Thyrfing // De ödelösa
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Righting the Longship
Label: NoiseArt Records
Websites: thyrfing.com | facebook.com/thyrfingofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2013.03.01 | US: 03.05.2013 [Digitally]
Thyrfing might be one of Swedish metal’s ‘best kept secrets,’ an unfortunate moniker for any band. Having been around since the late ’90s and having released 6 full-length records through 2008, these Viking metallers have a history and deep respect in the scene – but not a ton of notoriety. As anyone who’s listened to pop radio should be aware, there is no direct correlation between notoriety and talent; while the former is great for those involved, the latter is better for fans of good music, and Thryfing produced 3 very well-respected records between 2000 and 2005 before going astray with 2008’s Hels vite following the departure of vocalist Thomas Väänänen. The band’s sound during that time developed, getting darker and less… well, let’s be frank about those keyboards… fruity.
De ödelösa is the second record with Jens Rydén (formerly of Naglfar) manning the frontman’s position for Thyrfing, but Hels vite and De ödelösa are very different records, even if built on the same base sound. The five year break between the two records seems to have rekindled some of the old-fashioned flame in the writing for Thyrfing. While Hels vite was a dark affair, with long songs that rarely ended landed under 8 minutes, by contrast De ödelösa is 8 songs, none of them peaking past 7 minutes and most hovering around the 5 minute mark. While sharing in the mid-paced Falkenbach feel, De ödelösa pulses with keyboards, clean vocals and almost old school Vintersorg qualities at times – a memory of the band’s energy almost a decade gone. The songs here pop with an energy that many felt was missing in 2008.
The backbone of later Thyrfing is still here, however, as De ödelösa continues Hels vite and Farostider‘s darker feel – long removed from Thyrfing‘s earliest records. When the band slows down – like the cleans in “Relik” or the intro to “Illvilja” – there is a peaceful melancholy to the tracks. And while Thyrfing rarely reaches a black metal intensity, when they do so – like in title track “De ödelösa” – it is ominous and punishing, backed with best production the band has ever had. In the deft mix of Jens Bogren, the keys are the perfect bed for the band’s mighty choruses and muscular riffs. Most of the time, however, the band spends in Bathory and Moonsorrow mid-paced territory, punctuated by ethereal cleans.
The absolute peak of the record happens on the track “Venners förfall,” [embedded above] which along with “Vindöga” reminds me the most of the band’s older material on the record. This track is a pulsing folk metal riff with Jens Rydén’s tortured screams tumbling over top, which gives way to a majestic chorus worthy of the power of Andreas Hedlund or Simen Hestnæs. Interwoven with machine gun double bass and a grindy riff, “Venners förfall” really reaches its emotional crescendo at the end with the clean vocal melodies. A record of tracks this powerful would put the band on the fast track to an excellent or damned near perfect score.
Unfortunately, De ödelösa isn’t perfect. While the vocals are fantastic, the production is immense and the songwriting is much tightened and improved, not everything is a walk in the park. “Kamp,” for example, feels out of place; like a Viking bluesman combining the worst of Nordman and Robert Plant, with a chorus that almost sounds like it should be in a Eurovision song. While the track is fun, it feels oddly placed in a record of fairly serious music. While the band does switch it up and keep things pretty fresh, the back end of the record lags a bit – this might be simply because the music is mid-paced, or because the production is so atmospheric that it’s almost calming at times. The drums can feel more meditative than heavy and the guitars more rhythmic than melodic. Everything fades into the plush keyboards, which cascade over the other instruments like a waterfall, softening everything it hits.
Complaints aside, though, this is a damned fine record. The tracks here are great, “Venners förfall” will definitely end up competing for “Song of the Year” and after releasing a record that genuinely disappointed many fans in 2008, the 5 year break seems to have really served these Swedish warriors well. I strongly recommend you check out De ödelösa old fans and new alike.