Apologies for the lack of photos, it was bloody rammed and the back of peoples’ heads don’t make for good images.
York’s very own Viking festival has had been a grand spectacle. Over the last week there’s been re-enactments, historical cooking and more beards than you can shake a stick at. On the final day, Tyr play a one-off gig to top everything off. Heri had given a lecture on Nordic history the night before that I couldn’t make, but after a quick chat with the band before the music begins, it’s time to sharpen your axes and polish your armour.
First up, we have Glaswegian folk/black combo Maelstrom who deliver high-octane double kick and rasping black metal vocals. With the token clean gang vocals and the complete redundancy of a second guitarist, this lot from over the border shake the stage in somewhat of a spectacular fashion and more than get the ball rolling for the night to come. Despite the fact that the singer would look slightly more in place in a Blazin’ Squad video, he screams and spits every word dripping with venom better than a lot of professional bands I’ve heard.
Local heroes Ravenage explode on stage next, and take things down a more heathen/death route, complete with body armour, swords and a vocalist who wouldn’t look out of place ransacking Lindisfarne. While comparisons to the Amon Amarth vein of metal are inevitable, Ravenage are quite an enjoyable bunch and by the time they finish their set the place is packed to bursting. Firing up the Jorvik blood, there is more than one sword in the air by the time they’re done.
Finally, Tyr. The last time I saw them, they were very disappointing. As they take the stage, still heavily leaning on their latest release The Lay of Thrym, the venue explodes with Nordic rage. There’s drinking horns in the air, hair flying every which way in this dangerously oversold venue. Sadly, the complete lack of manoeuvrability is almost crippling for their set, as I somehow manage to be all the way back at the bar and end up watching a thin sliver of light between two fat blokes.
That said, the sound couldn’t be clearer. Heri’s voice sails effortlessly across the room, and each member pours 100% into the performance. Take Your Tyrant is monstrously loud as everyone in the room roars back the chorus. This is the magic of Tyr, they can effortlessly play any song they choose and can concentrate on the performance. For me, however, Tyr take the best part of an hour to really get going. Maybe it’s because the setlist had a large number of mid-tempo songs that almost promise to break into something more but never quite get there. Another major criticism of the band is that they sound very sterile and while I can say that I agree with that to some extent, the leap that the band make when it’s their own show is truly astounding. Terji Skibenæs and Gunnar Thomsen rage across the stage in a tumult of hair and tattoos as Heri Joensen is the immovable menhir in the centre of the madness.
The highlight of the performance for many will be the fan favourite and Tyr’s signature song, Hold Your Heathen Hammer High. As the flurry of quick words and sharp syllables sing out, there are many who’ve had more than a fair share of mead that night and smoothly bugger up the words. The finale, By The Sword In My Hand has everyone singing from front to back and the band pour what little energy they have left, for the last hour and a half they have been as mighty as the legends their songs are crafted from.
While they’ll certainly never be my favourite band, Tyr are a hell of a lot more enjoyable than you’re led to believe on record and for that I would heartily recommend checking them out next time they’re about.