By the Light of the Northern Star

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Tyr are a Viking metal outfit from the Faroe Islands -- an autonomous region between Norway and Iceland that has been an independent territory of the kingdom of Denmark since 1948, but like the rugged terrain its citizens inhabit, it also has its own language, called, appropriately enough "Faroese." This band has been consistent in the marketplace since issuing their How Far to Asgaard, their debut album in 2002; this is their third release on the Napalm imprint. Like their previous recordings, Tyr rely heavily on the folk tradition of their region. Scandinavian lyrical and melodic themes are fused neatly and seamlessly with pagan and Viking metal: By the Light of the Northern Star employs these elements in accessible, but utterly heavy ways. Along with the recognizable chants and collective melodic tropes are shredding guitar solos, blastbeats, marching tempos, and power riffs. Their last offering, Land was a sprawling more purposely progressive outing. It took a kitchen sink approach to instrumentation and songwriting (some long suite-like tunes were present), as well as dynamic and production. By contrast, By the Light of the Northern Star is a more reined in effort, and a better album for it. Sung in both English and Faroese, these nine cuts range all over Norse mythology and mysticism for their inspiration. Production-wise, vocals are right up front, there isn't any growling or cookie monster tomfoolery mucking up the mix, but instead clear, straightforward, multi-tracked choral style singing and chanting. Each instrument in the mix is clear, big, and rousing. Tracks such as "Hear the Heathen Call," "Northern Gate," and "Into the Storm" all have intense guitar solos as well as hummable choruses. "Tróndur í Gøtu" is easily the heaviest thing here, wedding a skeletal folk melody to punishing riffs, staggered drums, and a pulse-like bass that acts more as a bass drum. Tyr aren't the most original Viking metal act on the block, but they do make appealing music and fit a certain niche like a glove.

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