As an Angry Metal Guy, I have truly been off my game this year. In fact, having become an Angry Sociology PhD Student™ has taken away precious time from my blogging gig. As the one is—and will hopefully lead to—gainful employment, and the other is an avocation, you can probably understand that I have been working hard at the former. But, unfortunately, this means that some big records I stepped up to review never got reviewed. Possibly the greatest of these oversights this year was Týr‘s Valkyrja, which was so good that I made it a Record o’ the Month for September. “Watch this space,” I said. Well, those of you who watched are going to finally get your review.
Týr is a band that has been getting better with every record. While they’re unfortunately clueless about issues of privilege and racism, which caused me to feel a bit of a negative crankiness in their direction (Angry Sociology PhD Student™ and all—[See a big, important edit in footnote 2. – AMG])12, I have still had a hard time ignoring their incredible growth as a band. While I found their earlier material to be a bit underwhelming, The Lay of Thrym started to change my mind about these Faroese Viking types. And that cautious optimism was turned into real fandom when Týr pumped out some of the best songs of their career on Valkyrja, with driving drums and slick riffs, they make the power metal geek in me jump for joy.
What’s cool about Týr is that while you can dump them in “power metal,” they have the Viking metal undertones and, maybe most importantly, one of the most non-cliché metal vocalists in the genre today. He has none of the baggage of David Coverdale worship or German thrash that so horribly mars the performance of tons of what would be otherwise excellent bands and that is so avidly worshiped by tasteless power metal fans everywhere. Instead, his voice is powerful and clean like the Gjallarhorn signalling the end of days. Heri Joensen lifts what is great writing and ties the very manly, metal bow on an addictive and enjoyable record.
Though, of course, the vocalist shouldn’t get all the credit here. Tracks like “Blood of Heroes,” “Mare of My Night,” and “Grindavísan” all show the interested listener what’s good about these guys. The writing is slick, professional and heavy. It’s chorus loaded, but the verses do a great job of getting you want to go (see: chorus-loaded), with the occasional bursts of brilliance from the guitarists—who actually seem to prefer an Iron Maiden kind of two guitar approach rather than a Malmsteenian guitar solo orgy like a lot of modern power metal bands. This is all to their benefit. Valkyrja is not only a triumph of writing, but of taste and performance. It’s not easy to do power metal in 2013 and make it sound interesting and original.
If you haven’t checked out Valkyrja, you definitely need to. It will not only give you your Viking metal fix, but it’ll be one of the most addictive records you hear this year. Hell, even the cover art ranks among my favorites of the year. No pooches were screwn in the making of this record.
Tracks to Check: “Mare of My Night,” “Grindavísan,” and “Fánar Burtur Brandaljóð” are my favorites. But the whole damn thing is triumphant.
- Hey you, yeah, you. Don’t come in and argue about ‘white guilt’ with me. I will drop the hammer. ↩
- Apparently there was a lot more to “Shadow of the Swastika” than I realized. The German Berliner Institut für Faschismus Forschung (Berlin Institute of Fascism Research) had apparently been circulating information about the bands on the Heathenfest tour as fascists. To this, Týr and Moonsorrow released a video rebuking the claims of fascism. I was unfortunately “clueless” about the situation myself. That said, I still think that one needs to be very careful when claiming that one’s political position as “apolitical,” particularly when one’s culture is used to support claims of “biological race,” which much of the nation-state in Europe has been supported by. Further, we should all be careful about claiming that racism is a thing of the past, or implying that racism was born or died with Nazi Germany. Racism is rooted in deep, cultural constructions of race that do not and have not simply dissipated and that are currently used by anti-immigration parties. A final note is that fascism has a definition, and that definition is not “racist.” It strikes me as very weird that researchers (from Europe no less) would conflate the two. However, I still maintain that Týr is wrong to imply that anti-racists who are aware of the de facto racial structures and speak to them are the same as neo-Nazis. That is also a position of ignorance. White dudes cannot magically claim to be ahistorical and non-racial, because we’re not. Understanding that is important, and that means accepting that things you love (pagan symbols and Scandinavian history) are misappropriated and understanding that people react badly to that because those misappropriations have real power still. – h/t to euthanatos and themetalpigeon for a good discussion below. ↩