Album Review: Tyr – Hel

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Hel ain’t a bad place to be

Six years ago Tyr released Valkyrja and after years of anticipation and restlessness Tyr have returned with Hel. While its not entirely uncommon for bands to have years elapse between releases, I’ve often found myself quite let down by the releases that follow; Decrepit Birth and Into Eternity are two bands that readily spring to mind. While it might be cliché to refer to a “gut instinct” I can’t help but feel that this time is different, that Tyr would live up to my hopes for a glorious and long awaited follow up.

For those not familiar with Tyr, the band was formed in 1998 by some Faroe Islanders who were living in Copenhagen at the time. The band’s name is a reference to the Norse god of the same name. Eventually the band relocated back to their native Faroe Islands and gradually garnered acclaim. While the band has faced some controversy, particularly over the band’s founder Heri Joensen participating in the hunting of whales, the band has continued to find success with their unique style.

While Tyr has long been described as such, calling Tyr folk metal might be a misnomer as the band doesn’t have that much in common with bands like Ensiferum, except for a Norse and viking theme. Nor are they quite progressive metal as their song aren’t particularly lengthy or reminiscent of Dream Theater or Symphony X. Instead they have a rather eclectic sound, which doesn’t sound distinctly like any one genre of metal.

Considering the amount of time between album releases and the band’s distinct style, where does this leave Hel? More in limbo than anything else. Coming into this album I was very anxious to see what this album would bring. Would Tyr simply repeat themselves or would they take some chances and possibly alienate some fans along they way? Rather than relaunching themselves as a full-on zydeco outfit, the band plays it safe by staying with their trademark sound for most of the album they did introduce some unexpected flourishes. For example on the opening track “Gates of Hel” they play around with elements of melodeath and even added some growly vocals before returning back to their blueprint.

Despite these melodeath flirtations, Hel is a Tyr album. While it doesn’t add anything groundbreaking, it avoids becoming stale and, thankfully, doesn’t sound like a band becoming a parody of itself. If anything this album reminds me how much I’ve missed Tyr over the last few years. The  sing along choruses, the epic guitar riffs and Iron Maidenesque guitar solos all remind me why I enjoy Tyr so much.

While the album is solid all the way through the album does contain various peaks and valleys among its thirteen tracks. The faster, more bombastic tracks like “Gates of Hel”, “Garmr”, and “Far from the Worries of the World” really stood out to me as the album’s high points and the more folk oriented songs like”Ragnars kvæði” and “Álvur kongur” grew on me with each subsequent listen (which resulted in a multiple poor attempts to sing in Faroese in private).

Some may be off-put by the fact Tyr really hasn’t introduced anything new to their sound but those who have been longing for a new Tyr album will be satisfied. Its an album that will put a smile on your face and a fire in your heart. This album is the perfect antidote for a seemingly endless winter. As result I’m giving this album 4.5 out 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell.

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