Týr have long ago laid claim to their seat in the folk metal genre. In the eleven years since How Far to Asgaard, they have rallied an army of followers under such banner songs as “Hail to the Hammer,” “Flames of the Free,” and “Hold the Heathen Hammer High,” among others. They are one of those bands you recognize almost as soon as the music starts. There’s no mistaking lead guitarist Heri Joensen’s clean vocal delivery, nor his unique approach to songwriting, a blend of traditional Faroese folk styles, power metal, and balladic compositions.
On their website Týr describe Valkyrja as a “concept album with a storyline based on an anonymous Viking age warrior” who’s determined to impress the Valkyrie and thus secure his place in Valhalla, home of the goddess Freyja. But in order to do so, the warrior must leave his own woman behind. The story asks what lengths the warrior will go at Freyja’s behest to prove himself to the mysterious Valkyrie, his key to eternity. In essence he leaves one woman for another.
The album opens with “Blood of Heroes,” at the anonymous warrior’s grave, where his name has already been carved in stone. The fast-paced song pulls you in immediately with tight power riffing and sharp leads. You’re spared the misery of opening-track filler, the annoyance commonly pasted into folk and power metal albums so as to amp up dramatic effect. Who has time to dawdle through meaningless noise? Not Týr. The warrior may be dead, but he’s charging forth with or without you, “for tonight we dine in Hel!”
Throughout the album we never stray far from women. The second track, “Mare of My Night,” has already garnered attention for its sexually suggestive lyrics, a first for Heri Joensen. And “Hel Hath No Fury” like a goddess (or a mortal wife) scorned. The pace slows for the ballad “The Lay of Our Love,” in which Joensen sings a duet with guest vocalist Liv Kristine from Leave’s Eyes. Joensen and Kristine complement each other and add a romantic aspect to the music without becoming sappy about it. I have no doubt that the album would have suffered without “The Lay of Our Love” and the literal sound of a woman’s voice it provides. It lulls you, yet leaves a craving for the more aggressive tracks to come.
The music is what matters first to those of us who became Týr fanatics after being whipped into a frenzy by “Hold the Heathen Hammer High.” While not phenomenally groundbreaking, Valkyrja stays true to the sound that fans expect. What’s clear to me overall is how carefully and methodically Týr worked at tightening each song down to the smallest detail. If anything, the band’s energy has only increased.
“Lady of the Slain,” my personal favorite, leaps up and rides you down in a way reminiscent of “The Lay of Thrym.” I’d be surprised if this song didn’t find a permanent place on the band’s set list alongside “By the Sword in My Hand” and “Take Your Tyrant.” The songs with Faroese lyrics mark two high points about halfway through the album. One of these, a slow ballad called “Grindavísan,” has stunning power behind it, with vocals delivered in a hymn-like form that no other band could evoke in quite the same way. The final track is a cover, “Cemetery Gates” by Pantera. Týr absolutely own their version of this metal classic.
There’s nothing much else to say about Valkyrja, except that I look forward to hearing these songs live, the best way to experience Týr’s music. Onstage Týr looked and carried themselves like the rock stars they are, with their Thor’s hammers, tattoos, leather pants, and Ibanez guitars. But those are material things. Týr brought something extra to their performance. It’s a palpable and energetic feeling that commanded attention the way a dangerous beast or a potent authority figure might. That’s why you remember a band like Týr, because their songs, like the tales and folklore that inspired them, stay with you long after the show’s over, refusing to be forgotten.