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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Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Týr – Valkyrja

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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 Ty'r - Valkyrjaaggressive 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.

http://www.tyr.fo/

8/10

RingMaster 17/09/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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