Gods and Sirens : an interview with Heri Joensen of Týr

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 The recent release of their seventh album shows that Týr is a band which continues to create dramatically enthralling confrontations bred from Faroese and Norwegian lore narratives merged with fiercely burning metal. Valkyrja is a strikingly riveting encounter cementing Týr as one of the most potent forerunners to folk and melodically aggressive metal. Fortunate and grateful to steal some of the free time of vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen whilst the band is touring Europe with Finntroll, we get to the depths of their new album, Nordic folklore, songwriting and much more…

Hi Heri, good to meet you and thanks for talking with us.

My pleasure 🙂

Before we get to the focus of the interview, your excellent new album Valkyrja, can you give us some background to the origins of Týr, the inspiration and emergence of the band?

We’re a heavy metal band from the Faeroes. We draw inspiration from Nordic folklore and mythology for our music and lyrics. We’ve been around since 1998, first album in 2001. Valkyrja is our seventh album. Even though we’re usually labelled pagan folk Viking metal, we don’t think we fit that category very well, since we have no ethnic instruments and no extreme vocals

As you mentioned you fuse Faroese folklore and sounds with predacious heavy metal, when did this idea and venture take seed in your thoughts and did you sculpt the approach of the band in the delivery of the music or was that as organic as the songwriting and music?

I had the idea sometime in the mid-nineties. The idea seemed very basic and came naturally, but the execution of it took a lot of adjusting and trials and errors. It took hard work to get to where we are today and we still work hard to keep the standards up and to constantly improve our songwriting and image.

Can you give us some insight to the traditional sounds and mythology/history of the Faroe Islands and musically how it is distinct to say Norwegian or Icelandic traditional sounds for us uninformed souls?

The official mythology is fairly uniform when it comes to the Nordic countries. Almost all of it comes from Iceland. Some parts come from Denmark and some from the Faeroes, but the great bulk of it was written down in Iceland 900 years ago. As for folklore, some myths have been preserved to varying degrees in the rural areas of all the Nordic countries up to recent times; stories about elves, dwarves and other mythological creatures. My grandmother for example told me that the elves disappeared when electric light was introduced to the Faeroes.

As for the music I guess, without knowing that the Faeroes have preserved the most original medieval ballads; although there are quite a few on mainland Scandinavia. Iceland has ironically not preserved the ballads very well, since it was made illegal to perform them there some 300 years ago. The typical Faeroese ballad is very heavy and staccato, whereas the Danish ballads have very beautiful and haunting melodies and flow very easily. Norwegian music is extremely lively and bouncy. It may sound from this that there’s great variation, but the difference I’m talking about here may be negligible to the foreign ear.

Is it an easy and fluid merger between heavy and traditional sounds or do you have to craft and sculpt it intensely to make it flow so seamlessly?

It is very easy to merge and it immediately gives us a very distinct sound, but the better you want it to flow the more you need to sculpt it, and that’s what we’ve been doing more and more recently. For example The Lay Of Our Love on Valkyrja is based on a Faeroese/Danish traditional melody, but it had some odd timing in it, and that doesn’t flow very seamlessly in modern straight-forward metal, so I stretched a phrase in the melody to avoid the odd time and I think the result is ok.

Is there a potent reception and appetite in your homeland for not only your music but metal In general?tyr2

We sell a fair amount of albums, as do some other hard rock and metal bands in the Faeroes. Also traditionally there’s a relatively large proportion of the people who like metal, ever since the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

And any unrest from traditionalists?

Yes, every now and then, but nothing serious. Mostly people are positive about what we’ve done.

As mentioned you have just released your seventh album Valkyrja, which seems to have a more power metal energy and attack to its invention, how do you see it and how would you say your music has evolve over the releases and especially over the past couple of albums, By the Light of the Northern Star and The Lay of Thrym?

We’ve deliberately gone for a more accessible sound, shorter and more straight forward songs. But we still want to keep our signature sound and not sound like we’ve sold out. As for Valkyrja, I think we’ve re-introduced some progressive elements and still kept it accessible.

