Reviewed: September, 2021
Released: August 27, 2021, Despotz Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
Thyrfing are one of the bands that came out during the Viking Metal explosion our of Scandinavia that included bands like Einherjer, Månegarm, Moonsorrow, Mithotyn, etc. They combined folk influences with a blackened death metal and added epic keyboards to create a rather unique sound. Named after the famed “Tyrfing” sword from Nordic Mythology, their early lyrical approach was that Nordic Mythology theme. They released four albums using that formula and are still some of my favorite albums to this day. Original vocalist Thomas Väänänen left the band after their fourth album and was replaced by former Naglfar vocalist Jens Ryden. By this time the band had moved away from their signature sound and went in a darker direction and they had ceased to keep my attention.
So in March of 2021, Thyrfing announced that they will be releasing new music to fans for the first time in eight years with the March 19 release of a new single, “Döp dem i eld,” and announced a brand new album, VANAGANDR. And while this is not the same band that released the masterpiece URKRAFT, this was worth the eight year wait. Now I do not know what I was expecting when I first listened to the album because it did not click with me right away. In fact, this album may be grower of the year. Maybe I was expecting those folkish riffs again with those epic keys. Instead what we got was a mixture of their classic era and the newer more epic, polished sound and it took me by surprise. After repeated listens I realized I was going about this all wrong. I needed to rethink how to approach this album. It had been eight years since their last album and almost twenty since they recorded their last album with their “classic” sound. I was not ever getting VALDR GALGA again and the teaser single was really good so lets approach this as an album as fresh as it really is….and it paid off.
The aforementioned single kicks this album off and it really was the right choice. I was hoping it would be the opener when I first heard it. One thing that is apparent is how the keyboards were approached. They add this huge epic atmosphere while also subtly creating a folk sound. The production also is much more polished and each instrument is being heard with the perfect mix. And the folk elements are there, just not as in your face as with the classic era. “Undergångens länkar” follows that one up and that song reminds me of a Moonsorrow song from beginning to end. The way they approached the songwriting and how they executed is really brilliant. Again, they have kept the folk elements, they just approached them in a different way. But what really sets this apart is how they use the keys. There are much more symphonics and the atmosphere is much more epic. They always used keyboards but this time around they seem to be better produced. Then we have a song like “Fredlös” that reminds me of old Thyrfing. This song has a lot of the folk influences and the melodies are signature Thyrfing. The song has some cool riffs and the solo adds to the melodies. “Järnhand” is another song with some of that classic sound but with a much more matured execution but it’s followed up by the epic “Håg och minne’ which has moment of classic Thyrfing, especially the middle part with the flutes….brilliant. This is by far my favorite off this album.
I really must say that even though this took a bit to grow on me, this album is going to have a huge impact. To come back after an eight plus year hiatus with an album this good and this powerful says a lot. What this shows is that they carefully thought out their approach and it paid off. Not only are Thyrfing back but they are relevant again. They set the bar once, looks like they may be setting it again. This is essential!