Thyrfing – Vanagandr Review

Unless you only got into metal recently, you are sure to have an array of bands that you’ve listened to in the past and enjoyed, but for whatever reason you didn’t delve any deeper or keep up with their new releases. Occasionally you might see a namedrop somewhere and go “huh, yeah, I liked that band.” Sometimes you might even pick the thread back up. It’s how I got back into Madder Mortem, for instance. Other times, you shrug and move on, pursuing new thrills instead, making a solemn oath that you never fulfill, to one day get back to that enjoyable echo from the past.1 Such a moment of recognition struck me when I saw the name Thyrfing pop up in the promo box. “Thyrfing!” I said. “They were cool! Vansinnesvisor was a good album, I recall. They were kinda sorta big at the time, right? We must have a few real fans here to pick this one up for review.” But no one came. Is it coincidence? Has Thyrfing fallen from grace? And if so, can they rise again?

It’s not hard to see why Thyrfing drifted off the map, hopping from label to label since Vansinnesvisor, the time between releases increasing every time. I sincerely hope they can get their output together, though, because Vanagandr is a lively mission statement: pillage and burn, for the glory of Odin! Despite the long and winding journey the band’s longboat has taken, their core sound has remained largely unchanged. It’s an aggressive take on Viking metal, dipping into black metal for the hoarse rasps and sustained blasts, while retaining a largely mid-paced, battle-driven pacing. The harshness is countered with a touch of the symphonic, though there is restraint to this aspect of their sound. Expect no Fleshgod level bombast; just an underlying violin here, a sprinkle of piano there, as well as a tendency to mix up the vocal styles with cleans and the occasional soprano.

It’s a tried and true sound that doesn’t significantly differ from Thyrfing‘s peak. Where it fails or succeeds is with the drive and focus behind the music and the quality of the riffs. Opener “Döp Dem i Eld” is a good example of all the elements working in harmony to kick an entire unsuspecting coastal village’s ass, with a pounding drum assault and a vocal hook that could whip a lifelong hippie into a pillaging frenzy. But the rage is granted space and eloquence by the smart and conservative use of symphonics, balancing the fury with a poignant gloom. On the other end of the spectrum, however, we can see how the band does not always know exactly how to best employ the musical elements at their disposal. “Rötter,” for instance, sports a lackluster riff, is unsure how to utilize the piano and violin, and the mixture of vocals is vague and unfocused.

The quality of Vanagandr is evenly spread across this spectrum, from righteous, epic ass-kicking down to unfocused meanderings. The grim atmosphere that conjures Viking ships cutting through nighttime fog is consistently too effective for any track to be outright bad, though. At no point do I ever get fed up or downright annoyed, and when the focus and energy pick up again Thyrfing are still fun as hell. As an aside, I do have to wonder how much more effective the quieter songs and stanzas could have been with a better production. Mix and master alike are just not up to snuff to let the additional instrumentation and multitude of vocals shine, causing it all to kind of blur into one another. Though the mood is gleaned from the muck, a clearer production might have made the music more interesting beyond that.

Despite these shortcomings, I did enjoy Vanagandr. Thyrfing have been around since before the turn of the century, cranking out quality material with alarming irregularity, but I hope they can settle somewhat and use this album as a jumping-off point to build into a real comeback. They have all the chops needed for it; they just need more consistency and focus, and better production, to excel once more. Vanagandr is not quite there yet, but it’s a solid and enjoyable album that doesn’t quite qualify as essential listening.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Despotz Records
Websites: thyrfing.bandcamp.com | thyrfing.com | facebook.com/thyrfingofficial
Releases Worldwide: August 27th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Sorry Graveworm!
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