There seems to be a less aggressive snarl to some of the songs on the album but that is equalised by a greater intensity and passion to their impact, would that be fair to say?

Yes, that may be. I think the music is more varied, and generally more up-tempo. If you think it has more intensity and passion I take your word for it.

Tell us about the concept of Valkyrja , historically and in its interpretation to men and women today.

The concept is based on the Valkyries from Nordic mythology. The protagonist of the story is a nameless Viking who leaves his woman and his homeland to go off to die in battle, in the hope that a Valkyrie will come for him and bring him to Fólkvangr, the realm of Freyja, goddess of sex among other things. Anyone who has been in a romantic relationship knows that there are ups and downs, and any straight guy knows that once you’ve set your aims for a woman there isn’t much you wouldn’t do to make your dreams come true. Those things are the underlying themes of the album.

What sparks your ideas and themes, one at times imagines it is triggered from tales and mythology passed down through generations of your personal family lines or is that fantasising? 

I first learned about Nordic mythology in school around age 11, and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since, so I can’t say it comes from direct family tradition. It’s more of a national tradition.

I believe the album took a year to come to completion from the writing seeds, is that generally the kind of time you spend on a release or was this an unexpected timescape?

We have released albums now with two year intervals, the last four albums I think, so the timescale was the same as usual. Now we’ve already started the next project and we hope to put more work into that than our previous works, and still release it on the same timescale.

Drummer Kári Streymoy left the band before the album was recorded and you brought in the stick master George Kollias. How did you link up with George?

Our manager set us up with George. They know each other from working together in the past.

What did he bring to Valkyrja which exploited your ideas and sounds to the full, and did he exceed and surprise your hopes and expectations?

He brought a completely new drum approach to Valkyrja. He tried out all sorts of things that we hadn’t thought of, and he definitely improved our sound and the flow of the songs.

Tyr-ValkyrjaHow does the songwriting lyrically and musically come to fruition within the band?

I’ve written most of the material in the past, but we’re trying to change that now, as for the music at least. I’ll probably remain the only lyrics author in the future, but we will try to involve more musical ideas from Terji and Gunnar. Terji wrote two songs for Valkyrja, and I may have added some harmonies. And a third song, Blood Of Heroes is one song I based on a riff by Terji. The title track is based on a riff by Gunnar that I arranged into the song that became the title track.

It is an open process embracing ideas with a democratic intent for the main?

I wouldn’t call it an open process. I guess I rule most of the process, at least when it comes to my songs. I’d like to get all parties involved, but it’s not been so easy in the past especially getting used to working over the internet, and not in a rehearsal room.

It is fair to say that not all aspects of folk metal, and maybe it is down to certain bands, in the past was certainly taken as seriously as it deserved, do you think that has changed over recent years?

I don’t like to think of music in terms of genre. What about folk metal could make it deserve being taken seriously? I find that way of thinking completely pointless. Music will be taken seriously on its own merits, and the least of all merits is what genre it is put in by the labels and the press.

Though it seemed ok for the likes of Slipknot and Mushroomhead to dress up, folk metal bands garbed in Viking and warrior attire was almost a joke to the media for a while. Did you face that kind of thought when first emerging and has that become a thing of the past now do you think?

For us it is a thing of the past, definitely. But I see some bands still do it. It’s an image, nothing more, nothing less. The music is still what it is. Imagine if you were blind, the music would still be the same, no matter what the musicians wear on stage. This image thing is all in our heads; still we allow it to interpret the music for us, or to determine whether or not to take it seriously.

As we hold this interview you are amidst a European tour with Finntroll, how is that going and what has the reception to tracks from Valkyrja live been like?

The tour is going well, at the moment we’re enjoying a day off in Strasbourg, France. The new songs have been received particularly well, better than any of our previous releases. Turnout for the shows has been very good too, and we’re very glad we got to be on this tour.

Thanks you again for sharing time to chat with us, any last thoughts before diving back into the tempest of touring?

