You guys come from the Faeroe Islands. Now that doesn't strike me as the place to be when it comes to metal. Can you tell us a little about what it was like making a name for yourself in those parts of the woods?
When we formed the band in December '98 we were all living in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kári and me only moved home a short year ago. Gunnar is still living in Copenhagen and Terji was always in the Faeroes. It was not easy getting gigs or getting your name anywhere, so you can't say Denmark was the place to be either. We joined a competition in the Faeroes, preliminary in January '01 and finals in April '01. It was sent live on national Faeroese TV and radio. We did well in this competition and that was the start for Týr. After that we played some concerts in Denmark and the Faeroes. In the winter of '01 we went into studio and in January '02 we released 'How Far To Asgaard' our first album. In March '02 our reputation had spread to Iceland and we made an extensive tour there with massive media coverage. Since then we have paid a few visits to that lovely Island. In June '03 we released our second album 'Eric The Red' which has been extremely well received by the critics, and it is mostly mentioned as a curiosity that we are from the Faeroes so in a sense it serves as free marketing. If I should mention a downside to being a Faeroese band it would be that it is very expensive to travel abroad on tour. Otherwise I don't think it really matters where you are from now days when the Internet is the most important media.
Where did you first perform and does it still feel like coming home when you play there?
Our first performance was in Sumpen, which are the party facilities at Øresundskollegiet. Øresundskollegiet is some 13 residential blocks designed for students. It is in Copenhagen, Denmark. We have only played there once since then. We were rehearsing in the basement of Øresundskollegiet, a free privilege for the residents. I was living at Øresundskollegiet at that time and did so for seven years, so needless to say I feel some attachment to that place. We might just play there again.
Where did the band name Tyr come from?
It is taken from Norse mythology, but also inspired by the Black Sabbath album. Týr, the bravest of the gods, is the god of strategy and warfare and not so much a god of war. Thor fulfils those duties mostly, but also Odin. The most important story about Týr is the Chaining of Fenris the Wolf, in which Týr sacrificed his right hand for the sake of the common good and to avoid battle.
Now about the album. Without wanting to put a label on you, how would you describe your music?
When we started we called our style Progressive Ethnic Heavy Metal, but we have never heard that phrase mentioned in any review or article. Mostly we are referred to as Progressive Folk Viking Metal with elements of Doom and Power Metal. What it really is is Faeroese traditional melodies adapted and harmonized in a classical way and with odd time rhythms, played in a Black Sabbath or Dream Theatre way, with lyrics set in a heroic medieval Viking universe. It is easier to let others describe your style and just let the music speak for itself.
Nearly all the lyrics are inspired by traditional Faroer music or Norse history. Why is that? Is that a way for you to keep the stories alive?
Norse history is what I have spent much time reading and contemplating about. The stories are in no way endangered, and they would go on with or without us, but I like to bring them up to date in a way and repopularize them if you will. Also it is very gratifying material to work with because the stories are very powerful and stereotypical. You can write about practically anything and set it in this context, so I am not bound to a thousand years old subjects. Faeroese traditional music is the foundation of almost all our compositions, directly in some cases but mostly indirectly. The Faeroese ballads are almost always in odd time, mostly 7/4, or changing between 12/8 and 9/8 and all sorts of uneven beats. The melodies are mostly dorian minor but again you can also find anything else if you look, like melodic minor, harmonic minor, and mixolydian. All this is a great source of inspiration when I compose and write.
Another thing that puzzled me were the lyrics of the track 'The Edge'. It almost seems that there're two different subjects in there. Can you tell us a little more about the story of that track?
It is the story of Floksmennirnir. They were four men who tried to overthrow the representative for the Norse king in the Faeroes about 600 years ago. Three of them are described as evil and the fourth one is described as good at heart, but forced with threats of death to swear an oath of allegiance by blending his blood with the blood of the others in a jar. Before this he had lost his heart to a girl a few islands south of where they lived, and asked for her hand in marriage. She said that if he could return in a year in a boat of the same colour as this time, she would accept his offer. This is just a metaphor meaning under the same circumstances. She wanted to know if he was a stabile guy. He was lead back to the same place a year later as a captive with his three blood brothers. The thing (parliament) had sentenced them all to death even before they were taken captive, but people could see that he had done what he could to prevent all this from happening and they wanted to pardon him. He had unfortunately killed a child by accident in a raid on a village and he would not take pardon. He wanted to be executed as the others because he knew that he was capable of committing great evil. They were all thrown of Valaknúkar, some rocky mounds at the bottom of Skálafjørður on Eysturoy in the Faeroes. This is a very long and detailed tale and this is a very rough outline of it.
Why did you choose to do a bilingual album?
Actually it is a trilingual album. Faeroese ('Regin Smiður', 'Stýrisvølurin' and 'Ólavur Riddararós'), Danish ('Ramund hin Unge'), and English (the rest). The first album 'How Far To Asgaard' was bilingual and the Faeroese ballad 'Ormurin Langi' went just as well to a non-Faeroese speaking audience so we saw that language is no hindrance. So we decided to convert a few more Faeroese ballads into heavy metal. 'Stýrisvølurin' is the only original Faeroese lyric I have written. When I found the ballad 'Ramund Hin Unge' I immediately decided that it was something we had to do. It has an unmistakable medieval ring to it and the lyrics are very typical medieval heroic. Maybe it will be more of a mixture in the future, as on 'The Edge' and 'How Far To Asgaard' the title track where you have two languages in one song. To use Faeroese sets us apart from other bands and tells in itself that we come from elsewhere and makes us seem more true to our nationality. On the other hand if we only sang in Faeroese I think we would have much less fans abroad.
A peculiar song is 'The Wild Rover' which is very well known drinking song. How did this song end up on the album, for it is so different from all the other tracks?
Our first singer used to start on this song spontaneously between other songs and we just jammed along. It was apparent that this song went over extremely well live and we decided to make our own version of it and spice it up a bit with an Irish sounding theme at the beginning and in between, and some rhythmical finesses to keep in interesting. It turned out ok, don't you think?
The album was released in 2003. If you could make a final adjustment to the album, would you change anything about it?
There are some things that we are not entirely satisfied with, but none but us can hear it so I won't spoil people's perception of it by revealing what is not entirely perfect.
When you are in studio you become almost psychotic about sounds and noises, and if anyone asked us right after the studio if we were satisfied we would have a million things we would like to change. After a few weeks when you hear the album again you can't even remember what those things were and you certainly can't hear them.
If you could make a line up for a festival with yourself on the bill which five other bands would be on that bill and why?
Dio, because he is the greatest metal singer of all time and his concerts have a great energy to them. I am very inspired by him as a person and as an artist.
Iron Maiden, I grew up listening to them and they are like my godfathers. Needless to say the have a few milestones in metal on their list of albums.
Pink Floyd (with Roger Waters), because they have made some of the best music ever, timeless masterpieces like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall and The Final Cut. They will stand out as a milestone in music in general for centuries to come.
Dream Theatre, those freaky musicians proved to me that there are no musical limits but those in your head.
Black Sabbath with Ozzy. Who can ask why?
In my opinion these bands would attract a crowd which qualifies for Týr fans and maybe some of them would go home with our album and our T-shirt.
What are your plans for the near future?
We have written quite a lot of new material already and we are in the process of producing and arranging the songs. Our next album will be released sometime in '05. Under which circumstances remains to be seen, but we hope it will be with a bigger label. Then hopefully follows another tour. Advance and expand.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of Lords of Metal?
Buy our latest album, 'Eric The Red'…and UNITE METAL!