Release Date: March 8th,, 2019
Genre: Power/Folk Metal
Heri Joensen – Vocals
Attila Vörös – Guitars
Gunnar Thomsen – Bass
Tadeusz Rieckmann – Drums
1. Gates of Hel
2. All Heroes Fall
3. Ragnars kvæði
5. Sunset Shore
6. Downhill Drunk
7. Empire of the North
8. Far from the Worries of the World
9. King of Time
10. Fire and Flame
11. Against the Gods
12. Songs of War
13. Álvur kongur
Some bands are able to consistently deliver excellent albums every time they enter the studio, striking a perfect balance between being familiar enough to keep fans happy, while also adding in new elements and changing just enough to keep things fresh each time. One such band is Faroese power/folk metal band Týr, who are set to release their first album in about five and a half years. I was introduced to them on their fifth full-length album, By the Light of the Northern Star, which served as somewhat of a transitional release for the band, moving away from the progressive folk sound of their early releases and into more of a power/folk direction, with some fairly minor prog elements. The album instantly left me impressed, while the two follow up releases The Lay of Thrym and Valkyrja were both equally amazing, and so the band seemed to be on an unstoppable run. They’ve taken a long time to produce a follow up to Valkyrja, and have gone through some lineup changes, including the departure of longtime second guitarist Terji Skibenæs, who has been replaced by Attila Vörös, but their eighth full-length release, Hel, is finally ready to be unleashed, and unsurprisingly, it’s another fantastic release, with a perfect mix of old and new.
For the most part, Hel continues along the path of its three most recent predecessors, with the speedy power metal elements remaining a major focus, while the folk elements are largely found in the guitar melodies, and the prog elements are still there, but not as prominent as on their first four albums. However, this release is at times a bit more epic and adventurous than the band’s three previous releases, with a couple of lengthier tracks, as well as an increase in instrumental sections, some of which are on the more folk-infused side, while many tracks have a lot of tempo changes and other surprises, so it’s certainly a diverse and complex album, with a lot going on. Performances are strong across the board, with the guitar work being as melodic and epic as ever, while new drummer Tadeusz Rieckmann fits in perfectly, and of course vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter Heri Joensen is the start of the show, as always, being in top form with all of his duties.
Týr has always been great at writing consistently excellent songs, while still having enough variety to keep things fresh from track to track, and so it’s absolutely no surprise that Hel proves to be yet another highly varied album, with no less than amazing tracks. It starts off with the incredible opening track, “Gates of Hel”, which starts off with some nice acoustic folk guitar work, before the rest of the band kicks in and the music becomes heavier. The opening verse provides the first surprise of the album, with some pretty epic death growls, which have a slight folk feel to them, and then Heri switches to his ever smooth, yet epic clean vocals for a speedy, very fun and melodic chorus, which proves to be one of the best on the album. The track is mostly fast-paced, though it does have some slower sections during the verses, and while the vocal sections are the highlight, especially the chorus, the instrumental work is top notch as well, with the solo section in the middle being very melodic and well done. It’s easily my favorite track on the album, though that’s not to say things go downhill afterward.
Next is the more simple, but very fun “All Heroes Fall”, a more typical speedy power metal track, which would have fit perfectly on any of the previous three albums. It alternates between slow and speedy passages during the verses, before going full throttle during an epic chorus, and it has some nice melodic guitar work throughout, including a great guitar solo in the middle. It’s a fairly simple, yet very fun track, overall. Next is “Ragnars kvæði”, one of two songs sung in the band’s native Faroese tongue. Along with the closing track “Álvur longer”, it’s said to be based off of a traditional Faroese folk ballad, and that’s certainly easy to believe, as it’s a very beautiful, very melodic track, with some epic folk melodies and tribal drums during the verses, as well as an absolutely fantastic chorus, where Heri delivers some of his softest vocals. The band clearly put in their own flourishes to spice up the track, with an epic and absolutely incredible speedy passage in the second half being the main highlight, and it’s another stunner of a track, overall. Despite having a strange looking name, “Garmr” is sung fully in English, and is a speedier track, with more epic melodies, and a very fun chorus. It’s another track that would fall perfectly in line the past three albums, moving along nicely during the verses, before fully speeding up and become very epic during the chorus.
