Heljareyga - Heljareyga
Black Bards Entertainment
Progressive Power / Folk Metal
5 songs (48:01)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Kyle
Album of the month

Who knew that Heljareyga, side project of Týr frontman Heri Joensen, would be the band to pull me out of my writing funk after several weeks of no reviews on my part? This band came out of nowhere this week and surprised the hell out of me, so much that I knew I had to write about it as soon as possible. The band’s self-titled first album, Heljareyga is a blend of progressive and power metal with a tasteful dash of folk thrown in. As catchy as it is addictive, this is one album that no melodic metal fan should go without.

Right out of the gate, Heljareyga grabs listeners with the members’ musical prowess and songwriting abilities, with long, joyous lead guitar lines and energetic drumming leading the way. The band features three guitarists, none of which go to waste, as they often show with three-way sweep-picking harmonies. Atmospheric acoustic segments are riddled throughout the album, which flow surprisingly well considering that Heljareyga’s average tempo is rather fast. To carry this tempo, the band has enlisted drummer Amon Djurhuus, a student of Týr drummer Kári Streymoy. Amon’s drumming is understandably similar to Kári’s, and the former’s performance here is similar to the latter’s on By the Light of the Northern Star, albeit with a progressive twist. This performance, combined with Heri Joensen’s instantly recognizable voice and effective riffing style, makes for an experience that’s easy to compare with Joensen’s main band.

Even so, I’d venture to say that Heljareyga manages to elevate itself to the same level as Týr’s best material, if not higher. The key difference between the two, however, is musicianship. Heljareyga is clearly more focused on technicality, incorporating several tight-knit lead guitar passages and clever drum patterns. Unlike many progressive albums, however, Heljareyga is a well planned, consistent record that draws the listener in with all-around solid music. The band never tries too hard to wow the listener with its talent (even though it succeeds in doing just that); while many progressive bands concentrate on making albums full of good moments with tons of filler in between (modern Dream Theater, anyone?), it truly feels like Heljareyga devoted the time necessary to make each second of this album enjoyable. There’s hardly a dull moment throughout.

If there’s only one flaw to be found with Heljareyga, it’s that the band’s sound can occasionally lapse into repetition. That’s not to say that the songs all sound alike; from the joyous melodies and rhythms of Regnið to the grandeur of Feigdin and the alternating mid-paced and blazingly fast sections of Vetrarbreytin, there’s plenty of variety to be found. Rather, the monotony is present due to there only being five long tracks, each hovering around the ten minute mark. Though the songs are diverse, they’re still built upon the same foundations of melodic, folk-influenced metal, and when the songs are this long they tend to blend into each other. Perhaps a greater focus on folk tendencies would help mix things up a bit; there’s actually a much lower focus on this aspect of the music than I expected.

Yet as far as songwriting, talent, and production goes, Heljareya does absolutely nothing wrong here. This debut is easily one of the best I’ve heard in recent years, and not only is it the best surprise I’ve heard so far in 2010, but it’s also one of the year’s best albums. Technical, melodic, and passionate, Heljareyga is an album that no fan of Týr , progressive power or folk metal should go without.

Killing Songs :
Kyle quoted 93 / 100
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