Review Summary: An excellent 'viking metal' album that breaks every stereotype
Heri Joensen — vocals, guitar
Terji Skibenæs — guitar
Gunnar H. Thomsen — bass
Kári Streymoy — drums
‘Viking Metal’ is one subgenre that is either universally loved or universally hated. Since its birth (courtesy of the revered Bathory) in the dark days of the black metal scene, it has come a long way. Sadly, it is this progression that divides vast legions of metal fans. While there are plenty of bands who stick to the musical principles laid down by the pioneers the genre, it has increasingly become a cheesy tagline associated with bands that, for want of a better phrase, produce substandard records; so much so that it has almost become a parody of itself. Tyr however, hailing from the tiny Faroe Islands, embody neither stereotype. Their fourth full length, Land, contains next to no cliché Viking imagery, recycled penny whistle passages or keyboards; mixing a unique blend of progressive metal with a restrained approach to their Nordic roots, bringing a refreshing and surprisingly original offering to Odin’s Altar as a result.
The band’s liberally progressive tendencies and musical proficiency; most notably that of Heri Joensen, create an original and interesting sound based around slow, heavy riffing, an extensive knowledge of time signatures and lastly, a subtle use of ancient Faroese melodies. The opener proper; Sinklars Visa
abundantly exhibits all these qualities, beginning with an impressive vocal arrangement, then quickly diving into Tyr’s trademark irregular style of rhythmic seven string riffing. This style is completely atypical of the genre, and showcases the band’s progressive slant, continuing throughout the album and culminating in the 15 minute epic, Land
. While being brutally heavy, the album also contains audible bass, subtle guitar leads, and even guitar solos, although these are rarer. All of these techniques are exhibited to full effect in the superior re-recorded version of Hail to the Hammer
which was originally from How Far to Asgaard" Another notable aspect of Tyr’s music is the drumming of Kari Streymoy. He is highly proficient, making copious use of time signature changes and low end toms, but little use of extravagant fills that we would generally come to expect from metal drummers of any genre. This has the effect of adding to the impact of the guitar work, as he punctuates each and every change in tone with the drums, increasing the crushing brutality of the akward, irregular riffing, but also adding to the smooth, legato riffing in equal measure. Nonetheless, a complete listening of the album does become tedious towards the end due to the conistent, slow nature of the band’s style, which should not be underestimated.
is as good as any example of the bands style, particularly showing the versatility of the axemen and drummer, several changes in time, and the use of another trademark feature, namely the Joensen’s vocals, which are heavily influenced by Faroese folk tunes. The ‘viking’ element of Tyr’s music is mainly shown in this delivery. Much of his style appears to be inspired by NWOBHM singers, held together with the strong influence of the balladic melodies, evidenced by the aforementioned opener Sinklars Visa,
or Fipin Fagra,
coming later in the album. Consequently, it is rare to find him singing outside these stylistic boundaries, although there are times where he simplifies. This is seen when singing in English, for example the song Ocean
, where the ‘viking’ influence is less apparent. His voice is distinctive and versatile, whether singing in English or his native Faroese, and easily pierces the low thunder of the instrumental section. Despite the quality of the vocals, they are arguably the easiest target for criticism by the ‘viking metal’ fan. Much of the album is written and sang in languages other than English, which can have the effect of disorientating the listener, or in the worst case, siphon off the vocal layer of the music completely.
In conclusion, Land is simply a better listen that you are likely to get from most ‘viking metal’ bands out there at the moment. The album stands up easily on its own merits – the proficiency of the musicians, the quality of the songwriting and the originality all being contributing factors. While it does become a little tedious towards the end, due to the nature of the music, it is definitely listenable due to the melody of the vocals. The folk influence is not camp or over the top, but is exhibited in sufficient quantity and quality to change the mood and direction of the music. No instrument is overpowering or under used. In short, it’s very good.