One of the early release singles is “Sunset Shore”, a nice ballad, which has had very light and melodic guitar work throughout, as well as some epic, powerful vocals from Heri during the chorus. It’s a calm, beautiful track, with some excellent melodies, and it has a strong folk feel throughout, so it definitely feels more in line with the band’s earlier work, while still being epic and fun in its own way. It has a very cool heavy section near the end, which leads to an excellent, but brief, solo, and a great final run through the chorus. Speeding things up again is “Downhill Drunk”, another fairly straight-forward song, which moves along at more of a gallop during its verses, with some pretty heavy guitar work, before opening up with some great melodies and more speedy tempos during its fun, very catchy chorus. One of the more complex and more eventful tracks on the album is “Empires of the North”, which has many tempo changes throughout, and it manages to pack a lot of memorable moments into just over five minutes. It has some mid-paced passages, a slow, but the epic chorus, some very speedy passages, with a strong folk feel to the guitar work, and it has an absolutely beautiful, and fairly lengthy guitar solo in the middle. It’s definitely one of the more progressive tracks on the album, and it manages to be consistently exciting throughout.
Moving into the second half, “Far From the Worries of the World” is pure fun, very upbeat track, as its name would imply. It moves at a slightly slower pace during its verses, with strong folk melodies, before speeding up with a very fun, epic chorus, which certainly lives up to its name by being incredibly happy and serving as a great escape from any frustrations the world may bring. It’s a fun track, overall, with an epic, long instrumental section in the second half, and it’s definitely one of my favorites here. Next is “King of Time”, a rather slow building track, which starts off soft, with some very folk-infused guitar work early on. It stays slow for a while, with some epic melodies, before speeding up and delivering an incredibly epic, melodic and super catchy chorus around two minutes in, and from there it remains a fun, highly engaging track, with some excellent guitar work. Of course, the first single released from the album is “Fire and Flame”, a highly energetic, fast-paced track, with slow, heavy verses, and a very fun, catchy chorus, It’s another track that would have in great on any of the previous three albums, though it has an epic guitar solo in the middle, with an equal amount influence from folk and classic heavy metal. It’s a very fun track, overall, so it serves as a great single.
Nearing the end of the album, “Against the Gods”, is another track that starts off a bit slowly, with a more subdued opening verse, with some powerful vocals, as well as a very melodic and epic chorus, before speeding up during the second verse, and not letting up from that point on. It proves to be a hard-hitting, intense and very energetic track once it gets going, with one of the best choruses on the album, as well as some excellent drum beats. Another one of my favorites is “Songs of War”, which starts off with really epic neoclassical shredding, which leads into a fast-paced, slightly folk-infused opening verse, and then into a slower, even more, folk-infused chorus.
It’s another track which alternates nicely between slow and speedy passages, with an equal amount of power metal folk, and it has more great melodies and guitar work, though those shredding parts are easily the highlights, with the solo section being particularly amazing. Closing out the album is “Álvur kongur”, the second of two tracks sung in Faroese. Its origins as a folk ballad are much less obvious compared to “Ragnars kvæði”, despite some nice acoustic work early on, and a soft opening section, as it speeds up considerably once it gets going, and actually stays fast paced for most of its duration. I’ve never heard the original, but suffice to say, the band obviously must have changed it a lot, as it’s a fun, upbeat track, with a very epic, catchy chorus, though it still has a very distinct Faroese folk feel to it, and it does have some softer passages, here and there. It’s a very epic track, overall, with some amazing guitar work, and it’s certainly a great way to close out the album!
Týr is one of those bands that just always seems to deliver, and they’re currently on a long winning streak, with Hel being equally as impressive as any of the band’s previous releases, largely sticking to the more power metal focused sound that began on By the Light of the Northern Star, while still retaining a ton of the bands traditional Faroese folk elements, as well as having some more progressive arrangements and more extensive instrumental sections compared to their past three albums. This has resulted in an epic, highly diverse album, which is sure to please longtime fans of the band, while anyone looking for some great power/folk metal, is also highly recommended to give the album a listen, as the band’s ever-distinctive sound is on full display here, and works just effectively as ever. It may have taken a long time to come out than previous releases, but it was certainly worth the wait!
Written by: Travis Green