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A psychedelic doom metal version of Metallica - 79%

kluseba, July 14th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Napalm Records

Four years after its original foundation was cast, the progressive folk metal band Týr truly came to life with its first release How Far To Asgaard. Instead of the more power metal-influenced records that would follow, the band’s first strike is clearly influenced by doom. The eight songs, plus a Faroese poem that works as a hidden track, are characterized by epic-feeling song writing at a slower, mid-tempo pace. The songs have an average length of around seven minutes, which can get quite long after a while.

All songs feature a fairly dark atmosphere that is carried by somewhat simplistic but efficient instrumental work, and especially by the band’s first singer Pól Arni Holm. His performance is haunting, and he has a very melodic voice that creates well needed hooks in an otherwise somewhat inaccessible record. The opener “Hail To The Hammer” is such an example. Overall, the tone of the vocals is epic and longing. They slightly remind me of Pasi Koskinen, who once was involved in Amorphis. On the other side, a melodic version of Jari Mäenpää (Ensiferum/Wintersun) also comes to my mind. At some points, these vocals might also please those who prefer the calmer, down to earth passages of Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch or the young James Hetfield of Metallica fame. This all means that Holm is quite diversified and does a decent job, but somewhat lacks his own identity. Sadly, this record is his only one with the band. I would have liked to hear more from him and see if he had been able to develop his own distinct style.

The negative part of How Far To Asgaard lies in its overlong song structures and its lack of diversity towards the end. The instrumental work is technically decent and atmospherically convincing, but it all becomes a little bland after a while. Many tracks have unnecessary lengths that lead to dull repetition (as in “God Of War” for example).

The highlights of this record can be found primarily in the first half. First of all, there is the quite catchy opener, “Hail To The Hammer”. Then follows the strong doom hymn “Excavation” that convinces with a few slow melodic guitar solos and a very vivid vocal performance. “The Rune” is slightly faster and moves more towards heavy metal stylings with vintage twin guitar parts and a strong old school NWOBHM feeling. The transcending and calm parts of the song call to mind psychedelic and progressive rock influences, and show the potpourri of great ideas that the Faroese already have on their side. The following “Ten Wild Dogs” is even more experimental, but goes a little too far. The track feels like a psychedelic drug trip, and is probably the weirdest song the band has written to date. That’s why it’s so addicting, and a pleasure to rediscover this song over and over again, even though it’s quite a rough ride each time.

In the end, the most famous metal band of the Faroe Islands is already showing its talent on this debut. Even though some songs are overlong or hard to digest, there is no filler material on here. The record even turns out to be quite a grower after a while, even if the second half of the record can’t keep up with the first three songs. Fans of folk or power metal ought to be careful and give this release several spins before purchasing it. However, this album should rather please progressive doom fans that appreciate atmospheric music with an old school touch. If I had to describe this release in one sentence, I would do so as follows: A dark, doom metal version of Metallica with psychedelic moments.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal

What to make of this... - 60%

natrix, August 21st, 2013

A Viking metal band from the Faroe Islands. Sounds pretty damn good, doesn't it? I mean, these guys should have this type of thing in their blood, right? As far as the whole Viking folklore goes, this is about as authentic as you can get: some lyrics are sung in the musical Faroese language, and Tyr knows their Norse legends. At some points, this really does evoke the legends of the Vikings...but at others, it resembles a bunch of drunk Norsemen sitting around a campfire with electric guitars, some of which have been grazing on suspicious mushrooms.

But what about the metal?

That's where Tyr really draws a big question mark. Typically, you do have the right elements for a decent doom metal album. Slow tempos, groaning guitars and epicness. The vocals are pretty average. Rarely cringeworthy, I must say, but at a few points it sounds like he's really straining to hit the notes.

The bass isn't worth mentioning, but the drums and guitars are. First, the drums don't do anything fantastic. No classy fills, no pummeling double bass, and they're way too weak in the mix. How Far to Asgaard, as far as it is supposed to bring to mind epicness, screams out for a mighty drum prescence, not this sleepy stuff!

Now, the guitars. I don't know if Tyr was trying to mix in traditional Faroese folk melodies or what, but it seems that they like using scales that are not only uncommon for metal, but unsuitable for metal. Take any song from "Hail to the Hammer" to "Ten Wild Dogs" (which does feature some strange tapping), and you'll recognize the problem immidiately. There are some great moments on here, the least metal of which, "Ormurin Langi," is easily the best. "The Rune" starts off with a sweet riff, then they change it to some really goofy melody, then they go into light verse, and some melancholic riffs. It all works really well, save for that fruity second melody. Nearly every time they start playing a riff, they'll play one or two notes seemingly out of place, which completely derails everything. I guess it earns them the tag "progressive," but it really make How Far to Asgaard an uneasy listening experience. As I've said before, this is more of a doomy album, and it crawls along just about a turtle's stride. This is not a problem, however. The problem is those happy riffs!

