Viking and pagan inspired metal has such a unique sound and atmosphere to it. Aggressive and heavy, but at the same time awash with epic and even elegant melodies, the music radiates a feeling energetic triumph and excitement. There is this air of gritty magic that really makes it special, and without a doubt a personal favorite of mine. With the exceptional quality of bands to choose from within the sub-genre, announcements of new releases are always exciting. And after six years between releases, that sentiment certainly holds true with Týr’s upcoming release, ‘Hel’.

Týr, now on their eighth studio release, formed in 1998 in the Faroe Islands, a small archipelago north of the UK, west of Norway and southeast of Iceland. Topics of song lyrics often revolve around Norse mythology, and often the band will include covers of folk songs in their releases, often sung in English but sometimes there will be a few songs sung in traditional Faroese. Known for their melodic style of songwriting and heavy riffage, Týr is a fantastic example of the quality of music released within the genre. And after such a long period between releases, it is safe to say ‘Hel’ is certainly much anticipated.

Conceptually, Týr opted to take a different approach to recording this album than before, by taking more time and care, as well as reducing stress during the recording period, and boy does it show. With meticulously crafted musical arrangements, flashy, articulate guitar work, and massive, catchy, chanting choir like choruses, this really could be Týr’s strongest release to date. The guitar work, first and foremost, is big, thick and heavy in the low end, and tastefully skillful in the lead work. There are harmonized guitars flying about all over the place, and they serve the melodic direction of the songs brilliantly. The guitar solos have a real flair of neoclassical influence to them, and sound extremely well planned out, and blisteringly fast, but never pretentious. The rhythm guitars are also written in a way to serve the melodic nature of the songs too, and really provide a strong backbone to the music. The bass flying about on the album falls in very similarly with the rhythm guitars, and is perfectly present in the mix, even with lead embellishments here and there to add a little extra flavor. The drum work is also extremely tight, skillful and fits in well with the complexity of the rest of the instrumentation, grounding everything perfectly. And the vocal work is impeccable, strong, and really displays a range of tonal approaches to the delivery. Some sections see the vocals delivered cleaner, and more subdued, leading into an almost melodic growl that was extremely satisfying. And the amount of layering in the chorus sections with all these different tonal deliveries creates a huge, Viking-choir like effect. The musicianship overall is absolutely fantastic.

The song-writing style employed on this album is rock solid. Each section of each song sounds like it transitions so naturally and seamlessly between each other. And it seems rather clear that the intention across the album was to keep each song self-contained, as each song is written to come to a distinct conclusion, rather than a fade out or blending into the next song. Each track is also quite distinctive from each other, with some sounding more traditionally “Viking-like” with the epic melodies and speed, but there are also tracks on the album that sound closer to power ballads, and some that sound more like some 80s neoclassical metal. All with the distinct Viking metal sound, of course, but it’s like they dusted a little different seasoning on each track just for a different flavor. There is never a boring moment on the album, and nowhere where that feels like you’ve just listened to the same song over and over again.

Returning after a six year studio dry spell, Týr has absolutely smashed it out of the ball-park with Hel. Everything that made their previous releases great has been improved upon in every way with this release, and should Týr venture down south to support this album, it is on my list as a number one priority to see live. It’s that good.