Interview: Tyr's Heri Joensen and Terji Skibenæs on 'The Lay Of Thrym'

On their sixth studio album, The Lay of Thyrm, Faroese metal band Tyr's brand of guitar-driven folk metal sees them taking on the Norse myth of Thor's missing hammer. In other words, Viking metal at its finest.

You won't find any tin whistles or fiddles on The Lay of Thyrm, just melodic guitars, shout-along choruses and, of course, Vikings. (Did we mention there are Vikings?)

We recently caught up with Tyr's Heri Joensen and Terji Skibenæs to talk about their new album, gear and the role of folk metal in globalization.

How did the idea to do the story of King Thrym come about?

Heri Joensen: The Lay Of Thrym is a Nordic myth that we have put into use for our latest album. The reason I chose this particular myth was actually that I wanted to write about the uprisings against tyranny in the world today. The story of Thrym fits that very well, so the album is simultaneously about the myth and the political present. The idea came simply because of recent events on the world news.

Unlike a lot of "folk metal" bands, Tyr's songs seem extremely well researched. How much work goes into the stories behind each album and song?

Heri Joensen: A little bit every now and then, but honestly I know most of the sagas in advance.

"Shadow of the Swastika" is a really interesting song lyrically. Talk a bit about your inspiration for writing that song.

Heri Joensen: Some idiots in Germany, and occasionally also elsewhere, insist that we are nazis, and their reasons for saying this are simply that we use Norse tradition in our music. This song is a small response to that.

Talk about the guitars used on The Lay of Thrym.

Terji Skibenæs: All the rhythm and melody was recorded on my Ibanez Xiphos Custom. My solos were recorded on my Xiphos, and Heri's solos were recorded with his Custom Showcase Ibanez RG2011SC-BK.

Heri Joensen: Yes, I have a customized seven-string version of the RG2011 RG, most generously provided by Ibanez.

How about amps and effects?

Terji Skibenæs: We used Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers, the Piezo on the Xiphos for clean parts and I used a Morley Wah pedal for melodies and solos. That's it.

Heri Joensen: He said it!

How is the music scene in your homeland? How does it feel to be among the biggest bands to ever come from your country?

Terji Skibenæs: The music scene is pretty big on the Faroe Islands but not so much metal music. We're the only band that has made it out of there. So being the biggest metal band from there doesn't make a big difference for us, since it's such a small country. But it feels really good that a band like us coming from such a small country like that can tour all these other countries.

Why do you think the folk metal movement has started to become so popular as of late?

Heri Joensen: I’m not really sure. Maybe people want something that goes against the globalization trend, and local traditions are, in a way, the opposite of globalization. Why globalization is unpopular is a very good question. I have the impression that it’s usually leftist multiculturalist some level of anti-US reactionary types who are against globalization, and I’m not really interested in feeding their cause. I’d rather bring tradition along into globalization.

Your live shows are notoriously high-energy. How have you found fans in America reacting to the band?

Heri Joensen: Very good, actually. One of our best touring countries. People in the US have been very forthcoming and hospitable to us, and our tours in the US have been very successful. And our next tour to the US is way overdue, don’t you think?

The new album from Tyr, The Lay Of Thrym, is out now on Napalm Records.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.