Faroese folk metal band TÝR started their North American tour at Brooklyn’s The Knitting Factory, with special guests Orphaned Land, Ghost Ship Octavius, and Aeternam. While TYR is reinventing their sound, the band Orphaned Land has enjoyed a renaissance, especially with their latest album, released earlier in the year, “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs.” Ghost Ship Octavius has become more widely known since their inception in 2013. Our metal brothers from Quebec, Canda, Aeternam have been around since 2007 and are slowly gaining a larger following. One can never predict how well a band will do, however within the heavy metal family, the fans have a unity and common interest in this music that will always be around. Outside the venue, there were protesters during the opening act. Some knew why, while other looked on with curiosity.
Since 2016, Týr frontman Heri Joensen has found himself in hot water with some fans as a result of his participation in slaughtering whales in his native Faroe Islands. He made this public knowledge when he posted a photo of him mutilating a whale carcass on his social media. It was accompanied by the caption “Real men kill their own meat, like this long-finned pilot whale.” Although Joensen later amended the post to explain that the comment “was a bad and poorly phrased joke,” He will never shake off the stigma, especially with his defiant attitude about the topic. Around this time, Tyr made further statements that they are no longer a “Folk Metal Band” as they slowly changed up their sound and abandoned the aesthetic they were once known for. The result was met with a mix of new fans, and what is left remaining of their audience. Tyr has not performed in North America since 2014. While some of the fans were making fun of the protesters, it did create many debates in the lounge area of the Knitting Factory. This alone made the night much more interesting, as one could only wait to see if Heri Joensen would clap back.
Once the openers were done with their set, the main ballroom started to fill up. Our heavy metal brothers from Israel, Orphaned Land, humbly took to the stage and gave us an impressive set list. This is a hard act to follow. Orphaned Land showed the fans how socially conscious they are with songs like “The Cave” from their latest opus ‘Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs.’ This song was the main centerpiece of the band’s short but sweet set. Just like Sabaton and Battle Beast, Orphaned Land has a bright future and has a habit of outshining the headliners. They did a mix of songs but made sure they added “We Do Not Resist” and “Like Orpheus” from the new disc.
The tension was mounting to see what has been going on with Heri Joensen and Tyr. Will we get the Tyr of old that they once unleashed to an unsuspecting audience, or will it be something new? Tyr formed in Denmark, but they pride themselves on being authentic and traditional. Their original (but not current) members are from the Faroe Islands. They early on dressed as Vikings on stage, and have a pagan name. Their fans see them as authentic, despite having a conventional metal sound and singing mostly in English. As soon as the guitars began for their first song “Gates of Hel” followed by “Blood of Heroes” the crowd was pleased. The songs this evening, such as “Hall of Freedom” and “Lady of the Slain” show they are choosing less progressive songs. We also got complex material and a new song from their upcoming release. The highlight of the night was “By The Light of The Northern Star.”
Heri Joensen, the founder of Tyr, has been operating this musical machine since 1998. With 7 albums already under their belt and the 8th one out this year, the band has gone through a musical rebirth. When the song “Hail to the Hammer” came out of Heri’s amplifiers, the crowd responded with glee. The setlist was a vast mix of old and new material. Epic songs like “Trondur I Gotu” will always remain in the band’s arsenal. The newer stuff, like “Lady of the Slain,” shows the audience how the future of Tyr will be. As the band did a pair of encores with “Shadow of the Swastika” followed by the traditional music of “Ramund Hin Unge” the message was loud and clear.
Tyr has never been part of any genre but their own. When folk-metal exploded into heavy music culture at the start of the 2000’s, Tyr found themselves wrapped up in this classification. The problem is that it’s technically correct. Folk music from Faeroes is completely vocal, so Týr’s original concept was to combine these songs with classic metal music. With this in mind, the band created albums that are polished in their production, and show progressive hard rock and metal, harmonized in multiple languages. This approach won them many passionate fans. For their 2009 release “By The Light of The Northern Star,” the band tightened their style. Songs become shorter and more concise, and English was used far more frequently. While the ethnic and mythological influences remained, their songs now had far more in common with traditional heavy metal than ever before. This change has been commercially beneficial for the band. Týr signed to Metal Blade Records for the release of their last album “Valkyrja,” which is the biggest release of their career. As they embark on this North American tour, they choose to lay it on the line in front of a Brooklyn, New York crowd. By the time it was all said and done, the members of Tyr had the audience clapping, cheering and stomping in appreciation for their body of work and for being the trendsetters that they are.
Photos by Anya Svirskaya
Words by Sebastian Bjorn Benedict