Týr - Ragnarok
Napalm Records
Progressive Epic Metal
18 songs (68'01")
Release year: 2006
Týr, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Alex

Here is another chance for me to say “I told you so”. Just briefly scanning the Best of the Year lists uncovered many mentions of the Faroese band Tyr. While I am glad they are finally getting the recognition, I was hailing this very original collective from the Europe’s Northern Frontier for a few years now. Their first two albums on the very obscure TUTL label How Far to Asgaard and Eric the Red impressed the hell out of me, fusing their extreme originality, native authenticity and excellent musicianship. Napalm must have been paying attention as well, as the band now has the platform to make their art widely known. I understand that Eric the Red has also been reissued by Napalm, but I will forever remain the proud owner of the original version of the album that vaulted Tyr out of obscurity. The only regret I have now is not grabbing the opportunity to interview the band a few years ago.

With Ragnarok Tyr remains true to themselves while becoming even more progressive in their musicianship, almost unconventional to what is considered the norm in the epic metal genre and, at the same time, some changes have been made for the band to garner wider public acceptance. I remain firmly in love with the first two traits. Who starts the album with a 5 min long instrumental deeply steeped in traditional Faroese melody with interesting vignettes all around and heavy as heck sound of the rhythm section? Tyr does. Wouldn’t it “bore” the listener as he/she is probably anxious to jump right into the album’s meat from the first chord? Maybe, but it would not be Tyr then. The Beginning is a perfect overture to Ragnarok, Norse music Tyr style, where the melodies are not simply folk influenced, they are actually authentic Faroese in nature, rearranged, augmented and fulfilled by a progressive metal band proud of their heritage. The album is actually replete with these short preludes to songs, making an impression of a great scald storytelling, while the album itself is not a concept story. Some of these short instrumentals are right on, winds blowing through crisp air by the fjords in The Burning, horses neighing next to the mead-full tavern in Victory or battle sounds in Gjallarhornid. Sometimes they are out of place, like overarpeggiated neoclassical, Malmsteeny The Race of the Skullgaffer.

The main “dishes” on Ragnarok are long epic songs, most of the time mid-pace, weaving through progressive riffing as if soul searching. The title track features a to-die-for acoustic melody of an epic hymn to the fallen heroes, before picking up speed in the middle instrumental section. Lord of Lies, starting up where Victory left off, continues with a Celtic infused riffing and tribal drumming. Tyr is sticking to the canons of Norse music, the way they see them, whether it is darker slow-burn syncopated Wings of Time or the heavy chug of The Ride to Hel. While Tyr was never averse to complicated guitar interludes, Ragnarok takes it at times to almost borderline aimless wandering. The fills and loops just keep on rolling, providing no instant gratification. Those who are less patient will call this a drawback, but if you read the Norse literature, Icelandic sagas for example, you will find that such is the way the stories are told there.

In some of the bigger changes Tyr does a lot less singing in their native Faroese language, or other less traditional tongues like Danish and Irish. That to me is a mistake as the strange words simply cling and want to line up alongside beautiful melodies in Torsteins Kvaedi and Ragnarok. As in an ultimate tribute to their origin, Tyr includes a 1966 recording by two Faroese elders in Grimur A Midalnesi, to leave no doubt on where they are from. Whichever language Heri Joensen uses, he sounds just as manly as ever, clean but firm, his voice is still up front as on Eric the Red, but less dominating the rest of the mix. The production on Ragnarok still breathes strength, rhythm section of Kari Streymoy (drums) and Gunnar Thomsen (bass) both pounding and complex, but it is a little more polished than in the past.

Much closer to the likes of Doomsword and Falconer (but without any power metal instant catchiness) than grim black metal hordes, Tyr is still a Viking metal band. Only their definition of a Viking is less of a bloodthirsty brute living in a harsh climate, but more of a dignified songwriter scald settling on the sunnier side of the land.

My digipack edition includes two bonus tracks with a joyous instrumental Valkyries Flight and excellent closer Valhalla.

Killing Songs :
The Beginning, Torsteins Kvaedi, Ragnarok, Valhalla
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Ken quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Týr that we have reviewed:
Týr - Valkyrja reviewed by Jared and quoted 100 / 100
Týr - The Lay of Thrym reviewed by Alex and quoted 95 / 100
Týr - By the Light of the Northern Star reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
Týr - Land reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Týr - How Far to Asgaard reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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