The 7th album by Faroese metal group TYR moves a long way from the previous CD's theme of tyranny and the Arab Spring (`The Lay of Thrym'), to focus on relations between men and women and the strange things that these drive men to do. The main thread running through it is the story of a Viking who leaves his real-life sweetheart to seek death in battle so that a Valkyrie can carry him to Valhalla. The theme of escaping the frustrations of life through death is a sombre one, though not uncommon in TYR's work. Here it is made darker by the fact that the Viking's abandoned wife revisits him as a fellating demon (inspiring TYR's first sexually explicit lyric in `Mare of My Nights'), and we are not totally sure if his ambitions for Valhalla are fulfilled. However the hopes surrounding his death make for some fine and moving music especially in `Another Fallen Brother', `Into the Sky', and `Fánar Burtur Brandarljóð' (`the sound of swords fades', one of the CD's two non-English tracks). Online reviews of the music so far have ranged from good to ecstatic. True, the general plan of the CD is strongly reminiscent of the last one; the melodic material is not all that varied, though helped by picking up some ideas from Heri Joensen's Faroese album `Heljareyga'; and some tracks are on the weak side to stand alone. But there are wonderful things here too, including a first-ever duet by Heri with guest singer Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull (`Lay of our Love') that tingles the spine. A secondary theme is Faroese nationalism, as reflected also in the anthem-like rendering of `Grindavísan' which celebrates the hand-to-hand cull of pilot whales. Above all, the musicianship is faultless and Heri Joensen's voice ranges as needed from the gruff and scratchy to the almost operatic. Somehow, a larger and more cosmic space seems to have been opened up here for the music to fill - perhaps imaging the Viking's predicament between earth and heaven - and TYR have been given room to stretch themselves, also in the two bonus tribute numbers. George Kollias, taking over on drums from Kari Streymoy who has left the group because of back problems, brings no drop in quality. In short: a must for fans, and an excellent place for new listeners to start.
I came across Tyr three years ago and last year travelled to York for the Yorvik celebrations to see them perform live following the release of 'The Lay Of Thrym'. I was not disappointed, and the atmosphere within the claustrophobic venue full of chain mail wearing re-enactors, was electric. The band rocked, and I proudly held my heathen hammer high when called for by the singer, Heri Joensen. Because of the thematic content of Tyr's songs they naturally fall into the rock sub-category of 'Viking Metal' but unlike the majority of the groups that fall within this genre, the songs are beautifully crafted and Heri's vocals powerfully emotive without recourse to the tuneless growls and comic roars that seem so prolific amongst other Viking inspired ensembles. Admittedly, Tyr's earlier material, from various differing line-ups, is not really to my taste - a little too 'folkie' for me. But the current line-up of Heri Joensen on vocals and guitar, Terji Skibenaes on guitar and Gunnar Homsen on bass, are a tight, heavy and rocking force at the top of their game, and despite them loosing their regular drummer on this album, it achieves the near-impossible and if anything manages to eclipse both 'The Lay Of Thrym' and 'By The Light Of The Northern Star' for sheer rocking brilliance. Acclaimed drummer, George Kollias, fits in seamlessly with the bands incomparable style, though being a Greek national, one wonders how he will fit in with the long-haired and bearded Faeroe Islanders if he ever appears on-stage with the band. As has been mention by other reviewers, Valkyrja is a concept album, and follows the exploits of a warrior leaving his hall and his beloved wife to go off to war and, well, die for his nation and countrymen. Unlike others here, it seems to me that Valkyrja, is more a story of love and honour and the misgivings of one who has been swept to Asgard on the wings of the God's Hand Maidens, only to regret the loss of his more earthly possessions back home on Midguard. What ever the albums final message might be, Valkyrja is a masterpiece with too many highlights to mention any one in particular, but if forced, I would mention 'The Lay Of Our Love' which is a spiralling and totally moving duet between Heri Joensen and Liv Kristine of the band Leaves' Eyes. My only criticism of the album, again, if forced to find one, would be that the songs are occasionally too short, so carried away do you become in both the content and the music that you don't want them to end. As on The Lay Of Thrym, there are a couple of songs sung in their native language and a couple of covers added as extra tracks to end the album, in this case superb renditions of Iron Maiden's 'Where Eagles Dare' and Pantera's 'Cemetery Gates' which are, dare I say it, better than the originals. If you love your rock to be intelligently written, masterfully performed with vocals and guitar solos to die for, then give this album a listen. By Odin's beard, I swear you will not be disappointed.
