Saturday, December 14, 2013

#11 of my Top 12 Albums of 2013: Valkyrja

Tyr's Valkyrja 

Release Date: September 16th, 2013
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Viking / Folk Metal

     Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of folk metal, where everything is fun and steeped in cultural authenticity. Folk Metal is another one of my favorite genres, but it really covers some starkly different bands such as Russia's pagan metal band Arkona and Scotland's pirate metal band Alestorm. They may be of completely different themes and styles but they are still encompassed in what is known as "Folk" Metal, which typically includes metal bands that sing largely about a certain heritage or cultural aspect of where they hail from while incorporating traditional folk instruments and sometimes singing the songs in the vernacular, or the language of the given band's home country. Tyr does not do much with traditional instruments as most other folk metal bands but what they excel at is making grandiose tunes about vikings fighting, drinking, and generally being awesome.

      I have been a big fan of Tyr for several years now, ever since I first heard the epic album Land, which came out in 2008. That album had everything that hooks me into this genre and mixed it all in there with tales of some of my favorite heroes, VIKINGS! (Hence my name, Last King of DENMARK) Their following album, By the Light of the Northern Star, was also quite good and included several of my favorites by the band but it did not have the epic cohesiveness as Land did, where every song seemed to flow naturally from one to another and the fact that multiple songs were quite long did not strain the ears. I did not care too much for the one after that, The Lay of Thyrm, but it was fine. Valkyrja on the other hand, their seventh full-length album to date, had the Norse mythology I crave, the chanting tavern-style vocals and a cohesiveness to the entire album that helped me listen to the album all the way through multiple times

     The first song on the album, "Blood of Heroes", became one of the singles of the album and it is no surprise that it did. It is catchy, fast and upbeat and the vocals sound more like the man is recanting this epic tale of warriors or is actually doing a speech to the men in battle "For tonight we dine in hell!" instead of actual traditional singing. ;Its an interesting approach, but with Tyr, it lands as a pretty predictable song, if it referenced Hammers more explicitly, you could lump this along with the hundreds of "hammer" songs Tyr has. Not saying it is a bad song, I just believe that the leadoff single could have been more unique. I would still recommend the song to anyone but the album really shines later on with song such as "Mare of my Night", "Fánar Burtur Brandaljóð", their cover of Pantera's "Cemetery Gates" and my personal favorite, "Another Fallen Brother".

"Another Fallen Brother"

     This song is everything "Blood of Heroes" should have been. It again speaks about warriors entering bloody and hard-fought battles but this one does not glorify the sacrifice about to be made and how unafraid the warriors are to die like "Blood of Heroes" but instead takes a more Sabaton-approach, identifying the fear of what it would be like to be in a battle that is not going well, where brothers are falling left and right, men that you knew for years dying right in front of your eyes. Its a much more complex song lyrically and although close in concept to "Blood of Heroes", the little difference makes "Another Fallen Brother" a better song lyrically. Oh, and did I mention how INFECTIOUS the chorus is in this song? I would easily put "Another Fallen Brother" in the competition for best metal chorus of 2013. On top of everything, and there is an insane guitar solo after the second chorus that screams power metal it hurts.

     As I said, I would also recommend "Mare of my Night", which always makes me think of Khal Drogo since the man in the song refers to his lover as his "Mare", oh and the woman is the one that seems to be in control of the relationship presented in that song. It has some funny lines in it too that makes me think of Steel Panther, so it is a little tongue-in-cheek, but i find it fun and funny at the same time, so i'm happy. Also, it is my honest opinion that they did "Cemetery Gates" better than Pantera, but that may be my own bias against Pantera, a band that I could never really wrap my head around. The Tyr one is more polished and I know Pantera is all about the gritty and the unpolished-ness of their work but I prefer what Tyr did to the song and Heri's vocals just match the song perfectly, both is the magnificent slow sections and the heavy fast sections. Also, "Fánar Burtur Brandaljóð" is one of the few songs they sing in their native Faroese and I think it is done quite well, very nice intro that pulls me in deep.

"Cemetery Gates"

     Overall, it is a very good album and presents some exceptional songs with Viking themes to them. If some of the songs did not reach my "ehh" meter, this would be higher, but certain songs like "The Lay of Our Love" (sorry Liv fans) just seem pretty bland and unmemorable to me, but the rest of the album is very well done, check it out if anything I have discussed interests you at all

"Blood of Heroes"

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