You’re welcome. Please buy our new album, Valkyrja, and please come to our shows when we play somewhere near you. We’ll put on a great show for you and we’ll all have a good time, how’s that 😉

Read the review of the Metal Blade Records released Valkyrja @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/tyr-valkyrja/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 14/10/2013

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Circles – Infinitas

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Having been seduced and drawn deep into the musical heart of Circles by The Compass EP two years ago, it is fair to say we had like so many, a near lustful anticipation for the Australian progressive metallers debut album Infinitas. The EP was one of those introductions to the senses which came with an instant understanding and emotional connection which is long-term. The new album proves that the hunger and high expectations before its unveiling was justified, the twelve track fire of striking creativity and startling craft a scintillating and breath-taking adventure.

Formed in 2010, the Melbourne quintet first drew attention with their demo Prelude released in the same year, though it was with The Compass that they found a trigger to ignite the widest attention around the globe. Released like the new album via Basick Records, the EP confirmed and elevated the strong reputation already earned by the band from their first release and live performances. Two years in the making, Infinitas emerges as a stunning evolution and expansion of the band’s already impressive sound and unpredictable imagination, a release courting and crossing numerous styles and flavours to create something which is an intriguing mix of full uniqueness wrapped in a call soaked in undefined familiarity, the band knowing what feeds the needs of the appetite but creating it with a wholly original and inventive invention.

The brooding atmospheric lead into the album extends a melodic almost tribal/folk welcome as the impressive vocals of Perry Kakridas Circles_Infinitas_Coverembrace their welcome with his ever striking tones and delivery. With evocative harmonies and wakening guitar strokes bringing Erased fully into view, the song opens up its charms with a potent design before riffs and rhythms unleash their inventive sculpturing of sound and air. The djent whipping of the ear is an immediate enslavement, the craft of guitarists Ted Furuhashi and Matt Clarke a sturdy charge with slithers of sonic enterprise spewing from the depths of their full persuasion. The track twists and writhes across its length, electronic strikes adding a sense of The Browning to moments of the opener whilst the drum craft of Dave Hunter and the soaring delivery of Kakridas fuel further the already awoken appetite for the invigorating start.

The following On My Way backs up the immense start with ease, though the opening almost boy band like vocal caress was disturbing before its brief tenure was splintered by a raging ferocity of riffs. As with all songs any element is a passing wind and the track is soon striding through a constant turning and weaving of imaginative discourse and captivating adventure. Circles always crafts a woven ‘pop’ infectiousness into their songs, a ridiculously contagious temptation which works perfectly within the intensity and here is no exception, the song a magnetic lure with limb and voice drawing potency. Seduction and senses chewing abuse is the order of the situation, the latter equally the driving force to the sensational As It Is Above which launches its prowess next. The track opens with a carnivorous rabidity to sound and vocals, it a perpetual aggressive provocateur around which the band casts a melodic and atmospheric enthrallment which leaves thoughts and imagination floating off in their own realms before being ripped from the peace back into the intensive muscular tempest.

Band and album immediately provide another fire of brilliance through So It Is Below and Another Me. The first of the pair is similar to its predecessor in its united bestial and mesmeric spellbinding of the senses, riffs carving out their dramatic canvas whilst a vocal fury raids the surface as the bass of Drew Patton prowls and preys on the ears with an irresistible rapacious presence. It is a simultaneously crippling and hypnotic temptress of a song which leaves you submerged in its explosive venture. Its successor is the first single from the album, a track which has been laying down a ridiculously irresistible teaser to the album for a while now and even with its now full familiarity still makes another pinnacle within the company of the other tracks.  It is a pop cored track, a melodic infection with a ridiculously addictive chorus which lies upon a rippling, snarling maelstrom of violent ingenuity and ruinous intrigue. The blend is sensational and provides another major highlight in a plateau of nothing but riveting highs.

