by Ryan Meehan
“Valkyrja”, the 7 full-length album from the Faroe Islands natives TÝR, is a concept album with a story line based loosely around an anonymous Viking age warrior who leaves his woman and goes off to impress the Valkyrie on the battlefield so that she may bring him to Valhalla, or to Fólkvangr, the home of Freyja—the goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, sorcery, war, and death. One can say the album is also indirectly about women and how they affect men and what men will do to impress and obtain women. Frontman and founder Heri Joensen goes on to explain; “the woman that the warrior leaves may represent the earthly women. Freyja, The Lady Of The Slain, may represent the perfection of Women, and the Valkyrie is the link between the two, taking men from earthly to godly women.” We here at First Order Historians are looking forward to the release of the record, which will be in stores September 17th on Metal Blade Records, and are thrilled to have vocalist and guitarist Heri Joensen as our guest today in 5 questions.
RM: What percentage of your songwriting is based around actual Viking lore? And what particular facet about the history of the Vikings is the most fascinating to you?
HJ: Just guessing I’d say 80% of our songwriting is based around Viking lore. I use traditional Nordic melodies and Viking age history and Nordic mythology to make music. Traditional melodies are much harder to trace and date than history and mythology, so it’s very hard to say if a melody was around in Scandinavia in the Viking ages, but some undefinable percentage of the ones we have used definitely were. I find it most fascinating how epic the stories are, stories like Njáls Saga and Færeyinga Saga. Tales over many generations depicting great feats, probably most of then vastly exaggerated and some completely fictive. Great storytelling that captures my imagination every time.
RM: It sounds as though a lot of material on this record, particularly “The Lay of Our Love,” (where you are joined by Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine) is based around relations between the different genders and how we view each other. What’s your take on how men and women view and respond to their supposed places in society today?
HJ: There’s been a lot of rebellion by women against tradition in this regard for decades now, and that is all well and good. I support that! But this album is definitely seeing the issue from the male side. The side that is a bit more primeval, and that has a need to prove oneself and to be seen as impressive, especially by the females. Seeing my children growing up today I don’t think they are forced into any roles, but they emerge naturally simply because of nature. We can, and in many cases should, rebel against culture, but it’s very difficult, if not futile, to rebel against nature.
RM: I noticed that Kári Streymoy left the band after the last US tour, and I read that Gunnar said in an interview that George Kollias (who plays drums on “Valkyrja”) helped to create a more “upbeat direction”. What else was he able to bring to the group that makes the new album such a unique record for metal fans to listen to?
HJ: He put a lot more drums on the album that we usually have, and that makes for a better overall sound experience when listening. He is a fantastic drummer and a very tasteful musician. Not just a blast beat machine, as he is most known for.
RM: Is George going to become a full time member of Tyr?
RM: I have to ask about this “70,000 tons of metal” cruise ship event that you played back in January. How many bands were on that bill and were the artists limited as far as how much equipment they could bring for the gig? Any good or disturbing stories from that event that you’d like to share?
HJ: I think we were 40 bands, 3000 tickets sold. Yes, there are many hair-raising and blood curdling stories but none that I can tell you, …yet. The 70k tom is probably the greatest festival experience I have had so far, maybe only outdone by Wacken, which I have also played at twice.
RM: How have your live shows changed over the years since the band’s inception in 1998? Is there anything different that we can expect to see this fall from Tyr onstage?
HJ: We have definitely all become more confident at performing and we do our best to reach over the stage and to get a reaction from everyone in the room. Gunnar is our nr. One show man. I think could wreak havoc even at the graveyard.
RM: What’s up next for Tyr in the remainder of 2013 and the beginning of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should be looking for?
HJ: We’re just now heading out on tour with Finntroll, five weeks all over Europe. Then early next year we will be on tour six weeks in the US and Canada with another big Finnish band. That and the upcoming release are the main things ahead at the moment.
Official Website: http://www.tyr.fo/
TYR on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tyrband
TYR on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tyrband
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