliant: the vocals and the way they use their two guitars. First, Heri Joensen has a great voice that fits fairly well in the backing instruments. It is worth pointing out that he does clean vocals only. His voice is middle-pitched and fairly smooth in most parts. However, during louder parts his voice becomes slightly rougher (e.g. in The Wild Rover). He switches from a language to another effortlessly, even within one song (e.g. in The Edge). On this album he sings in English, Faroese and Danish (Ramund hin Unge is Danish, not Faroese). Especially Faroese sounds very convincing when it comes to singing about Norse mythology and I wish they used their native language even more. The band provides English translations in the CD booklet for those who are interested in understanding the lyrics.
Another thing that fascinates me in Týr's sound is the co-operation of the guitars. They are rarely used for plain open chords. Instead, most of the time they are alive and create interesting patterns. You should pay attention to guitars while listening to this album. They support each other even when they are playing very differently. In addition to heavy riffs, there are atmospheric melodic parts like in the intros of Regin Smiður and Styrisvølurin.
The drums and bass are not as prominent as the vocals and the guitars, but they do their job. And that job isn't too easy to be honest since Týr makes use of odd time signatures every now and then (e.g. the main theme of Rainbow Warrior). On a closer listening I would say that the drum playing is diverse and technically challenging. Bass blends in nicely with the guitars most of the time but is more prominent at times (e.g. in Eric the Red). It is not breathtaking but, as I said, does its job comfortably.
The lyrics on this album are better than average since they allow deeper interpretations. Nearly every song has a story behind it and in order to fully comprehend some songs (tracks 1, 2, 3 and 10) you need some background information. If you are interested you should search information on Erik Thorvaldsson (the viking after whom the album is named) and the Völsunga saga.
As a whole, Eric the Red is a very solid album. There are not many drawbacks but I think that the two last tracks (Alive and Eric the Red) should have been shorter in order to keep them more interesting. Nonetheless, this album requires some listening before it works but after all it has a great listening value. Lively guitar patterns, odd time signatures, exotic languages (Faroese and Danish) and well written lyrics make this album worth trying, especially if you are interested in folk metal.