Tyr – Onward Into BattleSaturday, 30th March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
As the only metal band of note to call the Faroe Islands home (geography lesson – it’s in-between Great Britain and Iceland), Tyr have come to embody the hearty ethos of its homeland, all the while knocking out six totally worthy albums of epic/folk metal. Instantly identified by the soaring clean vocals of Heri Joensen (think Borknagar’s ICS Vortex but with more melody), the band has surged to the forefront of the bloated epic metal scene. Their newest album is the excellent The Lay of the Thrym, which picks up where 2009’s dashing By the Light of the Northern Star left off. Meaning, it’s brash and heroic, and laced with the proper amount of sterling anthems and mead hall sing-alongs.
This is our third chat with the affable Joensen, who once again proved to be humble, in spite of how excellent of a singer he has a become. On the docket for this interview was the man’s growth as a vocalist, the pressure of being the most popular metal band in their country, and a quick breakdown of the band’s studio output. Onward we go…
Blistering.com: You’ve been awfully prolific since Eric the Red, so is there any set game plan when writing for a new album?
Heri Joensen: This one is less progressive; basic songs instead of instrumental progressive stuff. Worked better for the last album. A lot of these ideas were around when we finished the last album. I’m pretty sure had ideas by then. I think the main bulk was done after I released my solo album, so after that, I started to work on Tyr material again. Most of the songwriting was done over the [last] year.
Blistering.com: Something like “Evening Star” jumps out at you instantly.
Joensen: Oh yeah. That has beautiful folk melodies.
Blistering.com: And it’s a Danish traditional song.
Joensen: Scandinavia is a great inspiration to this band. Iceland, Norway, Faroese Island…they’re all easy for me to find inspiration in.
Blistering.com: The bonus version of the album has two Black Sabbath and Rainbow Dio-era songs [“I” and “Stargazer”]. What made you record them?
Joensen: For the simple reason some time ago, we decided to take the favorite songs of each band member and these two were among them. When Dio passed away, we decided to put these two songs together. And the other two on the next album will be “Cemetery Gates” and “Where Eagles Dare.”
Blistering.com: Your growth as a vocalist since Eric the Red is remarkable. How do you think you’ve progressed as a singer?
Joensen: I’m more self-confidence and experienced. Technically able to do it now. My first real singing was recording the Eric the Red album and I practiced a little, but I jumped in without any experience. With the touring that followed, I had the great way of learning by doing. Just has gotten better over the years. I wish I started. 2003; I think when we did Eric the Red, I was 26. The funny thing is that I never set out to be a singer. I wished I had started at 14 [laughs]. I think that’s a good thing. I am surprised – never expected to be able to do this, but I’m technically able to learn to sing. Never had any doubt about that. Without sounding arrogant, I am completely capable of singing well.
Blistering.com: Do you think because you have your own style it makes it easier to sing?
Joensen: I don’t know [laughs] It’s easy. I never try to speak to a style that I want to emulate. I just do what I think is metal and sounds good. The answer is tough [laughs].
Blistering.com: Is there one performance that you could say, “Yes, this is the best representation of me a singer?”
Joensen: Never thought about that. [Pauses] I think “The Hammer of Thor” is one where I think I got away with that pretty well trying to sound traditional. Also on the two latest, I am very pleased with the more aggressive vocals. I tried to get away from it on Ragnorak – I completely destroyed my voice for Eric the Red. With all the touring, I can sing more harsh than I used to be able to.
Blistering.com: You’ve been on Napalm Records for quite some time now. What’s the relationship like?
Joensen: It’s okay. This is the last album with them and we’re just negotiating about if we’re going to re-sign. We have had a good work relationship. We have some interest here and there. Let’s see what happens. We’re still on Napalm for a half-year. A new album won’t be soon, so we have some time to think about it.
Blistering.com: They did help you get over to North America. What are your thoughts on the country?
Joensen: I like the US. I really do. And Canada. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming as a metal audience; much more than your general mainland Europe show. Having said that, the metal infrastructure is not as good as in Germany. The facilities aren’t always up to German standards. There are pros and cons. We did the short tour with Amon Amarth and they really filled the hall. We played some awesome shows with them.
Blistering.com: You’re essentially the only “known” metal band to come from the Faroe Islands, and because you tour abroad and release records on a worldwide scale, there has to be a significant amount of pride in what you do, right?
Joensen: We take a lot of pride in it. We’re very honored to be the representatives for people hearing about our country for the first time. I’m not fond of national pride in itself. Because where you’re born is arbitrary – you have no control and it can very easily get pointless and cheesy. As for striking the elbow, I’m all for it. We’re often mentioned when music from the Faroe Islands [is discussed] in general; we’re one of the names to come up and so I think it’s evident we’ve made some impact.
Blistering.com: Was it hard to get noticed there when you were starting out?
Joensen: Actually not. Getting noticed was quite easy. The scene is so small; short way from the bottom to the top. We made it easy to get recognition. After releasing two albums, we started getting reviews and we were contacted, and one was Napalm and we signed. It went pretty easily. All we had to do was record the music and we’ll see what happens.
Blistering.com: Let’s switch gears and break down each of your studio albums. I don’t want a lengthy synopsis, but the first thing that comes to mind when you think of each album. Let’s start with your debut, How Far To Asgaard.
Joensen: Sounds terrible. We tested it out on Pro Tools and the final product and that line of progression wasn’t clear at all. It was our first time in studio, so we knew nothing of that sort. I didn’t have the imagination of how an album should turn out.
Blistering.com: What about Eric the Red?
Joensen: It’s our most poppy in a way. Most commercial. Simple a lot of catchy and clean songs, but the production is not metal – it’s polished hard rock in many places. It was my first time on vocals. I could have done better.
Joensen: Three years to doodle around and we went over the edge and it’s very progressive and very conceptual album. I worked on keeping the music programmed as a conceptual piece for a very long time. Three years for that. You can hear that and I don’t think we’ll do it again.
Blistering.com: How about Land?
Joensen: We sort of misfired with that one. Tried to get away from progressive metal and got more folky. Went the wrong way. I’m a perfectionist, so other songs I’m pleased with; others I’m not [laughs].
Blistering.com: By the Light of the Northern Star.
Joensen: Now we’re talking! We really did what we had planned to do afterRagnarok and missed with Land. That’s when it…we honed in proper songwriting we needed and combined it folk singing. A real success for me personally.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2011?
Joensen: We have festivals in Europe in the summer and have a trip to America hopefully, but it’s not confirmed, so maybe early next year. We’re going to be doing a long tour in Europe this fall. It’s just a lot of work, but I don’t mind.