Hitting their stride early on with works like Erik the Red and Ragnarok, their songs have continued to serve as notes on studious subtlety tied to bricks and hurled across the metal-folk-prog divide, not meant to injure, but to inform.
While they may be lacking the ballast of bands like Ereb Altor or Moonsorrow, and the fun factor of (early) Turisas, these Faroese natives’ music is nevertheless proof positive that it’s possible to merge prog, folk and even power metal into a wholly coherent style while skilfully eschewing the pitfalls of each particular style. Valkyrja continues to see them well positioned as the thinking man’s prog-tinged folk metal band.
Interplay between subtlety and variety is key here, as the songs ebb and flow between sections of punchy guitar-work (“Blood of Heroes”), wispy sing-along ditties (“Hel Hath No Fury”) and choral/prog excursions (“Grindavísan”), with the band never overplaying their hand at any of the aforementioned elements.
In many ways Valkyrja strikes me as an amalgamation of Ragnarok (in terms of the strong vocal harmonies) and The Lay of Thrym (in terms of the lively guitars), with the non-cheesy folk aesthetic of Falconer thrown in. It’s a cracking mix, and they pull it off wonderfully, even if the near hour-long running time is a bit of a drawback.
While there is a lot of lyrical rumination on the virtues of cracking skull and shield, others belie the war-centric aspect. On songs like “The Lay of Our Love” and the title track they opt for a different approach, lamenting the warrior’s anguish over leaving his family behind. Leaves Eyes’ Liv Kristine makes a guest appearance on the former track and her silky delivery fits the song like a glove.
Tyr exchange the chain mail for denim and cowboy hats right at the tail end of the album, churning out two exceptional Iron Maiden and Pantera covers. Their rendition of “Cemetery Gates” is downright amazing, faithfully capturing the emotional essence of the original. Together with Wolf’s cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” this might very well be one of my favorite cover versions ever, and simply the cherry on top of a well-rounded, well-written and extremely good album.
(released: September 17, 2013 on Metal Blade Records)