The past decade has seen Faroe Islands metallers Týr grab and cage their own potent place at the fore of folk metal, their Faroese or Norwegian lore spawned creative narratives and traditional seeded sound an ever dramatically enthralling confrontation which has ignited the passions of a loyal growing legion of followers. Their new and seventh album Valkyrja continues the ever persuasive and riveting stature of their presence and their inventively bred form of Viking metal. It is a release which maybe at times struggles to emulate the full heights of previous Týr albums such as By the Light of the Northern Star and The Lay of Thrym, but equally very often it roars from new pinnacles set by the band with fires of imagination and quality burning fiercely. Overall Valkyrja is a pungently agreeable and strikingly riveting encounter, the notice that Týr is still a leading power of folk metal.
Their first release with Metal Blade Records, Valkyrja is a ‘concept album themed loosely around an anonymous Viking age warrior who leaves his woman and goes off to impress the Valkyrie on the battlefield so that she may bring him to Valhalla, or to Fólkvangr, the home of Freyja—the goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, sorcery, war, and death’. At the same time seemingly looking at how far men will go to impress women and their influence on these acts and ideas, the album took a year from writing to completion. Recorded with Jacob Hansen, the album also sees George Kollias (Cerebrum, The Circle of Zaphyan, Extremity Obsession, Nightfall, Nile…) providing the drums on the recording alongside vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen, guitarist Terji Skibenæs, and bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen, his skills replacing Kári Streymoy who parted ways with TÝR after the band completed their US run on Pagan Fest.
The addition of the Greek stick master immediately has an impact with opener Blood of Heroes, his touch debatably less intensive and aggressive than his predecessor but offering a more stylish blaze of rhythmic provocation and framework for songs. The first rapping of the ear amidst fire steeled grooves and melodic twisting is respectful but commanding as it casts a firm web for the ever impressive vocals of Joensen and the scintillating guitar imagination to carve their exceptional design within. The opener alone reports that the artistry and melodic ingenuity of the band is as rich and absorbing as ever whilst the energetic urgency and persuasion of the musical narrative is overwhelmingly insistent and tempting.
The following Mare of My Night, with its succubus like sexual seduction laying down an intensive and sonically hued adventure which seemingly has come under fire for its lyrical content by a few for some reason, dances with the imagination and passion through a shadow clad bewitchment which itself preys welcomingly whilst its successor Hel Hath No Fury takes little time in taking and holding onto best track status upon Valkyrja. As many of the songs there is a thrash predation to the track to provide a rapacious hunger and sinew within the infectious torrent of anthemic allurement from vocals, harmonies, and chorus underpinned by a deliciously blistering guitar ingenuity and rhythmic stroll. Irresistibly contagious and epically magnetic, the song is the band at its captivating best.
Both The Lay of Our Love and Nation continue the strong start even if within the shade of the previous triumph; the first of the pair a fetching ballad featuring a duet between and guest vocalist Liv Kristine from Leave’s Eyes and its successor a bullish charge with sinews flaring like the nostrils of a muscle driven stallion as it expels a sonically lit intensity erupting into scorching melodic flames. They are soon surpassed by Another Fallen Brother, a song with a thrash embrace which at times undeniably has a Metallica like breath and a littering of grooves and melodic contagion which employs the full range of senses and imagination through to emotions in its irrepressibly galvanic enterprise.
The ‘vintage’ Týr like call of Grindavi’san and the busy melodic weave of Fa’nar Burtur Brandaljo’d keeps ears and emotions riveted whilst between the two songs, Into the Sky regains the lofty heights of some of the previous songs which the surrounding ones let slip slightly. A flight through soaring vocals and sonic flames whilst a melody enriched tonic of excellence smoulders within and ignites the passions into a greedy hunger for the song’s invention, the track is a deeply satisfying treat. Lady of the Slain and the title track are equally dynamically tantalising and commanding of the passions, the first a broad call of full chested rhythmic and intensive sonic invention across yet another fascination of melodic and harmonic folk spawned rabidity whilst its partner is a slowly burning entrapment which builds with emotive expertise and musical grandeur into a spellbinding courting of the listener.
Completed by two cover songs, Iron Maiden’s Where Eagles Dare, and Pantera’s Cemetery Gate, the first simply a more than decent encounter and the second a more inspired and intriguing thrill, Valkyrja is a thoroughly engaging and riotously anthemic release which at its height leaves the majority of folk metal releases in its wake and at its lower levels stands as an inspiring equal to the best many others have to offer. Týr still roam the highest towers of their genre it is fair to say on the evidence of Valkyrja.
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