Friday, January 9, 2004

Review: Týr - Eric The Red (2003)

Týr [ MySpace ]
Eric The Red

One word - magnificent. Týr have literally come from the middle of nowhere (the Faröe Islands, to be precise) to deliver a genre-crossing album of epic proportions. A relatively young band with one full-length album already behind them, Týr combine progressive, folk, power, and viking metal elements to create a unique style of folk metal accessible to fans of many styles - doom, black, and Gothic in addition to those already mentioned.

Influenced by bands such as Black Sabbath and Dream Theater, Týr founders Heri Joensen (vocals, guitar), Kári Streymoy (drums) and Gunner H. Thomsen (bass) set out to create metal inspired by their influences while also paying homage to the Norse, Danish, and Irish heritage of their homeland. While their debut album How Far To Asgaard featured solid prog/power metal with folk-inspired lyrics, Eric The Red has main songwriter Joensen incorporating traditional Faröese melodies and language to conceive a one-of-a-kind sound (how many bands do you know of sing in Faröese?). Despite its uniqueness, Eric The Red has enough catchy melodies, wild guitar hooks, powerful vocals, and sing-along choruses to appeal to a wide variety of metal lovers. This is genuinely an album of standout tracks, each with much to set itself apart from those before and after, which of course results in a very interesting listen.

Leading off the album is "The Edge", which perhaps best exemplifies what Týr is all about. A heavy, doomy riff from Joensen and guitarist extraordinaire Terji Skibenæs overlays the fine skinwork of Streymoy to open the track. Soon enough, Joensen displays his exceptional vocal range and melody. Whether singing in a traditional metallic style or a more bardic one, especially on the traditional arrangements, Heri is an amazingly impelling singer who can make the lyrics not only heard but felt. Able to sing passionately in English, Faröese, and Danish, I consider him to truly be a bard of the modern age. "The Edge" continues with group-sung verse in English and Faröese, evoking a medieval feel. Wrapping things up is one of many transcending solos from Terji. The first of three songs sung in Faröese, the lyrics of "Regin Smiður" tell a traditional Faröese tale. Terji begins the song with a haunting lead that conjures up an image of early medieval Scandinavia. On this track, Heri sings with a traditional cadence and is backed by group choruses. Gunner's bass is up in the mix as the band breaks into some quite progressive interludes - illustrating their skill at combing both traditional folk and modern metal influences to create a rare style of music. "The Wild Rover" is a traditional Irish tune which Týr have given a metallic makeover (in the spirit of Cruachan). With an inspiring solo from Terji, this track is one of many gems to be found on Eric The Red. I really couldn't choose a favorite, but "Ólavur Riddararós" is certainly in my top two. Another traditional Faröese tale, this song is the most up-tempo on the album and really gets the head banging. With a sing-along chorus and a furious guitar solo, I imagine this could easily be a favorite at live shows. Closing out Eric The Red is the title track. With a somewhat jazzy intro, Satriani-like leads, and occasionally funky bass lines, the diversity of style displayed with this song is a fitting finale to a great album.

My affinity for folkish metal aside, Eric The Red marks Týr as a band that is both innovative and accessible - qualities essential not only to achieve success, but also to further the metal genre. With something to offer just about every metal fan, Týr is capable of accomplishing both.

Track Listing
1 The Edge
2 Regin Smiður
3 Dreams
4 The Wild Rover
5 Stýrisvølurin
6 Ólavur Riddararós
7 Rainbow Warrior
8 Ramund hin Unge
9 Alive
10 Eric The Red

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