Týr - _By the Light of the Northern Star_
(Napalm Records, 2009)
by: Colleen Burton (6 out of 10)
Týr have been pushing out symmetrical albums thick and fast over the past few years, never wavering in their allegiance to paganism and progressivism. _By the Light of the Northern Star_ is an overzealous effort to bind their skillful cultivation (which culminated on the forerunner _Land_) with the piquant anthems from _Eric the Red_. Their early work is easily surpassed by the opener, "Hold the Heathen Hammer High", as possibly Týr's best song to date. Less solemn than _Land_, this album is back in the practice of amalgamating English songs with Faroese to leave a singular impression upon the listener, akin to their strategy with what many view to be their masterwork, _Ragnarok_. Thanks to preexisting material, fans will feel a sense of intimacy with newer tracks like "Into the Storm", yet the guitar work has ripened and become more intricate alongside a perceptibly faster cadence.

Skibenæs' soloing paves the way into "Northern Gate" after examples of Joensen's cherished chanting and symphonic vocal techniques; admittedly, their sudden turn to immodest English songs after their focus on Faroese epics leaves the listener feeling a bit nonplussed. "By the Sword in My Hand" is a gratifyingly rhythmical track, but still somewhat inexplicable unless Týr purport to generate some more fist-pumping material for live shows with lyrics that could be comfortably set to Amon Amarth's more brutish homage to Vikings past. Such a decision is seemingly fair enough, abrupt though it may be and though it may leave the more recent marathon-length material of _Land_ null and void.

In a sense, _By the Light of the Northern Star_ delivers more of the same, yet Týr continue to stand widely apart from their heathen colleagues, thanks to longevity in bandmates and Joensen's unparalleled, inspirational vocals. It remains to be seen whether Týr can rekindle the outstanding inventiveness of their youth, but these lovely, august songs absolutely infuse one with nostalgia for the group's earliest days and set _By the Light of the Northern Star_ as an obvious must-have for fans and a fine entry point for others -- it simply lacks the stouthearted sagas of album past.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/tyr1

(article published 24/12/2009)

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