In many ways, Swedish veterans Thyrfing offer a timeless portal into their world of folkish black metal… more sophisticated soundscapes notwithstanding, listening to their new album, Vanagandr, offers much the same experience to the listener as, say, 1998’s self-titled debut or Urkraft from the turn of the century.
This should in no way be seen as a bad thing; much of the band’s canon, after all, is concerned with tradition, and it’s survival in a modern age seemingly diametrically opposed to everything the old ways stand for. To listen to Thyrfing is to give yourself, if only for a short while, back to those old ways. It’s also to remind yourself that this is one of Scandinavian music’s most consistent contributors to it’s legacy. Vanagandr is the band’s first full-length recording in eight years, yet seconds into opening track Döp dem i eld, you’ll feel like you’ve been smothered in a comfortable old blanket.
So, Träldomsord, a muscular piece of battle metal with Norse symphonic overtones, could just be the most emblematic piece of music Thyrfing have come up with in their new age. Faint elements of Nordic music du jour colour the band’s palette now – Wardruna probably have something to answer for here – but thankfully the roar of Jens Rydén, epic and unbowed, remains the vocal keystone of the track. Similarly it is the heavy metal guitars of Fredrik Hernborg and Patrik Lindgren that drive the tracks, rather than an overbearing reliance on the organic or ancient. All things have their place in Thyrfing’s music, for sure, but the band never fully allow metal to become subservient to any other elements of the sound. Again, this can only be seen as a good thing.
The strident Järnhand is probably the album’s highlight – certainly it’s the most accessible, with neatly layered vocals and a playful, folky feel in places – although fans of true viking steel may find the closing epic Jordafärd to be most appealing; but whatever style of Viking metal you favour, there’s something here to get the juices flowing. It’s good to have Thyrfing back, and Vanagandr is a worthy addition to the Nordic metal pantheon.
Vanagandr releases on August 27th