Wednesday, February 23, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1541: Tyr

If you count Saxon, three out of my last four reviews were metal albums obsessed with Vikings. Saxon had the one song anyway, and Amon Amarth and these next guys are all-in. I can assure you (and the full gamut of reviews on this blog will confirm) that this is a statistical anomaly, and I am obsessed with neither metal nor Vikings.

Is this a bad time to note that I also love the TV series, “Vikings”?

Disc 1541 is…. Land

Artist: Tyr

Year of Release: 2008

What’s up with the Cover? A man stands, arms akimbo, aboard a Viking longship. As the title of the record is Land, I’ll assume they’ve recently discovered the land behind him. That land has a whole series of tall torch beacons burning up both hillsides, which are probably local inhabitants letting everyone know, “holy shit, Vikings have landed. Look your doors and arm yourselves!

How I Came To Know It: I knew about Tyr off and on over the years, but didn’t decide to check them out until my friend Nick went to the Faroe Islands. Nick was looking for some local music while there, and “landed” upon Tyr, which is one of the Faroe Islands most famous bands. I decided to give them a try based on his recommendation and liked what I heard.

How It Stacks Up: I have two Tyr albums, this one and 2006’s “Ragnarok”. Of the two “Land” is the better record and so, following the inherent logic of numbers, I rank it #1.

Ratings: 4 stars

Due to a hectic life and limited downtime, I have listened to Tyr’s “Land” a lot this week. At first blush I liked it, and on repeat listens I have come to love it. Some might consider this “Torshavn Syndrome” (like Helsinki Syndrome, except for the Faroe Islands) but I ascribe it to something a bit more direct. Tyr kicks ass.

If you don’t know Tyr, they blend traditional Faroese folk music with heavy metal. Viking chants, which are already filled with bombast and dread, are beautifully suited to “metallification” and few do it better than Tyr. These songs thud and pound like the sea carving a fjord out of stone; powerful and inexorable.

They are so much fun that I wanted to sing along, but unfortunately many of the songs are in Faroese or another Nordic language and I can’t understand what they’re saying. Fortunately, the topics are limited, as Tyr love their Norse mythology. You’ll get songs about Loki, the Valkyries, and every Vikings favourite, Thor. This latter song – “Hail to the Hammer” – is both glorious and in English. It opens like some kind of church organ at a hockey game, before descending into the true crunch that is the essence of what makes Tyr so brilliant. These guys dig down so deep, you imagine their guitars are scraping the studio floor as they play.

And as brilliant as that guitar work is, the star of this band is drummer K├íri Streymoy. Streymoy is the fuel that ignites the band, with a thump so big and purposeful you’ll look behind you to see if some frost giant is crashing through the trees toward you. And he doesn’t just hit hard. His ability to hold the beat (but never lose it) gives a lot of these songs their anticipatory dread.

The songs don’t have to be in English to be enjoyable, though. Three of my favourites (“Sinklars Visa”, “Gatu Rima” and Lokka Tattur”) are all in various Nordic languages. I’d assume Faoese, but apparently the record also features Norwegian and Danish, and I am too ill-informed to tell them apart. Apologies to Scandinavian readers for my ignorance.

Lokka Tattur” or “the Ballad of Loki” is the best of the bunch. Once again pushed along by the deliberate onslaught of Streymoy’s drums, this song assaults your ears like a Viking shield wall, only to slide back into an almost proggy laid back verse that would make Opeth proud. Then once, you are swaying slowly to that, the band throws in a bit of tempo and guitar to stir the blood. It is a journey of awesome.

This record also takes its time, clocking in at a languorous 68 minutes despite featuring only ten tracks. Epics abound, often taking you on a brilliant journey. This is the case with “Ocean” a ten-minute tale which feels part Viking saga of seafaring, and part existential crisis. When singer Heri Joensen sings “Days have gone down in the west” I even had chills of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but that could be just me.

The title track is equally epic, but I enjoyed it less. It is another “sail across the sea” epic and is awesome in many places, but at over sixteen minutes it took just a little too long to…land. I don’t mind a long song about ocean travel either – Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is as good as metal gets – but the song “Land” didn’t hold my attention the same way.

Not so, “Land” the album, which kept me thoroughly entertained for over a week and multiple listens. Tyr may hail from the very tiny Faroe Islands, but their talent is mighty and massive indeed.

Best tracks: Sinklars Visa, Ocean, Gatu Rima, Lokka Tattur, Hail to the Hammer

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