By Adrien Begrand
You’ve got to love it when a band strikes when the iron is still hot. With their first two big North American tours under their belts and not even a year after the release of Land, their best album to date, Viking metal heroes Týr have re-emerged from the remote Faroe Islands with their fifth full-length. And remarkably, there’s not an ounce of fatigue discernable whatsoever on By the Light of the Northern Star, as the foursome turn in some of their most rousing performances to date, while still focusing on themes devoted to their country’s rich heritage.
The theme this time around is the Christianization of the Faroes, which was accomplished by typically blunt means in the year 999, Viking leader Tróndur í Gøtu given the choice of participation or decapitation. Not exactly on par with Beowulf, the old fella chose dishonour before death, and the country along with the rest of Scandinavia fell to Christian rule. Like many of his Nordic metal compatriots, singer/guitarist/principal songwriter Heri Joensen is out to reclaim that lost heathen pride on the new record, and whether or not you care about preserving Viking heritage, you can’t deny that By the Light of the Northern Star isn’t without its scintillating moments, such as the galloping folk melodies of “Ride”, the stately “Into the Storm”, and the stirring, alliteratively-obsessed “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”.
Týr’s best moments on record are always the Faroese, Danish, and Norwegian traditionals, going back to “Sinklars Vísa”, “Regin Smiður”, and “Ramund Hin Unge”, and not surprisingly, “Tróndur í Gøtu” and “Turið Torkilsdóttir” are superb, led by the band’s dynamic, four-part harmony vocals. On the other side, though, Joensen’s English lyrics do tend to struggle in comparison, his rhyming schemes often painfully predictable, songs like “By the Sword in My Hand” and the title track lacking the mystique of the Faeroese tunes. We might not understand just what the hell they’re singing about half of the time, but as much fun as By the Light of the Northern Star is, we can’t help but wish that Týr sung in their native language more often.