I had incorrectly assumed that this was recorded in the Faroe Islands, as the sound suffers from that classic the-producer-has-no-idea-what-the-fuck-metal-is syndrome, apparent in otherwise great works by bands from Algeria, to Thailand, to Greenland. The guitars have no lower end, and sound way too clear, making the happy melodies all the more irritating. The drums suffer the most from this production ignorance, and come across as crispy wafers and frisbees of metal.

I'll check out more by Tyr, but this is just too weird to be considered a proper "metal" album.

If Asgard were a smoking lounge. - 66%

hells_unicorn, February 17th, 2012

Metal music has its fair share of oddities, but none more seemingly oxymoronic than the notion of merging together progressive rock and folk influences. The first run-in I’ve personally had with this concept was actually a very pleasing one in Wuthering Heights, who somehow manage to balance these two polarizing extremes into an enticing mixture that is catchy enough for the radio, yet drawn out and complex enough to not be suitable for it. Logically speaking, the next step according to some friends who often quake about Viking themed metal would be for me to seek further entertainment from the Faroe Islands.

My first inclination when dealing with a new band is to go for the early material, but in the particular case of Tyr, that is not the best place to go. The general tendency is that when a band revamps a line up after a debut or an otherwise short stint of albums and proceeds to have a successful career (as was the case with Gamma Ray), it’s usually reflective of a lack of chemistry between band members, and also a sound that hasn’t fully come into focus. “How Far To Asgard” is perhaps among the more blatant examples of a band falling into the trap of having a few too many ideas and throwing them all in, and also of having a vocalist who doesn’t quite have an identity of his own.

Don’t misunderstand, there is a lot of really interesting ideas going on, especially on the more drawn out songs like “God Of War” and the first 9 minutes of the closing title song (in other words, the actual song rather than the gratuitous amount of silence that follows it and the goofy a capella drinking song fiasco that follows).The guitars flail around something fierce, offering up fancy lead breaks both in complexity and frequency to rival Dream Theater during one of their live jam sessions, and there are a fair number of recognizable folk tunes smattering around a sea of rhythmic changeups and gimmicks. Strangely enough, the band tends to hang around down tempo land, barely going beyond the range of speed normally exhibited by Saint Vitus, and sometimes even goes so far as to sound somewhat similar to the aforementioned traditional doom purveyors at times.

Nevertheless, I’m hard pressed to say that I can recall more than a few fragmented ideas from this album after the speakers go silent. There are a few individual melodies here and there on “The Rune” that I could probably hum on command, but the overall impression of the song seems jaded and fleeting from my general recollection. But one thing that can be instantly remembered by even the least seasoned novice of metal adherents is how wildly similar vocalist Pol Arni Holm sounds to a young James Hetfield (particularly during the “Master Of Puppets” days when the thrash screaming was downplayed). He’s definitely a competent singer and hits all the notes with a professional precision, but damned if I can’t find myself expecting this band to bust into a lounge music cover version of “The Thing That Should Not Be” at every single turn.

I wouldn’t qualify this as a bad album, in fact, I’m sure there are a good number of people in the progressive metal crowd that might take a liking to the idea of a band that loves to show off their technique also has a vocalist fit for doing an entire album of Metallica covers like Dream Theater have all but done themselves. Nevertheless, this is not really something that dazzles in a way that many rave reviewers have suggested their later material does. Picture Odin and Thor chilling in a beatnik lounge with a couple of cups of coffee while listening to free jazz and you’ll have a visual not too far from how this album comes off.

Hail to the Hammer! - 73%

ponyovdoom, July 8th, 2011

Going back in time to the first years of Týr, back when Heri Joensen was the only guitarist and a guy namd "Pól Arni Holm" was singing. Since then, Pól left, Terji Skibenæs joined as second guitarist, and Heri Joensen took over the lead vocals as well.

So, How far to Asgaard. This album is very different from the other ones, it actually has a doom metal approach as you are introducted with in the first song "Hail to the Hammer". This track is a nice tribute, or even anthem, to the dear hammer, it's a slowtempo song, sounding like a interlude to something big coming on, some choirs are heard also.
The vocals are clean, and not far from what Heri Joensen sounds like, they are more cheesy and soft perhaps and not as melodic as Heris. But Pól is doing a good job. This was in fact the first record I ever heard from Týr, so I had to get used to Heris vocals on Eric the Red in the beginning.

