Týr – By the Light of the North Star

Almost exactly one year after Faroese Folk Metal-ers Týr released their fourth studio album Land, they come out again with By the Light of the North Star, yet another take on Týr’s own brand of traditional Faroese Island folk – metal fusion. While 2008’s Land continued the trend of Ragnarok with slow, melodic songs focused on song structure and incorporating traditional melodies in a more progressive metal format, this recent effort points toward a more show based approach of faster songs and song progressions. This, after a few years of touring with the likes of Ensiferum, Turisas, and Alestorm, seems as a push more into those bands’ type of sound.

The first track is an apparent step into less progressive territory. Hold the Heathen Hammer High simply in the title, is oddly reminiscent to Týr’s most popular song, Hail to the Hammer.  However once the opening riff tears in, there is an obvious difference. The traditional sound remains, but on steroids in comparison to their previous work. Heri Joensen’s soft vocals remain, but has hooks which are far faster (and harder to sing along to). The following song Tróndur í Gøtu, follows suit in feeling as the opener, but is more of a call back to their older work, not to mention being in Faroese, one of only two on the record.

After the relatively explosive opening, things seem to move into a more classic Týr sound, with a slower progressive feel with a very Nordic atmosphere surrounding the music, particularly on the albums only other non english track, Turið Torkilsdóttir. However, even these tracks seem to have more of a upbeat feel with faster drum hooks, which doesn’t seem to fit the melody as well, which seriously impedes the overall feel of the tracks.

The next notable track on the record is Ride, which seems to hit the target as far as what the objective of this record seems to be; quicker more catchy songs and riffs while retaining the tried and true Týr sound. The main riff seems almost reminiscent of Finntroll in quirky folk sound, but retains the “lets go sail far away” jive. However, the following Hear the Heathen Call and title track, bring the same formula to bear, but as with the earlier tracks, fails to catch any attention by picking the middle ground.

Týr appear to have been taken back by the years of tours where opening (or even headlining) for more upbeat folk metal bands, has left them with half full venues and seemingly bored audiences, and  have taken a step towards appealing to this demographic. Unfortunately, in an attempt to retain more of their classic feel, both the upbeat folk feel and the slow atmospheric folk have been blurred into a band trying to be quick, quirky, and fun to mosh to, when it doesn’t need to.  Though there it is no misstep to experiment, they just have failed to pull off what they have been attempting to accomplish overall on the record. By the Light of the North Star is not completely bad, in fact, its not bad at all, the opening three tracks and Ride are all perfect examples of how Týr has mixed their Faroese sound perfectly with faster, more Thrash or Death metal influenced metal. I look forward to the next record, where I hope all of those grey areas throughout this record are turned into cold and catchy folk metal steel.

– SH

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