Reviewed: April 2019
Released: 2019, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
One of the first things anyone thinks of when they think of Týr is “the metal band from the Faroe Islands”.
Thankfully, the other thing everyone thinks of is “quality bloody music”.
Hel continues the band’s history of good music, but does also represent a continuation of change in their musical style. The band’s earlier works were notable for their mixture of folk metal with progressive, ambitious song-writing. About a decade ago, around By the Light of the Northern Star, this started to shift, with the progressive elements sitting alongside more light-hearted power metal stylings (classic anthem “Hold the Heathen Hammer High” being a perfect example). Now, many years and several albums on, this has developed further still, with those power metal aspects sitting front and centre and being perhaps the most dominant element of the music here.
This isn’t to say it doesn’t sound like Týr anymore. The band is a perfect example of a natural evolution of sound over time: jump straight from How Far to Asgard to this and you’ll hear a stark change, but taking the whole discography into account paints a picture of a steady set of steps.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s lyrical focus on all things Viking, and even as their sound has become a bit more jolly and carefree, they still manage to avoid descending into anything shallow or silly. It still maintains that honest, vigorous sincerity, reminding me a bit of Ensiferum as it strikes something of a middle ground between the very serious Primordial and the downright playfulness of Korpiklaani. This one manages to be glorious and epic while still having a sense of fun and doing what makes for a good song.
And that’s what this album is full of: good songs, which makes for a plain old good time. Guitarist/vocalist Heri Joensen has said the album is “a more diverse collection that’s also more extreme in some ways”, and that feels like a pretty accurate take on it. The variety on show here really is the album’s biggest strength. The album as a whole can go fast, slow, furious or fun-loving, and this applies to the songs themselves too. “Fire and Flame” is perfectly comfortable shifting between fast-paced frenetic and a more measured pace. “Songs of War” opens with a great, pounding, furious assault before mellowing out later on. “All Heroes Fall” has some absolutely GLORIOUS solo work, it just keeps going and it’s welcome to do so. Just when you think it’s over, nope, strap back in because we’re not done yet. The Faroese folk elements are still here too, with Ragnars Kvæði and Álvur Kongur highlighting how much of a treat it is to hear songs sung in the band’s native language.
That diversity and extremity is present in new influences too: opening track “Gates of Hel” builds up an ominous ferocity that would sound perfectly at home on an Amon Amarth album, while “Empire of the North” has some distinctly hardcore sounding parts, with breakdown guitar work and blasts of lead work, but always mixed with their signature epic style. It works better than it might sound, providing a vastly more successful version of what Elvenking were maybe going for on the atrocious The Scythe.
If you’ve disliked the band’s recent output and are hoping for a return to the more sombre, progressive style of their earlier works, this won’t win you back. If, like me, you’ve had no problem with the direction they’ve been going in, or just welcome a nicely varied album of epic folk/power metal, this is a great album to raise a tankard to and roar along with.
Go to Hel people. You won’t regret it.
1.) Gates of Hel
2.) All Heroes Fall
3.) Ragnars Kvæði
5.) Sunset Shore
6.) Downhill Drunk
7.) Empire of the North
8.) Far From the Worries of the World
9.) King of Time
10.) Fire and Flame
11.) Against the Gods
12.) Songs of War
13.) Álvur Kongur
Heri Joensen – Vocals, guitar
Attila Vörös – Guitar
Gunnar “Gunz” H. Thomsen – Bass
Tadeusz Rieckmann – Drums