The doom is present once again in Excavation, with some more mighty drums, but still some doom-kinda riffs and a nice solo also. Gunnars bass is audible at times on this record where it's not on the other records. The bass can be heard along some nice tapping from Heri in the intro part of the song, "The Rune" for instance. Which is a beautiful song, the verse is slow with ambient guitars along the silent bass and then Póls great vocals. This track is probably my favorite of the album, with the picture of myself sitting on a clfif on the Faroe Islands looking across the horizon into the endless sea. However, the song also changes into some more aggressive parts, that's mostly vocal wise. There is no such thing as blastbeats or anything here, the album still manages to keep this doom-like sound, which is still awesome.

Of course, the album also has some less interesting ways to put it that way. A song like "Ten Wild Dogs" has a gloomy sound to it, or maybe I would just call it weird? The sound is more tight here, like if it was putted in a bottle. The guitar work is pretty weird, with some low note tapping kinda of stuff, it's hard to hear what is exactly going on with the guitar I must admit. The vocals are recorded in a more dark way here, they do not sound exactly clean in their production. And to mention the production, overall on the album, it's good. The bass can be heard in "Ten Wild Dogs" also, to mention that. The drumming can easily be heard, there is no raw production, and the drumming is doomish, but not really anything special. The guitar and vocals are clear, so all in all I have no complaints about the production.

The guitar playing on the album varies from having cheesy sounds, cute to even call it that, as heard on the first minut of "God of War" before switching into some heavy stuff. And as mention in "Ten Wild Dogs", there is some damn weird effects going on with some low note tapping stuff. The guitar is pretty thick in the general riffing. But I consider the guitar playing on this album the highlight along the awesome vocals. The bass is nice to hear I must admit though, and there are some good basslines.

All in all, this album is pretty good, if you are a Týr fan, you should check it out, but do not expect it to sound like the other releases at all. If you are new to Týr and want to check them out you might go for another album to hear what they really are all about now. This album is a fun little experience, some songs are really good while others are a bit.. Meh. Anyway, Hail to the Hammer!

Cute Viking rock - 70%

UCTYKAH, May 7th, 2009

Never bothered to check them out until I ended up at the Pagan Fest last year and they were there. Pagan Fest's highlight: why it's TURISAS' cover of BONEY M's "Rasputin" of course, which might have been lost on quite a few fellow Americans, but is always good clean fun either way, even if you missed the heyday of Euro-disco. I also took note of "Hail to the Hammer" - hell of a catchy tune, great for pumping thy fist in the air and easy to understand. Hail the hammer, hail the great hunter, hail the forces of nature that keep us warm in the winter. Some of TYR's other pieces made me raise an eyebrow, though. What is up with all the mainstream rock passages? - I thought during one of their songs. But hey, I figured, this must have been some of their later material, when they grew-up, matured, evolved, crapped-out and all that jazz. Happens to a lot of bands, no surprise there. Their first album is probably decent, I speculated and proceeded to "How Far To Asgaard". Wrong! TYR were like that from the get go. The fact (according to MA's additional notes on the band) that they gained initial recognition by participating in a Danish contest and scoring a hit says a little something about them. I do not really mean to accuse them of being sell-outs. I am sure they mean well, love their culture, want to be different and so on and so forth. It's just that the music lags somewhat, from the metal standpoint that is. TYR make very nice Viking rock with shitload of mass-appeal. Combination of strong clean singing and great musicianship, plentiful lead work and clear cut accessible riffs with more complex than usual time signatures create a winning combination indeed. Hell, I wish they go multiplatinum, win a Grammy, become a household name. Sincerely. But no, they claim (are described as, fall into the category of etc.) to be metal, and progressive to boot, so let it be.

