Týr – Valkyrja
Release Date: September 17, 2013
In the past couple of years folk metal has been a hit or miss genre with me. This being that fact that a lot of bands just seem to sound very similar to one another with their flooding of folky musical instruments and themes. I respect bands that add in awkward elements such as Frost Giant who introduced a skater punk vibe into their framework, which actually helped get their EP on my top lists of last year. Other groups have their luck by combining some of the folky elements with ambient and atmospheric tones. What happens if a band comes off as more of a melodic metal band (not giving in to very many indications of folk metal) with a heavily reinforced and interesting theme? Týr’s newest album may be able to explain that better to you.
Valkyrja can be summed up as a loose concept album, based around the lore of the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is an epic figure in Norse mythology, one of a host of female figures who decides which soldiers die in battle and which live. Half of the soldiers that die end up in the hands of The Valkyrie, who sends warriors to Valhalla, while the other half end up going to Freyja who sends warriors to the afterlife field, Fólkvangr. Being a fan of mythology, I knew this album was for me, even with the folk metal moniker attached.
Valkyrja plays heavily on lyrics throughout, creating the setting of the story above. However, Heri Joensen (guitars and vocals) states that this album could also be interpreted to fit into an idea even simpler than what they have described; the album can be seen as an indirect concept of women and how they affect men and what men will do to impress and obtain them. I’m glad to see the band is open to different understanding of their album, even if they had a more concentrated perspective going on about it.
Diving into the album, I was expecting the usual sound that is attached to the “folk” label. Instead, Týr plays music more along the lines of melodic metal with characteristics of heavy metal, power metal, and even a smidge of melodic death metal. Even though Týr doesn’t come off as folk from the get go, if you do some digging deeper, you’ll find the writing to be holding that label instead. “Blood of Heroes” is a great example and introduction to this. The elegant power displayed ends up permeating throughout the entire opus, which is a good sign of a consistent album. The production is clean, the instrumentals are swift and tactful, and Joensen’s vocals emanate grace and power, qualities that you don’t experience with many other vocalists.
Týr takes a risk with the song, “Mare of My Night”, as it depicts lyrical content of the sexual nature. Now, this isn’t anything new in the realm of metal, or even music, but seeing as how you can understand Joensen pretty clearly, you can’t help but catch on to the lyrics. This is another solid hitting track, of course, but not one of my favorites.
“Hel Hath No Fury” shakes things up a bit from the previous. I’m really digging the vocal phrasing implemented here and how well the band responds to it. Terji Skibenæs’ guitar addition adds a swift and epic sound that accents the album perfectly for what it is trying to accomplish. Also, note that George Kollias does the drum work for Valkyrja, and excellently I may add. George also “starred” in another album from earlier in the year, Spartacus by ADE, where he demonstrated how capable he was in the role but it didn’t really appeal to me much. Within this work, he shows control and adaptability, and that is nice to see a drummer committing to different styles so easily.
“The Lay of Our Love” features female vocalist, Liv Kristine (ex-Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes), displaying a vocal style shaped for a ballad. Yes, a ballad. It surprised me too but it really works for the atmosphere and tone that has been present so far. Noting the production again, it is nice to hear the every band member take part and not get swallowed in someone else’s sound. Even with the featured vocalist and the instrumentals slowing down their pace, one instrument is instantly noticeable to me. Gunnar Thomsen’s bass is very apparent, especially when he demonstrates some miniscule but very impactful grooves in the background. “The Lay of Our Love” may seem a bit cheesy but you can’t discredit the band for sounding complete and with it even with that factor.
“Another Fallen Brother” is a favorite, simply because of the title, lyrics behind it, and how much it feels like you’re going into battle. The epic guitar solo adds icing to the cake making it seems like it is some short but awesome battle sequence you’d see in a movie.
“Grindavísan” may be the folkiest track of the album. This is due to the guitar work and the “warrior gathering” type of introduction. Well that and the vocals transform into a different language, most likely that of the Nordic tongue, which makes it hard to keep up with what kind of story is going on. This, again, feels like another battle anthem.
“Into The Sky” is the shortest piece and showcases to be the most energetic as it enters the chorus. The guitars work together to create an almost power metal-esque epic, transcending “into the sky” if you could compare it in that way. For being a band that isn’t too technical, these guys are sure able to mold their sound into different emotions and moods that leaves the listener interested.
After a few more tracks, propelling the story, we reach the end. The title track comes off to be the longest, just over seven and a half minutes in length. This is the song that you would want to have playing if you were to die in battle and meet The Valkyrie.
Adding onto the end of this album, the band decides to do two covers. Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare” and Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”. The covers are fantastic, especially “Where Eagles Dare” as I’m a big Maiden fan and the homage paid in this cover is near perfect. I thought the Pantera cover was cool and well done, but I don’t care much for the band so take that how you will.
Týr has created an album that puts many excellent ideas together and executes them well. But even with this execution, Valkyrja still seems to lack something. This something could be more experimentation possibly, or maybe that the sound seems so consistent in areas that it feels like many of the tracks meld together TOO much. I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m glad to see a band taking risks with a concept album that some people may not be familiar with the lore of. Definitely check this out, especially if you’re a folk metal fan looking for something out of the norm. Grab your sword and shield and enter the world of Týr.
Rating – 8.9/10