Through the electronically speared Ground Shift, a kind of Faith No More meets Enter Shikari and Meshuggah, the sonically dazzling Responses, and the emotively sculpted Visions, the album continues to impress even if without reaching the heights laid out before them whilst the elegant Radiant soaks the ears in a distinctive incendiary beauty bringing new corrosively seductive flames to the release. The track is an excellent blaze which has moments of pure enslavement of the passions and others where it merely impresses for the fullest enjoyment, which is a success any band would dream of.

Wheels in Motion takes little time in thrusting Infinitas up further levels in the passions with its melodic rock and progressive metal narrative alongside absorbing technical imagination; the songwriting and track a ravishing exploration of exquisitely hued sounds and emotions.  The Signal climbs even deeper into the heart with its rhythmic and melodic incantation which caresses like a lover and enthrals like the fullest sunset. It is a brief rapturous encounter which leaves the sonic torrent of beauty and incitement that is Verum Infiniti to conclude a quite outstanding and enlivening album. Infinitas is a masterful encounter, a release which outshines the already high hopes and expectations which bred in thoughts before its arrival. Admittedly its middle passage slips below the extensive heights which top and tail the album but that is due to the pure excellence of the other tracks  and cannot prevent Circles providing yet again one of the most sensational and thrilling triumphs to grace ears.

http://circlesband.com

9/10

RingMaster 14/10/2013

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Emperor Chung – Self Titled

Emperor Chung Online Promo Shot

If their self-titled debut album is a sign of things to come, UK rock band Emperor Chung is going to be one impressive and incendiary proposition for British rock music. The eleven track release is a riveting introduction to a band which has been causing quite a stir with their fresh and diverse sound. It is an album which does miss the opportunity to be an instant classic but as a reservoir of promise and the seed of expectations of big things to come, it is a striking and potent triumph.

Coming from Ilkeston in Derbyshire and formed in late 2011, Emperor Chung has taken little time in making their mark locally and further afield with a sound which has drawn comparisons to those such as Queen, Thin Lizzy, Coheed & Cambria, and Alter Bridge in various ways. Consisting of vocalist Martin Jackson, guitarists Danny Beardsley (formerly of Isolysis) and Richard Shaw (also of NG26), bassist Dan Hayes, and drummer Eddie Hodgkinson (formerly Eight Idle Hands), all bringing strong experience from their previous exploits, Emperor Chung has been on a rapid and impressive rise which their album is sure to accelerate. Their performance at Download earlier this year set the country’s rock scene on full alert, which the album creatively reinforces and with appearances at the YNOT festival with The Darkness, Macmillanfest with Tesseract, and numerous other shows taking the year into the next you can only feel their ascent is picking up speed.

The wintery scene to the start of I Vow This Day brings in instant drama and menace which has thoughts licking their lips, especially whenEmperor Chung Cover Artwork a tight inviting groove from the guitar beckons. The impressive vocals of Jackson soon make their appealing mark also and when the chorus with Beardsley adding his strong tones moves over for an even greater lure to that original groove, the track has full eager attention. From there it does not exactly hold its grip but with good sonic displays and feisty rhythms perpetually nagging the ear, it is a pleasing if not striking start to the album.

The following To Bring Justice and Downpour soon raise levels as the band and release begins to stretch their creativity and adventure. The first is a smouldering heat of strong vocals and melodic imagination which from its stirring opening flexing of sinews and emotive intensity evolves into a tantalising weave of progressive rock and evocative colour crafted by the guitars and veined by the throaty call of the bass and the snarling riffs. It is the first pinnacle of the album and does makes its predecessor look a little pale. The classic rock sculpted build of its successor provides a muscular and equally warm sonic blaze. The track creates a contagious web around the ears but as a few times on the album just does not take that final step or bite to secure a lingering slavery of the passion; nevertheless the song as the album is a richly appetising encounter which leaves satisfaction full.

