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Tyr - The lay of Thrym 4.5/5

Reviewed: 4-1-12


1. Flames of the free
2. Shadow of the swastika
3. Take your tyrant
4. Evening star
5. Hall of freedom
6. Fields of the fallen
7. Konning Hans
8. Ellindur bondi a jadri
9. Nine worlds of lore
10. The lay of Thrym
11. I
12. Stargazer

It’s no secret that I love everything Tyr have ever done. A quick spin through the “alpha links” section of the Metal CD Ratings website will turn up one breathlessly enthusiastic Tyr review after another, all written by me. So obviously I am in no way objective about this band. That said, I do understand and appreciate that the Faroese masters rubbed a few longtime fans the wrong way with their 2009 release, ‘By the light of the northern star’, which featured a stripped-down, uptempo, predominantly English-language power metal sound that moved away from the ponderous doomy (even progressive) Faroese-tongued epic tracks that characterized the likes of ‘Land’ and ‘Eric the Red’. Much as I adore the old stuff, I welcomed the tweak of Tyr’s sound. To my ears, ‘Land’ represented about as far as Tyr could reasonably have taken the doomy/proggy/long song style. A change was in order. And ‘By the light of the northern star’ was unmistakably Tyr, with the crucial elements of their sound (those amazing Faroese/Danish melodies, and Heri Joensen’s unique, expressive vocals) fully intact, but crackling with an injection of energy and adrenaline, a newfound urgency that had heretofore eluded their material.

So where did Tyr take their music on their 6th CD, ‘The lay of Thrym’? While some may be disappointed, it should come as no surprise that the band have continued to explore the same musical territory as on ‘By the light of the northern star’. The songs are mostly compact and speedy, constructed on those patented insanely catchy Tyr guitar melodies and killer choruses. Lyrics on all songs but 2 are sung in English. Those who cherish ‘By the light of the northern star’ will find much to favor on ‘The lay of Thrym’. Songs like “Hall of freedom” (which might as well be called “Son of hold the heathen hammer high”, but it’s awesome nonetheless), “Take your tyrant”, “Nine worlds of lore”, and “Flames of the free” refine and expound on the very best of Tyr’s guitar-fuelled power metallish style, while still retaining the folk melodies and Joensen’s amazing voice. Lyrically, Tyr explore political realms with pointed statements like “Flames of the free”, a ditty about self-immolation in which Joensen ominously intones, “After I burn it will be your turn/For the good of our nation.” And the band’s disgust for neo-Nazism and hatemongering in all of its nefarious forms shines through on “Shadow of the swastika”, which features the decidedly non-subtle lyric, “Make sure you count me out of the ranks of you inbred morons... and kiss my Scandinavian ass.”

Despite the decidedly “new Tyr” sound, this CD definitely includes ample nods to the band’s past. “Evening star” is the kind of pensive, melancholic number that would not have been out of place on the ‘Ragnarok’ CD. “The lay of Thrym” has a great build-up and is a nearly 7-minute epic that likens today’s despots and tyrants to Thrym, the Norse mythological king who infamously stole Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir. And the Faroese (or is it Danish?) tracks “Konning Hans” and “Ellindur bondi a jadri” recall the Tyr of bygone days as well. Through these songs, Tyr strives to maintain their identity even as they polish and refine their fast melodic power metal style. I think the combination of old and new works brilliantly, but of course your mileage may vary.

‘The lay of Thrym’ would be a decidedly powerful and strong CD on its own merit, but the 2 bonus tracks on the limited edition Napalm Records digipak raise the bar even further. On these cuts, Tyr pay tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio with a pair of superb cover songs, “I” and “Stargazer”. The former sounds enough like doomy Tyr that it could almost pass for an original, while the latter Rainbow classic features a little tinkering with the riffs, melodies and arrangements to make it more Tyr-like. Both cover versions are extremely well done, and well worth whatever modest monetary premium accompanies the purchase of the limited edition.

In summary, Tyr have hit another home run with ‘The lay of Thrym’. Fans of ‘By the light of the northern star’ should purchase immediately (if they haven’t already done so). And those who have been on the fence about checking out what they perceive to be a gimmicky folky metal band from the Faroe Islands would be well-advised to reconsider their position and give this CD a listen. Tyr are a truly special, unique band who I can honestly say are among the best (if not the best), most consistently outstanding acts to emerge on the European heavy metal scene in the last decade or so. As we say in the inbred deep South, hail to the hammer, y’all...




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