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Heri Joensen, mastermind behind progressive Viking metallers Týr, recently started a side project: Heljareyga, named after a special hole in rock near the sea shore. Because I like Týr, and the artwork for the album looks impressive, I got the album. The few first things I noted were that everything is sung in Faeroese, and the songs average around 9 minutes length. Risky, because you might start to bore the listener. Luckily, that doesn’t happen.
Joensen often uses traditional melodies and songs as a basis for Týr material, and mixes them up with progressive metal. That’s not how Heljareyga works. All songs are original material by Joensen, no folk/Viking but the recognizable sound from Joensen’s other band is present. A good thing. The album kicks off with the nine-minute song Regnið. An intro with lots of Týr-like guitars and some very vivid drumming. All right, this will be a fun ride. When Joensen starts to sing it just gets better. I really like his voice, he can put a lot of power in it without really screaming and it’s firm. The verses are layered with voice, guitars and drums playing at a seemingly different pace, without ever sounding cacophonous. The chorus sounds really epic: the vocals dominate, backed up by the drums and the guitars moved to the background. The instruments have a resonance, adding to the epic feel of the song.
The songs are build out of several different parts: there may be a chorus and a verse, but there are many bridges, pre-choruses that ensure that the song doesn’t feel too long. Those nine minute songs pass by rather quickly because of this dynamic structure. Combining different tempos, riffs, melodies in one coherent song isn’t an easy thing to do, and it’s even more difficult to create an entire such album without boring the listener. But Heljareyga succeeds; the different melodies and paces fit together.
Everything is sung clean, in the strange Faeroese language. Outside the folk/pagan genre there are nearly no bands I know that don’t sing in English. Because of this completely incomprehensible language the voice becomes another instrument. The lyrics are illegible and following the words is difficult because of the different sounds of every letter. So the vocals have a different position here, something that I like once in a while.
Heljareyga has created an album that, I hope, will be the first among many. The music is dynamic, ever changing and you keep on hearing interesting new details in the music. The vocals are powerful and really add that special touch to the music. Although the music is faster, the songs are longer and there is no folk influence, Týr fans are definitely recommended to hear Heljareyga.