posted on 7/2008 By:
Let me get something out of the way here first: I’m done with promo disc overdubs. The heavily-accented putz telling me what album I’m listening to 8-16 times per song sorely tempted me to award this album straight zeroes and post a link to 2girls1cup as the review, and if Tyr were a lesser band (i.e. virtually any other band on the Napalm Records roster) I almost certainly would have. Never again.
Okay, cutting to the chase. This is the fourth release from the world’s only neoclassical-neofolk-prog metal band from the Faroe Islands (or anywhere), and a more idiosyncratic metal band you won’t find. It’s a testament to Tyr’s distinctiveness that I give them the time of day at all, considering my general disdain for anything that blends European folk and heavy metal. Land essentially sees the band staying the tiller and continuing to draw on traditional Faroese melodies, layering on complex harmony and suturing them to prog-rock song structures. Though Tyr push their sound a bit further on Land than they have in the past, this disc is ultimately fairly similar to its predecessor Ragnarok, and bears most of the same strengths and flaws.
Most elements of Tyr’s sound are evident by the time you’re halfway into ‘true’ opener “Sinklars Visa” (the actual opener is mostly a spoken word passage and a prefiguration of the title track’s main melody). The song opens with a brief a capella vocal harmony, and then the band’s signature mincing, graceful guitar harmonies begin their long dance through verses, bridges, prechoruses, solos, and of course huge mead-swilling choruses. Tyr are one of the few folk/’Viking’ metal bands that almost completely eschew the otherwise requisite extra instrumentation, instead sticking to the usual rock/metal instruments and main man Heri Joensen’s clean but opera-free vocals. They seem to largely make up for the lack of fruity orchestration with their incredible musicianship; their folksy melodies are usually warped through a kaleidoscopic array of variations and temp shifts with absolute precision.
Unfortunately, Tyr’s endless diffraction of otherwise catchy riffs and choruses can occasionally trip them up. Land’s first four tracks fall prey to the very sophistication that makes Tyr distinctive, as the songs’ emotional impact is crippled by the band’s overly cerebral compositions. Fortunately, the album’s fifth track—the ten-minute epic “Ocean”—finally blows the roof off with the wild sense of grandeur that make Tyr’s stronger moments so powerful. Along with the even-longer title track, this monster is easily the album’s highlight, with a number of sublime melodic motifs and a truly rousing refrain. The shorter songs on the album’s second half manage to keep up the sense of urgency missing on its first half largely thanks to Joensen’s soloing; the man is both a very emotional lead player and a bonafide shredmaster. Rounding out the disc is another re-recording of their signature tune “Hail to the Hammer.” Personally, I think the beefier production is a step up, and I prefer Joensen’s singing to the weirdly femmy performance given by Pól Arni Holm on How Far to Asgaard, but that’s just me and many will surely disagree.
Overall, the only serious complaint I have about this album about this album is a sense of been-there-done-that. Aside from the more adventurous scope of the two big epic tracks, Land is ultimately the same record as Ragnarok was, but if Amon Amarth can release the same album a million times in a row then it’s okay if Tyr reel off a few discs of similar-sounding shit. Other than that, the fact that I’ve gotten through this entire review without comparing Tyr to another band until just now is as strong of an endorsement as I can give.
Oh, and a few final things: this disc is packaged with a DVD of the band’s 2007 Wacken Open Air performance. Also, if you ever want to see how not to take a press photo, check out Tyr’s Metal Archives page. Yeesh.
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