Saturday, July 9, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1570: Tyr

For the second time in three albums I was treated to some Viking metal. I guess if you buy a lot of one kind of music in a short span of time, it is likely to show up on your playlist a fair bit.

Disc 1570 is…. The Lay of Thrym

Artist: Tyr

Year of Release: 2011

What’s up with the Cover? I believe this is a depiction of the end of the titular lay of Thrym. Thrym as a giant who stole Thor’s hammer and planned to ransom it back in return for Freya’s hand in marriage. Thor went and, after asking Thyrm politely, got the hammer back.

Just kidding, Thor dressed up as Freya to get into the wedding and then straight up murdered not only Thrym (lying dead in the foreground here), but also his older sister and all his kin (not pictured). The moral of this myth is self-evident: don’t steal another man’s hammer.

The two goats in the foreground also belong to Thor – they are called Tanngrisnir and Tanngnj├│str and in Norse myth they pull Thor’s chariot. It looks like Thor's post-murderous exultation has them wanting to bolt, but if you happen to find them later, return them immediately. Thor is fucking serious about defending his personal property. Not the guy you want to borrow a lawn mower (or goat) from, and not return it on time. 

How I Came To Know It: Originally by way of my buddy Nick, but in the case of this record it was me digging through the band’s catalogue.

How It Stacks Up: I have three Tyr albums so far. I’m on the lookout for a fourth (2013’s Valkyrja). Of the three I have, I rank “The Lay of Thrym” at #3. Sorry, Thrym: someone has to be last.

Ratings: 3 stars

For those who don’t know them, Tyr is a metal band from the Faroe Islands that mix heavy metal with flavours of Norse mythology with traditional Viking chants that have been metalized. So a little of Column A, and a little of Column B, where A and B tend to..er…intermingle.

“The Lay of Thrym” has the same qualities that made me enjoy previous albums “Ragnarok” (2006) and “Land” (2008). The heavy thump of Kari Streymoy’s drum remains the best part of the band, as he thuds his way through each tune with a deliberate power that evokes memories of Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward. Streymoy shines brightest on “Evening Star”, the album’s ballad, or what passes for a ballad on a modern metal album like this. He gets to show off both a slow thud and a ferocious speed in the same tune, giving the song the solemn gravity of a funeral march and the rousing anthem of a war march all in a single tune. Streymoy is the jarl of this band, and the others are all rowing to his beat.

Singer Heri Joensen has a big traditional metal vocal that soars and delivers the lyrics with conviction. This isn’t easy, as some of the lines on these songs are awkward or create cramped phrasing as they try to fit too many syllables into each bar. Sometimes it works, as in the breakneck “Hall of Freedom” whereas other times it feels awkward, as what makes Streymoy’s drumming so interesting can make the lyrics feel like square pegs being pushed into round holes. Also lines like “Nine worlds of lore/This is the place we keep the weapon’s of war” don’t sound less hokey despite Joensen’s heartfelt efforts to make them cool.

The guitar work on the record is solid, although the solos let me down in places, resorting to a “look how fast I can play” noodle fest. I believe great guitar solos are forged from an alternate exploration of the melody, both a part of and separate from the song at the same time. Hoping a whole lot of notes and technical precision can replace this artistry rarely succeeds.  

This being Tyr, they work in a solid bit of traditional Scandinavian chants with both “Konning Hans” (Danish) and “Ellindur Bondi A Jadri” (Faroese). I liked similar songs on earlier records slightly more, but both of these are good. As ever they ‘metalize’ the songs in a delightful way that lends itself equally to pulling on the oar of a Viking longship and throwing your hair around in a mosh pit. I wonder if Vikings back in the day moshed when these songs got busted out in the longhouse? I like to think they did.

Viking metal bands tend to have a reputation for singing about Viking history and mythology to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. You’d expect a record called “The Lay of Thrym” to do just this, but I was surprised to see Tyr mixing mythology with modern social commentary. The title track seems to explore the concept of corrupt governance where I admit I was hoping for a lot more descriptors of Thor wreaking havoc at Thrym’s wedding feast. That said, all was forgiven when I heard the over-the-top line, “Hammer home to any despot’s dome.” Hammer to the dome, yo!

This record isn’t Tyr’s best, but if you already have “Land” and “Ragnarok” and want to branch out a bit farther, it is a solid entry in their catalogue and worth exploring.

Best tracks: Flame of the Free, Hall of Freedom, Evening Star, The Lay of Thrym

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