The progressive part is relatively easy to pick out for a blockhead like me. Refined, technical heavy metal sound is filtered through a slow to mid-paced Viking prism. Classical flair in many passages and chord progressions point to the same direction. Guitar roulades and solos are present in spades. Here they are on "The Rune" or "Ten Wild Dogs" or the title track, all over the place. What other Viking band does so many solos? Or, hey, check out those modulating lead lines on "Ten Wild Dogs". Progressive it is. Or, better yet, look at the song structures. Sure, the band are not above using simple verse/chorus set up, often merely repeating a quadrant or two with solos tucked in-between serving as bridges, but they are always sure to masquerade it with syncopated tempos or off-kilter rhythms, a little prog wankery in other words. If the band is not progressive, then they at the very least exhibit serious progressive aspirations. At the same time, these aspirations are kept tightly under control. The band guard their mass appeal like the most pious nun and make sure that their musical language is easily understood. No one will ever accuse them of being primitive, but calling their music complicated would be a bit far-fetched. It's progressive but never truly complex, refined but never too high-minded, never wondering too far off into the thicket, so no one will ever confuse them with SPIRAL ARCHITECT. The same goes for the metal part of the equation. Actual metal in TYR's music seems to be more of an appendage rather than a major factor, hence the Viking rock tag. Metallic riffs are there, but on the grand scheme of things they play a supporting role or just plain sit on the backburner, readily diluted by many a major rock chord and riff. Certain segments on tracks such as "The Rune" and "Sand in the Wind" still make me cringe. Their contemporary rock sound and guitar chords are exactly what I was complaining in the paragraph above. These mainstream flirtations water down both metal and the Viking feel in the band's music, but it's also exactly what contributes to the band's success. By always playing the middle-of-the-road position and by keeping their influences perfectly leveled, TYR certainly stand out among their peers, and their sound is easily recognizable. Even the album's atmosphere exhibits the same level-headed traits. Heroic and optimistic, or at least content, and never aggressive, much less dark. But then Viking metal is not the darkest music there is. Either way, if anyone will bring Viking metal into the mainstream, it would be TYR. Wait, haven't they already done that? Maybe not. Actually, I have no idea. All I know is that they are not coming back to the US with this year's Pagan Fest.

This review turned out to be more of a critique rather than a compliment, but I guess you should not let that dissuade you. If you are in the mood for something light, this will do the trick just fine. True and false lines have long been blurred. Hardcore metal-heads who profess their unadulterated love for, say, THE GATHERING (I know you are out there in droves) still manage to retain their credibility, right? Same can go for TYR. Just make sure to wear a pair of dark shades during the initial contact, else the smooth and tender sunny light emanating from this recording might burn thy dark soul.

Solid debut - 80%

Suechtler, December 3rd, 2007

Týr have become a well known band in the metal community all over the world with their last two albums and lots of touring across Europe. “Eric The Red” and Ragnarok are often hailed as masterpieces, rightfully I’d say, but the band’s debut album “How Far To Asgard” (HFTA) is largely neglected. This is a shame in my opinion because, while not yet playing their completely own brand of progressive Viking metal, Týr already knew how to craft some well-written and well-played songs back in 2002.

There aren’t close to as many progressive elements on HFTA as the band will incorporate in the future, the song structures are generally simpler, the rhythms aren’t on the same level of oddness and the vocalist is not as original as guitarist Heri Joensen who took over vocal duties from “Eric The Red” onwards. What we have on HFTA is closer to traditional eighties epic/doom metal, most of the music is mid-tempo; the majority of the songs feature an obligatory guitar solo.

But Týr didn’t just pay homage to their favourite bands on HFTA; beginning with the lyrics they tried to incorporate lots of Faroese tradition and folklore. The lyrics mostly deal with Norse mythology, “God of War” for example is about Týr, the Norse and Germanic god of courage, strength, justice, victory, defence, and battle, whom the band named themselves after and are written in English on all tracks but one, “Ormurin Langi”, which is written in Faroese, a really interesting language.

Of course HFTA also has influences from Faroese folk music, foremost in regard of melodies, but these are not as common as they are on Týr’s following albums. This is shown best in the great melancholic ballad “Ormurin Langi”, sadly I don’t understand the lyrics, but when listening to this song I can see pictures of a tale about the tragic death of a brave warrior appear inside my head.

Another noteworthy song is the album’s opener “Hail to the Hammer”, which is simple, catchy and has a great sing-along chorus and is really awesome played live. Now I’m coming nearer to the album’s main problem, lacking variety. I wouldn’t call any of the other songs on HFTA bad or anything, they are just not as good as the two songs I’ve mentioned above and are quite similar to each other.

The vocals on here are actually quite similar to Heri’s vocals in style, but former singer Pol Arni Holm doesn’t have a voice quite as powerful as his successor’s. Týr often incorporate choir-like vocals too, which are done by all band members and add to the feeling of hearing Vikings chanting their myths.

Guitar-wise HFTA features well-written riffs by Heri Joensen who is the sole guitarist on this album, which only lack memorability at some points. He also does nice leads at many points, and when playing a solo he shows himself as a technically very competent guitarist.
Drums and bass are largely used to create simple and pounding rhythms and fulfil this job very well. Sometimes the bass is also given a lead function, which works very well.

All in all HFTA is an album every fan of Týr should listen to, although it can’t compare with the band’s latest outputs, especially in terms of song-writing, HFTA is well worth hearing.