Thyrfing – Ride of the Thunder Men

Friday, 29th March 2013

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Quite the different world Sweden’s Thyrfing finds itself in from their humble Viking metal beginnings in the late 90’s. See, back then, only Enslaved was identified with the style and we know where they ended up, so it must a bit disconcerting or perhaps inspiring for Thyrfing to suddenly re-emerge after a three-year absence with the stellar Hels Vite and find themselves better than a lot of these new bands. Really, you can’t turn around without seeing the next Pagan-Joe-Schmoe act parading around with swords and images of nature in their heads. What the hell happened? 

Back to Hels Vite. Without the bells and whistles its contemporaries so adore, the album is a back-to-basics foray into the chilling battlefields, led by new singer Jens Ryden (ex-Naglfar), who replaced longtime howler Thomas Vaananen. The band’s simplistic, riff-based approach is complimented only by keyboardist Peter Lof’s subtle arrangements and twinklings with not a nary merry romp or mead-hall basher to be found, a welcome sound to this scribe’s oft-hunted eardrums. 

A back catalog as solid as Thyrfing’s needs to be recognized (see 2000’s Ukraftand 2002’s Vansinnesivor) for what its worth: the unsung foundation for the current Pagan metal movement, so with that in mind, we figured it would be a good idea to hit up guitarist/mainman Patrik Lindgren for a quick Q&A to get his thoughts on Hels Vite, his current status as the lone guitarist in Thyrfing, and if he’s really jealous at all the attention the Pagan metal newbies are getting. Hels Vite is the strongest Thyrfing album to date, bar none. What, if any events stoked this incredible set of songs?

Patrik Lindgren: We worked in a different way this time. Earlier we recorded pretty much everything we came up with, and then maybe threw away some of the songs that weren’t top notch before finalizing the album. This time we had a very high quality standard already while writing and rehearsing before the actual recordings. I’m quite sure that we threw away material for maybe another album already at that process. This also means that everything we recorded ended up on the album, and the quality level throughout the album is higher than ever before. Does the fact Thyrfing is a part-time band help your situation? No pressure = killer songs, right?

Lindgren: Yeah, maybe. I can’t say that we work totally without pressure, but that pressure comes barely from ourselves—it’s not like we’re having a major label whipping our backs to come up with a new album every year. With the current situation we have the possibility to put quality and reflection in the first room, which naturally raises the overall level of the album. Why such the delay between albums?

Lindgren: Ha-ha … well, to us this wasn’t such a big delay. It took us three years between the last two albums, but I do agree it might be seen as a long time. So maybe we aim for two years until the next one. Anything faster would not be possible at the moment. The first four songs on the album are arguably your strongest numbers to date, with the best being “Isolation.” To you, what’s your favorite out of the bunch?

Lindgren: I find all the tracks on the album to be really strong, and my favorites change from every time I listen to it … but if I had to choose today, my vote would go for the later part of the album and the songs “Griftefrid” and “Tre vintrar – två solar.” Did it take any major adjusting in becoming the lone guitar player?

Lindgren: Not really. This was the situation on our two first albums too, and I don’t see it as a problem in the studio really. Thyrfing is not a band focused on twin guitars like Iron Maiden or Thin Lizzy—the foundation is built on the rhythm guitars—the riffs—while adding harmonies and melodies with overdubs. As we also use synthesizers in our music, there is really not much more to fit in there. But in a live situation, two guitarists is a must in my opinion, and we have also used a session guitarist on the gigs we’ve made for the new album this far. If anything, it seems like it has given you freedom to try new things. Agree?

Lindgren: Maybe, at least to try out my new things, ha-ha. No, seriously I can’t say I felt that being two guitarists was restrictive in any way, back then I was also writing the majority of the guitar riffs, but having someone else to discuss and to get feedback from was also nice. But in general, this wasn’t such a big thing or difference for us with only one guitarist in the studio. Losing Thomas was a surprise, but I’m very impressed with Jens. How did he get in touch?

Lindgren: When he quit Naglfar and started his studies, he moved the very same suburb that we live in so we naturally became friends, ended up at the same parties, etc. So when it was time looking for a new vocalist, it only came natural to ask Jens, first as we already knew him, his capabilities and experience. Luckily he had got the motivation back for being in a band again, so the timing was just right for everybody. What do you like most about his vocals? It seems he adds a new element of vigor and charisma to the new songs…

Lindgren: He is extremely careful when arranging vocals, and leaves nothing to chance. And I agree that he did a very powerful performance on Hels Vitewithout ending up just shouting and loosing dynamics and personality. Will the band ever take more of an experimental path like it did on Vansinnesvisor?

Lindgren: Vansinnesvisor was indeed a big step for the band, and I think we’ve been building on from that album on our following ones. We are quite comfortable with the current direction of the band and I doubt there will be such a big difference for the next album. But you never know what the future holds … it might be another release that differs distinctively from the previous one. Is there any resentment on your part knowing that there are quite a few bands that have stolen your sound?

Lindgren: Ha-ha … well, until the day you can put a copyright mark before a sound we can’t go around thinking about that. And we are also “stealing” from other bands now and then ourselves. I mean, if some bands are influenced by us, we must see at as a good thing and being honored instead of being bitter … Did it come as a surprise to you that Pagan/epic metal has gotten so big so quickly?

Lindgren: Honestly, yes. I never thought that this kind of music would be anything more than a parenthesis in the industry and something that was all underground. But now there are special festivals and tour packages and some bands are even entering the charts … Are there any bands of this style that impress you?

Lindgren: We are all big fans of Primordial, and I think Moonsorrow and Skyforger are other examples of really good bands. As this seems to be growing genre, there will be both and good and less good bands—just like with any other genre. You were once the “New Kids on the Block” in the early part of this decade, how does it feel to be elder statesmen of sorts?

Lindgren: I am just glad that we have managed to keep the band going with the same motivation and without losing it, but rather being better for each day. Now that Jens is fully situated in the band and you have an excellent new album under your belt, can we expect a new Thyrfing in the near future? What are your plans for 2009?

Lindgren: We have some live shows and festivals in Europe booked, and there are more to be confirmed. During 2009 we will also start working on the next album, something that we are excited about of course!

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