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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.