It had been quite a while (nearly six years) since TYR blessed our ears with their critically acclaimed album Valkyrja (2013) – but in 2019 they triumphantly returned, with their newest and eighth overall studio album – Hel (2019). This was somewhat of a re-introduction to the band for me, as I think I last purchased The Lay of Thrym (2011), and sort of lost track of the band (I have rectified this since). The long pause for the band could be chalked up to many reasons: Touring schedules as Metalblade Records works its bands pretty hard, a few roster shake-ups with two drummer changes, and a bit of a scandal wherein the band was falsely accused of being white nationalists because they use Runes, which is easily one of the stupidest instances of cancel culture I’ve seen. So how is Hel, was it worth the wait?
For, me very much yes. I know I am in the minority here, but I feel some of TYR’s more popular older songs come across almost like folky Dream Theater songs – not necessarily a bad thing, but not my cup of tea. This usually resulted in long drawn-out and overproduced albums like How Far to Asgard. This got better in the 2000’s when the band settled on the sound that they currently still more-or-less use. Hel, isn’t really a concept album any more than any other album they’ve done, considering all of the TYR albums deal with Norse Lore, but the songs all do have an overlying theme of dealing with heroes deaths, Hel and the underworld.
Perhaps there isn’t one BIG classic song like Hold the Heathen Hammer High on this album, but this album is not a one-hit wonder like others – its a competent work from beginning to end. I honestly couldn’t pick one song to say it was “the worst”, and more than one song went into my permanent rotation. Gates of Hel, and Empire of the North are two of my favorites, but I also quite enjoyed the handful of more folky songs sung in Faroese such as Álvur kongur and Ragnars kvæði are awesome, and show how this band surpasses other similar bands of their kind whilst avoiding pretention.
- Gates of Hel 06:42
- All Heroes Fall 05:16
- Ragnars kvæði 04:08
- Garmr 04:53
- Sunset Shore 04:42
- Downhill Drunk 04:27
- Empire of the North 05:11
- Far from the Worries of the World 05:35
- King of Time 04:57
- Fire and Flame 05:39
- Against the Gods 05:43
- Songs of War 05:16
- Álvur kongur 07:24
I know the lead singer, Heri Joensen, is a divisive figure for these types of bands. He has come across in interviews, at times, seemingly saying he dismissed some heathens as being “re-enactors” which confused and hurt some of the band’s audience, but that said TYR delivers Pagan music to Pagan fans no matter if they want to do that or not. I believe Heri, is at least, an atheist and he has every right to feel the way he does and it doesn’t detract from the music in any way whatsoever.
If you have yet to purchase this album, please give it a shot, there are few bands that exist to make purely “Viking” music that are as prolific as TYR, and few can continuously make quality music without seeming like they are simply “painting by numbers”. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait a further seven years for the next album, my fingers are crossed that a break in touring may result in some work being done.