If we talk Viking Metal you can almost take it for granted that the name THYRFING appears at least once in a discussion. The Swedish brigade has been quite for a long time developing their own mix of Black and Folk stuff recording nowadays albums that do not have so much in common with their first offerings “Thyrfing” and “Valdr Galga”. Whereas several years back in time the band’s music relied to a considerable extent on catchy synthesizer passages it is currently the guitars, which are most responsible for creating the atmosphere in THYRFING’s efforts. They have become much more heavy and massive and even though the trace of traditional music has become fairly vaguer on their latest releases, the spirit of Scandinavian heritage reflected in some Folk-influenced moments still reminds of the band’s interests and roots.
The differences between “now” and “then” in the ensemble’s works are present not only within the sound sphere but also as regards the lyrical plane. In the beginning of their musical career the references to their main source of inspiration – Nordic mythology – were as clear as daylight but as the time was passing by the texts seemed to be gradually more and more mature and thought-out. Apart from some traces of tales of gods and Scandinavian beliefs the band started to weave in certain themes which could be associated with the Swedish folk’s culture and their struggles. For instance, the group’s “Farsotstider” was lyrically based among others on Black Death and tracks such as the title one could bring to mind scenes from one of the most renowned motion pictures called “Det Sjunde Inseglet” (“The Seventh Seal”) directed by Ingmar Bergman.
The musical as well as the lyrical direction taken on “Hels Vite” can hardly be considered as something else than simply a step forward on THYRFING’s artistic path. The guitar parts resemble of a roadroller slowly and consistently crushing and grinding everything on its way while the drum department does its best in order to increase the machine’s destructive force. What draws one’s attention as regards the guitars is their groovy touch, which seems to be most worthwhile during slow and mid-tempo moments prevailing by the way on this release. There is also something quite new in their music, namely the way the synthesizers are used. Whereas in certain fragments of “Hels Vite” like in “Becoming The Eye” this instrument does sound a bit as if on their early releases, the overall impression is that this time the guys have chosen to make it sound really mature and genteel. In practice it means a lot of classical music feeling plus even some sacral sounds influences (check out “Griftefrid”). There is no doubt that THYRFING’s art can be in most cases described as epic, yet only now the sublime structures forged together with these intense and massive guitar sequences bestow the whole concept something really exceptional. This uniqueness is even more emphasized by the vocal performance from Jens Rydén, who has replaced Thomas Väänänen on the singer’s post. Frankly speaking, I do not feel there is any serious difference between these two gentlemen as the current vocalist seems to continue with the way Väänänen was delivering lyrics on “Farsotstider” – full of passion, dramaturgy and madness.
As for the lyrics it is just like I have already described – the Nordic mythological motifs are admittedly present, yet they are not that explicit. A good example is “Becoming The Eye” being in terms of the lyrics a sort of reflection on the mythic world’s downfall. The first two verses read: “I heard the last root break, and the steps nine” where the beginning refers to the ash Yggdrasil and the other verse directs one’s thoughts towards thunder god Thor who after having killed the giant serpent Jormundgand is only able to take nine steps and then falls. The title track in turn, even though it has a clear reference to the underworld goddess Hel does not actually seem to cover any significant event from the Scandinavian’s beliefs and might be interpreted in numerous ways.
All in all “Hels Vite” is a very well executed piece of work being an eloquent proof for the band’s talent and consistency. If you are tired of the nowadays Viking/Folk Metal scene’s hyper-merry battle and drinking hymns then check the latest effort made by these Swedish warriors. Their sword Tyrfing is still raised high.
(Online July 30, 2009)