On “De Ödeslösa” (“The Fateless”), THYRFING’s seventh full-length album, the on-going transition from the old THYRFING is finally complete. Except for the archaic language in the lyrics and one or two riffs there is nothing left of the old energetic Viking Metal band that released albums like “Valdr Galga” and “Urkraft”. The transformation has been in the process for a few years, so I am not surprised, but if it wasn’t obvious already on “Hels Vite” that the band was going permanently in a new direction, it is now.
As the change has come gradually, it’s hard to point out what is so fundamentally different from one album to the next, but a few things are central to the change. Genre-wise, I would say the band has gone from Viking Metal to Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal, maybe even with a progressive touch. The music still works with grand proportions and the symphonic influence is mainly reflected by use of grandiose keyboard melodies in the background, but I still hesitate to write “Symphonic”, as that nowadays leads the thoughts to DIMMU BORGIR and similar, very orchestral acts. THYRFING make use of an epic soundscape, but the symphonic parts never come to the forefront. There, a typical Black Metal mood is prevalent, with distorted guitars, semi-hypnotic structures and Jens Rydén’s very raspy vocals. The main thing that separates this from traditional Black Metal, except for the amount of melodies, is Dennis Ekdahl’s drumming. It has the metallic drum sound that THYRFING have used many times before and is more varied and traditional in approach than on most Black Metal. There are few blastbeats overall.
So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this new album from the Swedes? There is a very interesting melancholy atmosphere in the album that combines feelings of sadness and wrath in a satisfying manner. The lyrics also contribute to this and they are generally well-written, as always. Even though the album feels a lot like a united whole, there is also some variation between the songs to break any possible repetition. This is probably due to the fact that all the members have contributed to some of the songs, so that the main writer is often not the same person, giving the songs an individual flavour. That is most noticeable in the very different track “Kamp”, which works surprisingly well, despite having a strong bluesy rock ’n roll feeling incorporated into the Black Metal. When it comes to weaknesses, I only have complaint and that is the vocal department. Sure, you could also say that the album would improve by being a little catchier, but this is a conscious choice from the band and also entails other benefits. Back to the vocals though – Jens Rydén is, in my opinion, no match for the furious Thomas Väänänen. Rydén was on the last album too, but there it wasn’t as obvious how much the album would have benefited from having Väänänen taking care of the vocal department. Rydéns vocals are often rather unintelligible and he doesn’t articulate lines clearly enough. It often feels like he is skipping over words in the lyrics because he is squeezing them into an unorthodox rhythm that makes the lyrics hard to follow. As if that was not enough, the vocals have been placed deeper in the mix than ever. I like to have vocals to hold onto when navigating through a song, but here they receive no special place in the mix whatsoever. Toni Kocmut’s clean vocals are more frequently used here than on “Hels Vite” and still work well, but I feel that he has got instructions to be more psychedelic than ever, so they don’t work as well as they did on the older, more Viking Metal oriented releases.
Overall, however, this is a very good album, that combines Black Metal with ideas of its own and with an atmosphere that does not conform to genre conventions. All the songs are strong and work well together, but those looking for highlights should check out the closer, which is also the title track. Fans of the last two or three THYRFING albums should definitely like this, as well as fans of bands like NAGLFAR, ENSLAVED, SKOGEN, RUTTHNA or even of Death Metal acts such as SEPTICFLESH or UNANIMATED.
(Online March 18, 2013)