originally written by Chris McDonald
This is my first experience with Týr, an outfit who’s garnered an unusual amount of popularity given their remote origins and their familiar guitar-playing-Viking shtick. I was interested in finding out what it was about this band that spoke to so many people, and upon hearing By The Light of the Northern Star, it’s easy to figure out. Týr have an obvious talent for writing irresistibly fun, accessible metal songs (as evidenced by their impressive sales in many European countries), and are able to fuse pop sensibilities to their brand of triumphant heavy metal in a more impressive fashion then many of the more commercial bands out there playing a similar style.
I’ll admit right off the bat that I had a blast with By The Light of the Northern Star on my first couple of listens. Týr’s epic, melodic guitar work borrows heavily from the traditional end of the metal spectrum with top-notch results; the spirited riffs in “Hold The Heathen Hammer High” and “Into The Storm” should raise the horns of any self-respecting metal head, and the guitar solos sprinkled throughout the album are equally rockin’. Some may find this comparison a stretch, but many of the guitar compositions reminded me of a more folk-influenced Slough Feg, in that the melodies are distinctly lead-oriented in addition to paying obvious homage to older bands without aping them directly. Also noteworthy is that Týr generally deliver their songs in the mid-tempo range, which makes them sound quite distinct from the power-metal tempos of many folk metal bands, as does the complete absence of any harsh vocals. While nothing about By The Light of the Northern Star is especially innovative on its own, I haven’t heard too many bands that can effectively pull off a style like this, and the mix of retro influence with modern technique is one that Týr deliver with definite flair.
I will say, however, that after the initial sheen has worn off the rather predictable nature in which these songs are written begins to show itself. Considering how great the riffs are on this disc, I was a bit frustrated with the continual emphasis Týr place on the vocals and, in particular, the rousing choruses. While it’s not as noticeable on every track, on songs like “Tróndur í Gøtu” and “Northern Gate” the same triumphant multi-tracked choruses dominate the compositions to the point of becoming tiresome. The vocal melodies are expertly written and performed, but when you hear them three to four times per four-minute track they tend to lose their effectiveness, and the repetition is also problematic because it relegates the excellent guitar and drum performances to more of a supporting role. Still, I have to give Týr credit, because most of these choruses are justridiculously catchy, to the point where I found myself humming along to “By The Sword In My Hand” even while I was listening to other things. Its just that, given this band’s strength in other areas, I would have liked to see the rest of their sound fleshed out a bit more.
Basically, By the Light of the Northern Star is a highly entertaining folk metal romp, and that’s all it needs to be. While the band shows glimpses of the potential to elevate their craft to an even higher level, I think the guys in Týrare perfectly content to deliver their cheesy and fun metal just as it is, and that’s fine by me. Some of you may find yourself wanting a little more depth out of this album in the long term, but I can’t imagine anyone who enjoys lighthearted, technically sound heavy metal being disappointed with Týr’s efforts here.