Battle Ballads

Metal Blade
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Hammered
02. Unwandered Ways
03. Dragons Never Die
04. Row
05. Torkils Døtur
06. Vælkomnir Føroyingar
07. Hangman
08. Axes
09. Battle Ballad
10. Causa Latronum Normannorum

There has always been something distinctly noble about TÝR. The Faroese crew have been tagged as purveyors of Viking metal, folk metal and progressive metal over the years, but none of those descriptors have ever rung entirely true. Instead, guitarist/vocalist Heri Joensen has been resolute in bringing his own unique vision to life, across eight previous studio albums and two decades of celebratory live performances. Last time around, on 2019's fiery but prog-inclined "Hel", TÝR stretched the boundaries of their intensely melodic sound to new limits, resulting in one of the band's most potent records to date. Five years on, the musically articulate Joensen has flipped the folk metal script once again, drawing inspiration from TÝR's 2020 live collaboration with the Symphony Orchestra of the Faroe Islands (as documented on their DVD release "Night At The Nordic House") and taking his music on an exhilarating voyage into the maximalist world of orchestral bombast. "Battle Ballads" eschews the progressive elements that have intermittently informed TYR's records in recent times, in favor of simpler, more direct songwriting and an extremely fruitful "more is more" musical policy. Awash with symphonic instrumentation and overwhelmingly evocative as a result, the band's ninth album amounts to a joyous resetting of original values.

A sense of triumph permeates every inch of "Battle Ballads". Songs about bloody skirmishes, seabound adventures and marauding dragons are hardly a novelty in heavy metal, but TÝR's hard-to-define sound and holistic approach to themes and imagery ensures that these songs are bereft of cliché and almost overburdened with inspirational melody and cinematic vastness. This is also the most straight-ahead heavy metal record the band have produced, albeit with the aforementioned orchestral trimmings elevating every song to a higher level of efficacy. Penned by incoming guitarist Hans Hammer, the opening "Hammered" introduces listeners to this newly refocused approach: infernally catchy, pointedly uplifting and texturally rich, it kicks an indecent amount of ass, not least thanks to its euphoric, war-torn chorus and Hammer's blistering but eminently tasteful lead work. "Unwandered Ways" gets to the point even faster, with a textbook folk metal motif that spirals over TYR's rugged, rampaging forward motion; as those orchestral elements take up just the right amount of sonic space, underpinning all the bluster with a dense mesh of skillfully arranged classical grandeur.

In truth, TÝR haven't sounded this fired up and exciting for a long time. Songs like "Dragons Never Die" and "Hangman" brim with energy, as Joensen's songwriting subtly explores new territory, while also delivering a steady stream of colossal, melodic money shots. Meanwhile, heavier and more adventurous material like "Row", "Axes" and, in particular, grandiose closer "Causa Latronum Normannorum" do a fine job of combining the many disparate parts of TÝR's sound into a volubly cinematic storm of gleaming hooks and rabble-rousing, layered vocals. In addition, the sobering folk flurry of "Torkils Døtur" provides a sumptuous moment of respite, as guitars and drums recede to leave Joensen's harmonized voice floating on an immaculate and tranquil sea of sorrowful strings.

A self-evident creative peak for all concerned, "Battle Ballads" strives for and achieves glory.

Author: Dom Lawson
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