The album is themed by a story of an Emperor Penguin, Chico Chung who is hunting down the members of the Chinese zodiac who murdered his father. It sounds a little Kung Fu Panda like taken out of context but the wrap of the bands enterprise, which starts with the outstanding artwork around the album to the lyrical fun and craft not forgetting gripping sounds, brings the premise successfully within the potent persuasion of tracks, like the next up My Next Foe and Pyramid. Both tracks in their individual landscapes paint an evocative progressive/melodic narrative which explores the imagination, and though neither grips the plateaus of some of the other songs they leave a brewing hunger in their wake for more, which the likes of No Mercy and the band’s first single The Bloodline supply with accomplished craft and inventive temptation. The first of these two has a familiarity to it and often reminds of Coheed & Cambria whilst the second offers a slowly building melodic caress from guitars and vocals which takes little time to seduce attention and thoughts. It is an obvious lead into the album for newcomers if not the best track on the release.

That honour belongs to Our Weaknesses, a scintillating track which from its intriguing guitar mystique at the start soon expels a technically teasing and invigorating fire of intensity and invention which reminds of Tesseract though across the enthralling song and not for the first time on the album, there is also a strong breeze of Manic Street Preachers coating its irresistible flames. It is the best thing on the album by far, which considering the strength of all songs gives an idea of its majesty, guitars carving out an addictive entrapment which the great rhythmic predation and snarling vocals stalk and ignite further.

The impressive Victory’s Calling and the mouth-watering Apex bring the album towards an intensely enjoyable close leaving Free At Least and its melodic yet rapacious suasion to conclude a thoroughly thrilling and impressive release. As impressive as it is you do feel there is an element of a lost opportunity with not enough songs fulfilling their open potential but with all drenched in unmistakable and infectious promise it is only a matter of time before Emperor Chung do create a ‘classic’ you feel. For now their debut is a wholly enterprising and hunger sufficing treat from a band destined to major things.

http://emperorchung.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheEmperorChung

8.5/10

RingMaster 14/10/2013

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Shhh… Apes! – The Shapes of Apes to Come EP

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An enveloping melodic caress and rich sonic exploration which draws on the imagination as much as the passions, The Shapes of Apes to Come EP is a refreshing and invigorating debut by UK project Shhh… Apes! Consisting of five tracks which paint and sculpt evocative landscapes and emotive endeavours, the release is an absorbing flight through thought ruffling, emotion seducing adventure. At times a consuming provocation on the memory and in other moments a lingering warm invasive enchantment, the EP is a magnetic embrace which is unique and adventurous, an encounter sure to provoke a lustful hunger for time and things to come.

The South Wales based Shhh…Apes! is the creation of Mark Foley, a man who has been in numerous bands such as Vito, Strange News From Another Star, Bravecaptain (Martin Carr’s post-Boo Radleys project), and The Secret Show (with Matt Davies of Funeral For A Friend). He also runs a rehearsal/recording studio called Musicbox as well as occasionally globetrotting as a tour manager; it is this busy life of Foley which has seen Shhh…Apes! take five years to emerge from its initial conception. Now finally ready to be unveiled, the project is ensuring it makes the strongest impression with its scintillating debut EP. Drawing in the talent of vocalist Lianne Francis, guitarist Stuart Michel, drummer and percussionist Andrew Plain, and trombonist Lewis Griffiths, alongside himself and producer Charlie Francis (REM, Future Of The Left ,The High Llamas) who also contributes keys to the release, Foley has  built a cast of imagination and invention which soaks each note and second of the release. Atmospheric, emotionally elegant, and rampantly provocative, The Shape Of Apes To Come is a minimalistically scented full bloom of expansive atmospheric captivation.

Painkiller is the opening encounter, its walking guitar coaxing, within a delicious corrupted caustic rub, the enticing beckoning into the a3982198468_2beauty hued dual vocal hug of Foley and Francis, their harmonies and soothing deliveries an exceptional temptation into the heart of the song and release. With great ambling rhythms skirting their every syllable, the song expands its melodic ambient delivering arms, expelling a flame of sonic imagination and breath-taking invention. Through its eventful soundscape the guitars and vocals lead thoughts through evolving incitement whilst the brass stroking of the ear only enhances the depth and potent colour of the bewitchment. It is simply a spellbinding experience.

