Týr, Land (Napalm Records, 2008)

A couple of months ago I reviewed the 2006 album Ragnarok, by the band Týr. Hailing from the remote Faroe Islands in the northeastern corner of the Atlantic Ocean, Heri Joensen (guitar and vocals), Terji Skibenæs (guitar), Gunnar H. Thomsen (bass), and Kári Streymoy (drums) combine heavy metal with the Celtic and Nordic musical traditions that shaped the culture of their homelands. The band just released a new album called Land. Like Ragnarok, Land is a concept album; the songs this time around relate tales of voyages across the sea.

Land begins rather ominously, with a Faroese lyric composed by the Islands' most famous poet, J. H. O. Djurhuus. The poem is actually a spell, cast by the sorceror Trond to protect the Faroe Islands and their pagan culture against Norse invaders intent on Christianizing the Islands. The leader of this force, a Faroese native named Sigmund, is an actual historical figure. The poem is recited over a traditional Faroese tune played not by the band, but by a string quartet. Faroese tunes like this one mash the Nordic and Celtic influences together, resulting in a style that sounds somewhat familiar yet is very complex rhythmically. The band kicks in after the poem is done, turning the Faroese melody into a heavy metal riff that becomes the dominant musical theme on the album.

The subsequent songs on the album follow the lead of the opening piece. Voyagers from places like Scotland and Norway and from many different historical moments cross paths with the Faroese people. Sometimes the voyages involve a confrontation, and sometimes the voyages involve an escape from hardship and the quest for a new life elsewhere. More songs on Land are sung in Faroese than there were on Ragnarok, which was sung mostly in English. The lyrics borrow heavily from Faroese poems and legends, and also from a Norwegian poem written by Edvard Storm in the eighteenth century called "Sinklars Vísa (The Ballad of Sinclair)." Featuring some excellent group vocals, this particular song recalls the brutal ambush of an army of Scottish mercenaries who were hired by the Danes to fight the Norwegians. The two songs mostly in English, "Ocean" and "Land," are both epic pieces lasting over ten minutes.

While I don't think the underlying concept was quite as effective on Land as it was on Ragnarok, the album is still solid. Joensen's vocals are strong throughout, and the group harmonies were particularly well done. Týr's musical prowess should not be overlooked, either. Coupling the complexities of their homeland's traditional music with the volume and speed you'd expect from a heavy metal record is not an easy task. Týr are one of the most consistently fascinating bands that I'm aware of, and I look forward to hearing what they do next.

Land also contains a concert DVD filmed at a performance in 2007. The vocals weren't quite as tight live as they were on record, but otherwise the DVD is a fun bonus.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

"Sinklars Visa"

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