March 4, 2019 TÝR – Hel (Album Review)
TÝR has made a name for themselves in Folk Metal as consistent champions in the field. Having released their first five full-length albums over the course of seven years, they quickly branded themselves as prolific purveyors of their craft. However, the band did take some time away to hit the road and begin crafting their next release.
Now, after a six-year break since their 2013 album, Valkyrja, the guys have returned to offer up a new sampling of Norse and Viking mythological grandiose Metal for the masses. Their eighth studio album, Hel, is set to release on March 8, 2019 through Metal Blade Records, and it is the culmination of the work put in during their recording hiatus. Composed of Heri Joensen (vocals/ guitar), Attila Vörös ( guitar), Gunnar “Gunz” H. Thomsen (bass), and Tadeusz Rieckmann (drums), TÝR has returned to the scene with a new arsenal of songs that encompass not only their Faroese roots and stories of legend, but their skills and musical dexterity.
Hel begins with a classic Folk Metal sound that includes a jogging percussive pace and accompanying chord progression that jolt and jaunts across the first track, “Gates of Hel.” Compared to their contemporaries and even some of their own previous work, despite the lovely guitar solo at the bridge, it’s a bit of a slow start. This is not to say it’s not without its merit, but it’s not the “wake up and pay attention” track many artists usually select to kick off their albums. This is one of many places where TÝR differs from their peers, because the following track, “ All Heroes Fall,” is far more sonically interesting at the onset than its predecessor. Here the listener is given a sharp guitar riff to kick things off before de-escalating into a much grander, fuller sound that rips and runs in dynamics that keep the ear guessing.
The band shows respect to their roots and heritage with two ballads performed completely in Faroese, “Ragnars Kvæði,” and “Álvur Kongur.” Lyrical differences aside, it is the emotion and delivery of these songs that set them apart. They are measured and intentional in their performance. In “Ragnars Kvæði,” here is no grandiose overture meant to impress or astound the listener, there is just an earnest homage to their home and the great mythos that enshrouds it. Who doesn’t love a good Viking ballad?
If there is one thing TÝR does well is guitar solos and instrumentation. This is not to say that their vocal charm or capability is lacking, but in many ways, it pales compared to their orchestration. There are many bands who try so hard to be great songwriters, musicians, and performers that all three lack considerably. This is not the case with TÝR. As exemplified on Hel, the men of TÝR are definitely not deficient on all these fronts, but rather where they shine is in their capabilities as students. It is apparent from listening to this album that they have invested a lot of time into learning their craft, defining their niche, carving out their skills, and finding new ways to apply these things to their music.
Songs like “Fire and Flame” and the first album single, “Sunset Shore,” display this adaptation and learning curve with their incredibly different approaches and development. “Fire and Flame,” much like its name implies, is more dynamic and engaging, whereas “Sunset Shore” lends itself to its namesake with a more waning overtone. Long-time fans will be able to hear the progression from Valkyrja to Hel and the little tricks the band picked up along the way. The string work is strong here, especially when compared to their earlier work. They are taking new chances here and extending their reach a little at a time. This is apparent on “Against the Gods” where the fretwork is in over time along with the percussion, both of which also rip in “Empire of the North.”
Overall, Hel is a respectable showing of TÝR’s ability to adapt and leverage the things they learn into a showcase of styles. Both diverse and yet expected, Hel is not reinventing the wheel, but it is displaying what can be done when you put different rims on one. With a sound that is both well-rounded in its finesse and technical aptitude and eclectic in its application, TÝR has given long-time fans something new to devour and first-time listeners a bento box of offerings to choose from. So, for diversity and eccentricity, Cryptic Rock gives TÝR’s Hel 3.5 out of 5 stars.