posted on 10/2006 By:
Prog rock goes pretty neatly in hand with a number of metal subgenres; everyone’s familiar with progressive death and black metal acts, prog-thrash, prog-power, blah blah et cetera. Not so much for prog-viking metal bands, which is what makes Týr a bit of an anomaly. This…uh, Faeroeian act (ever heard of the Faeroe Islands? Anomaly #2) takes coast-raiding, dragonshipping Viking aesthetics and grafts them to convoluted prog rock song structures. To indulge in a moment of reviewer’s hyperbolic comparison, the results sound something like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater jamming while drinking a case of mead pillaged from Amon Amarth. This is especially true on Ragnarok, the band’s latest offering.Týr has elected to push the progressive envelope here, and the results aren’t always especially listenable but are very capable of holding a patient listener’s close attention.
Týr come out balls-first on Ragnarok, making the risky move of opening the album with two decidedly non-anthemic cuts. “The Beginning” is a full-length instrumental that features a quirky thematic central melody and shows off the band’s power metal soloing chops, while “The Hammer of Thor” is a decidedly convoluted rocker that’s driven primarily by abstract guitar interplay and rarely has any metal crunch to bite down on. Vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen further heightens the progressive atmosphere with his vocal technique; though his voice has a rock timbre, his delivery is stark and choreographed enough to sound as though the melodies were written on guitar. The mega choruses and big riffs don’t come out until “Brother’s Bane,” which features some nearly Metallica-esque guitars and one of the most fist-pumping Viking refrains on Ragnarok, but by then it’s clear that Týr is playing a decidedly different ballgame from albums past.
Things only get weirder as the album goes on. “Torsteins Kvaeoi” is a Faeroeian chant set to a disorienting tom pattern made all the more head-scratching by the unfamiliar language, while “Rage of the Skullgaffer” is a pure tag-team proggo guitar wankage. Týr seems to struggle for control of their progressive inclinations in these moments, but the brilliantly executed, mincing guitar work and fluid time signature changes of songs like “The Ride to Hel” and “Lord of Lies” largely compensate for the band’s indulgences.
It’s hard to recommend Týr to too broad of an audience; their sound is so bizarre and so niche-oriented that many a listener will be put off from the outset and not devote the time required to get the most out of Ragnarok. Metalheads with an adventurous streak or a taste for Viking affairs, though, will find Tyr’s latest a refreshingly original excursion.
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