Tuesday 12 March 2019

Týr - Hel (2019)

Country: Faroe Islands
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 8 Mar 2019
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We may be taking the high road while Týr take the low road on the opening track, Gates of Hel, but they're no Scottish band. Sadly I missed them in 2018 when they came through Arizona but that also meant that I missed the protestors because Týr are the only other reason, with whale hunting, why anyone here has even heard of the Faroe Islands.

I'm English so I've heard of the Faroe Islands but I haven't heard as much of their premier musical export as I should. I have enjoyed what I have heard and this feels accomplished from moment one. It's Týr's eighth album and the six years since their prior release is twice as long as they've ever taken before. They must have been bursting with material and it shows because a wild energy is obvious here. They want back into our ears.

It's also a long album, running a full seventy minutes, though everyone in the band starts out frantically, as if they want to reach the end tape as soon as is humanly possible. For a while, this is a album in the form of a sprint, though it does that through sheer power, catchy vocals and moments for all the band members rather than any attempt to leap into thrash. It's as fast as I'm aware the band have gone.

Gates of Hel and All Heroes Fall are both full of busy runs for each band member. Gunnar Thomsen gets some very prominent runs on his bass, but the guitars of Heri Joensen and new guitarist Attila Vörös don't miss out on the fun and neither do the drums of new fish Tadeusz Rieckmann. The band definitely start out as they mean to carry on, with an heavier and much more overtly power metal feel but less folk elements.

Ragnars kvæði shows a different style. This is a slower song, progressive musically and with completely different vocals, not only because the song is sung in what I presume in Faroese (all but two tracks are performed in English) but because it's done more as a chant than a song. The style fits absolutely in the folk metal arsenal but it's the only time it's hauled out here in what is otherwise very much a power metal album.

That goes for Joensen's vocals as much as the admirable instrumentation behind them. This is lively stuff, as both folk and power metal often tend to be. I had to pause this my first time through after a dozen tracks and the silence to which I returned seemed much deeper than what preceded the album starting. It's an album that moves into your house and makes itself very comfortable indeed.

The question, of course, is whether it'll move back out again with just as little invitation. I've heard impressive albums that command our attention and impress on every front but which vanish off into the distance as soon as we turn them off, as if we'd never heard them to begin with. On a first listen, the biggest problem here is that the sound is very consistent from one song to another, with only Ragnars kvæði doing anything particularly different.

With eight tracks over forty minutes, a consistent sound really isn't much of a problem, if that sound is good, which it certainly is. With thirteen tracks over seventy minutes, however, a little variety is needed and I was keen to find out if that variety would show up on a second listen.

Well, some individual tracks do start to stand out a little, but it's not an easy process and many of them still sound very similar. Sunset Shore is a heavy ballad and Against the Gods has some patience to it. Far from the Worries of the World has a more singalong chorus and a folky instrumental chase in the midsection; it also ends well with a quiet little coda that leads into the quiet little intro to King of Time. It may be illusion but there seems to be more soloing later on.

Clearly, though, it'll take more than two listens for these songs to start to really distinguish themselves. If the songs are lessened by sounding so similar, the good news is that they're all good songs. There isn't a duff track here and, heard outside the framework of the album, each and every one of them would impress.

I like this new faster and heavier Týr and the future seems bright for them. Now, let's not wait another six years for the next album!

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