Týr, The Lay of Thrym (Napalm Records, 2011)

Nearly a decade after the release of their first album, Týr have established themselves as a distinctive and creative "Viking metal" band while putting their native Faroe Islands on the musical map. This May, they released their sixth studio album The Lay of Thrym. All of Týr's albums deal in some way with the history and folklore of the Faroese people and their Viking ancestors, and the new album is certainly not an exception. The band members, led by singer/guitarist Heri Joensen, firmly believe that the old Norse myths and legends have lessons that the modern world can learn something from, and The Lay of Thrym follows previous albums like Ragnarok in placing a particular Nordic myth in a contemporary context. In this case, a story preserved since the 13th century in an Icelandic manuscript serves as the basis of a response by Týr to some unfortunate and wholly inaccurate accusations about the band's motivations.

Thrym, in the myth, is a giant who steals Thor's hammer and demands the hand of the goddess Freyja in marriage as ransom. In response, Thor goes to the giant's home dressed as Freyja, while Loki poses as a bridesmaid. Loki provides Thrym with explanations for his bride-to-be's most unladylike behavior, and the ruse is kept up long enough for Thor to get his hands on the hammer and set things right. On Týr's new album, Thrym represents political and moral opression, while Thor is the role model for doing whatever it takes to defeat tyranny in all its forms. While the need to choose freedom over dictatorship might seem like something that shouldn't need an album's worth of explanation, Týr and other Viking/pagan metal bands have had to defend themselves against criticisms from people who have equated their use of old Norse symbology with the Nazis' use of these symbols. Joensen addresses the issue directly on "Shadow of the Swastika," telling both neo-Nazis and those who think Týr endorse any sort of neo-Naziism to stay away and "kiss my Scandinavian ass."

Týr have often been described as "folk metal," and while the metal always outweighs the folk, the Nordic and Faroese folk influences give their sound a distinct and appealing flavor. The Lay of Thrym includes several songs partially or totally taken from traditional Danish and Faroese ballads, and Týr have always excelled at mixing the Medieval with the modern. For example, "Ellindur Bóndi Á Ja∂ri" tells the story of a farmer with thirty children, who comments in the king's hall that it's suitable for dancing. Like many traditional Faroese tunes, the song has a peculiar hitch in the rhythm, but Týr have no difficulty making that work in a heavy metal context. Returning to more contemporary influences, the band pay tribute to the late metal singer Ronnie James Dio on the two bonus tracks. Covering the Black Sabbath song "I" requires no small amount of attitude, but Týr pull it off quite well. "Stargazer," dating back to Dio's days with Rainbow, gets a rock solid treatment as well.

Týr's uniquely scholarly approach to heavy metal always makes their albums interesting and fun, and The Lay of Thrym is merely the latest in a lengthy catalog of albums worthy of a few listens even if you're not normally a fan of metal. They have a growing cult following in the U. S., and with plans in place for a musical based on their songs, they could be approaching a major breakthrough.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

Týr found their way south of the Equator for this recent performance of "Shadow of the Swastika" in Brazil.

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