The following I Am Thin adds spots of glockenspiel from Andy Cowan to the guitar and brass lined ambience which surrounds and gently crowds the ear from the start, whilst the air and intensity at work is a smouldering lure which gently boils across the opening half of the track as rhythms and keys providing a complimentary cloak to the guitar conjurations. It is an evocative template for the mind and imagination to toy and create individual plays with before everything takes a breather for the again vocal glamour of the pair to share their rich voice of sound and tale. A sultry air covers the ballad as it makes its final impassioned weave and though the track is not is immediate as its predecessor it is an aural incantation which lies deeply within senses and heart.

Both Fall and Three Horses make their individual enthralling and impacting sways, the first with a resourceful flaming of trombone with trumpet by Francesca Dimech around that again arousing vocal combination. Ripe in shadow and vibrant in melodic beauty, the track is a transfixing burn on the psyche whilst the following song is a melancholic ballad which holds hand with reflective thought and emotional seduction. The melodic encircling of the body raises goosebumps on the neck which hold tight from start to finish, its charm parading further expansion of the songwriting and imagination bearing upon the senses.

The release closes with the electro fizzing Angel Calling Down, the synths of the song bringing a psychedelic lilt to its inviting slow waltz. With the brass again building spires of tempting fire within the smothering humid air, the song is a mesmeric invocation which lifts its energy as it flies into a romping yet sophisticated dance. The best song on the immense release it brings The Shapes of Apes to Come EP to a sizzling conclusion.

Shhh… Apes! is a presence which leaves the kind of branding upon the mind and heart which burns deeper over time, its rewards majestic and innovatively seducing.

http://shhhapes.com/

9/10

RingMaster 14/10/2013

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Naked Lunch – Slipping Again, Again

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Following their return with the single Alone earlier this year, UK electric rock band Naked Lunch back up its intrigue and success with new release Slipping Again, Again. Building on its predecessor’s potent temptation the new single ups the ante with its magnetic and enthralling shadow clad electronic enterprise and electro punk seduction.

Consisting of band founder vocalist Tony Mayo with original members Mick Clark and Cliff Chapman alongside Paul Davies who was in one of the band’s earlier line-ups, and newest members Mark Irvine and Jet Noir, Naked Lunch has shown that time has enriched their snarl and imaginative depths, and they were never short on those facets when they emerged in 1979. A key influence and driving force in much of the eighties electronic movement, in sound and behind the scenes including the coming together of the important Some Bizarre album via Mute Records, the band had a difficult time with line-up instability and the like, though it did release the single Rabies and contribute the track La Femme to the aforementioned album, two iconic tracks to emerge form that period, before disbanding. Their return in 2012 at the BAS II and the haunting dark caress of comeback single Alone brought the band back to the attention and appetites of fans old and new; a hunger which the new release will only increase you suspect.

Slipping Again, Again is a reworking of the B-side Slipping Again from the 1981 single Rabies. It is a darker, more sinister and intense presence than the original but an encounter which does not lose the essence and heart of the song, instead giving it a fresher breath and stronger intrigue. The opening electronic breeze is soon grasping the spiralling bass fuelled throat of the dark magnetism immediately at work within the song. Guitars scar the air with acidic endeavour whilst the vocals of Mayo, showing age and maturity which is strikingly noticeable when playing both versions of the song side by side, bring further menace and confrontation to the track, his dark croon a provocative incitement within the contagious call of the song. With a delicious rhythmic dance ensnaring the senses and emotions further, the song is an irresistible lure which as good as the original was presents a scintillating new presence.

Hinted at on Alone, there is a stronger undeniable Frank Tovey breath to certainly the darkest edges and depths of Slipping Again, Again, a spice which only increases the temptation of the song. It all adds to a single which leaves full satisfaction and pleasure at large, and as much as the want for new material from Naked Lunch is an open wish, Slipping Again, Again fills the gap with impressive enticement and thrilling suasion.

www.nakedlunch.org.uk

8.5/10

RingMaster 14/10/2013

 

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