Tyr remain to be a consistently great band with well-crafted songs with interesting lyrics based upon Norse mythology, Scandinavian history, culture and music which is in itself a bit of an education. What is great about each album is that they do manage to weave a theme that binds the songs together and in this the album can tell it's own tale as well as each song does itself. In Valkyrja there are a couple that stand out. First is the story of a nameless man who hopes to go off to war and be slain in battle so that he may be carried away by the Valkyries and end up in one of the two halls where the chosen slain are sent to, one being owned by Odin and the other belonging to the goddess Freyja who has associations with warriors killed in battle. Quite a typical theme for this sort of music but what is interesting is that the other common theme is the part that women and female mythical figures feature in this and the different aspects of these ladies. Mare of my Night is rather surprising for a Tyr song as it is rather sexually explicit but is based on from what I can gather a sort of succubus type creature and in the commentary CD with the deluxe edition, Heri and Terji explain some of the Scandinavian folklore that inspired it. Hel Hath No Fury could be said to be how things can go sour when the relationships between men and women break down and also maybe a bit of what the protagonist went through. The Lay of Our Love is a nice ballad with the lady in question being that of the wife or lover who doesn't want her partner to leave for war. Liv Kristne from Leaves Eyes provides some vocals, I know there were some groans when this was released but Tyr have written quite a few "love" songs on earlier albums. Lady of the Slain is quite clearly referring to Freyja with it's mention of crying tears of gold, her chariot drawn by cats, her boar and her necklace. I think it's fair to say that in all of these songs in some small way the great and the bad aspects of women are covered and their part in the mythology and history is brought more to the fore when they are often forgotten or disregarded. That is not to say the music is in any way effeminate, but it makes for a much more balanced view on the mythology and makes this album stand out more from the usual Viking/Pagan metal fare. This album is not quite my favourite by Tyr, but this is solid work with memorable and catchy songs and in a live setting quite a number of the songs proved to be excellent additions to their playlist.
The deluxe edition is rather nice. You get a poster of the album art, a guitar pick, and the commentary CD which has Heri and Terji commenting on each song. At first I was a bit bemused at how one would do a commentary CD on music, it seems the band were a bit too when I listened to the first track on this! It's not essential but it is nice to hear the story or history behind the lyrics or the inspiration and at least is better than a poor live show DVD or worse as some bands have released as a limited edition extra, a disc of cringe-worthy band antics and behind the scenes stuff. I think this perhaps reflects the fact that many fans of Tyr are at least intrigued or like me do like to go away and read up on the myths or history behind the songs so would be interested to find out more.
Overall this is a good album, thematically it fits in perfectly but has that twist to it which has been handled well and shows a maturity in the song writing.
Týr's latest release continues on a great collection of underrated, quality Metal but somehow I feel that Valkyrja does not quite live up to previous albums such as "Land" and "By The Light Of The Northern Star". However I give them a lot of credit for continually changing their style enough to make the album feel fresh but similar enough to keep the loyal fan base happy. While Týr tracks tend to be a great listen, I've found that I only tent to really appreciate them after listening to them on several occasions so I might be judging Valkyrja prematurely since I've only had one listen of the album so far.
Overall, Valkyrja is definitely worth owning and if you like Týr or similar bands, you will not be disappointed, its just that this is not their best album.
Tyr are amazing, their songs are not only gloriously Viking through and through, they are also very catchy. I find myself walking around work with their tunes stuck in my head and a more than passing need to swing an axe at people that annoy me. More so than usual!
tyr have changed their sound around over the years , all while maintaining the heart of warriors and this is battle metal at its finest. Simple enough stuff on one hand yet deliciously melodic, really catchy and really deep , stirring stuff. I cant fault this too much, the ballad with the female singer hasn't won me over but everything else is fantastic and the two covers are two great songs in their own right and the lads stamp a fine mark on them.
Love this album. As a writer that uses Norse mythology a lot I find it inspiring. Beautiful but strong vocals, accessible to those not into super-heavy metal. Just perfect fodder for my inner fantasy world -- what girl doesn't like sexy Vikings that can sing and play guitar? Honestly, find me even one!!