Týr – yes, there’s a funny mark over the y, making it very difficult to type their name correctly – are a 3-piece prog/folk metal band from the Faroe Islands. Where’s that? Somewhere in the North Sea between Norway and Iceland.
Given the vikingness of their surroundings, it’s not surprising that they play “Viking metal”, which is a catch-all term for metal played by guys who wear Mjolnir pendants. It can be black metal, doom metal, death metal, or Týr’s wonky brand of music school arena metal, but as long as the musicians ape the outward appearance of Nordic religion, everybody calls it “Viking metal”.
Týr is responsible for some really great tracks that really get heathens like me going. Not just songs about vikings, like Iron Maiden’s classic “Invaders” or Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, but tracks that really have the feeling of heart-felt hymns to the Old Gods. Long ago I heard “Hail to the Hammer” and started listening to these guys even though their music is often kind of hard to get into, with weird sort-of-syncopations and jarring lyric positioning. And clean singing — don’t get me started about clean singing.
I’ve got this great memory of when I first heard “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”. I’d been traveling for science meetings for a couple of weeks and was about fed up with sterilized science culture, and my wife emails me a link to the video, which I proceeded to play on my laptop around vaguely unsettled academics:
Needless to say, with sing-along heathen opuses like these, it’s not surprising that Týr is popular amongst Asatruar. They make a lot of cash off of us. Hell, they tour on something called Paganfest with other bands espousing ancient religions.
Now Asatru isn’t exactly a tiny religion. There are many thousands of us throughout the world. When Fleshgod Apocalypse sings about Poseidon they can be reasonably certain that nobody listening will think they seriously worship Poseidon. Týr, on the other hand, can’t make that assumption, and one could be forgiven for believing that they’ve intentionally cozied up to Nordic neopagans.
Lots of metal bands have the outer appearance of unusual religions. While they don’t always actually practice those religions, they also don’t go out of their way to rip on the religions in the press. Enter Heri Joensen, the brains behind Týr. He sometimes seems to be genuinely surprised that heathens listen to his band, and really wants them to know they’re idiots if they really believe in any of that stupid mythological crap. Check out this interview:
Karl Seigfried — … some of [your heathen fans] feel that you called them out as crazy people in past comments. How would you explain your views on Ásatrú to those who come from an approach built on tradition and culture?
Heri Joensen – Tradition and culture is all good, but I have a problem with believing in any of it literally. You don’t even have to go to spells and witchcraft. So long as you believe any of it literally – the mythology – I have a problem with it. I’m not gonna sweet-talk those people.
KS – What is the problem you have with it?
HJ – It’s obviously not true. Having to explain that to adults, I think, is [sighs dramatically] a waste of my good time. Ha! There is no Odin out there, anywhere, any more than there is a Yahweh.
Richard Dawkins couldn’t have said it better himself. Nobody trashes a straw man like an atheist. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people who take religion seriously, even from a purely academic perspective, will agree that the actual tangible reality of a mythos is probably the least important element of a religion. But because it’s the most outlandish, it’s the first thing that boring-ass, world-flattening atheists latch onto.
I’m not going to go into my pro-religion diatribe here. But I absolutely don’t understand where atheists get motivated to piss on other people’s religious beliefs. If you ever catch me saying “Global warming is real because Odin,” well, feel free to call me on it. But if it pleases me to give the unknown (unknowable?) a name and a face I recognize, and then worship it, who the fuck are you to rain on my parade? What do you get out of that?
(waiting for you to stop talking about war and repression and ignorance and other ridiculous things that have fuck all to do with religion)
Okay, whatever Heri, you think religion is silly bullshit, fine. So why do you and your band go out of your way to court people with whom you disagree? To quote a commenter from the above interview:
So basically, he’ll adopt Norse imagery, myth, etc. but then says it’s pretty much BS to him anyway? That’s like Amy Grant firing up the crack pipe and getting into an orgy minutes after singing about Jesus to her fans.
Well, maybe it’s all about ethnic nationalism or something. Here’s a passage from the song “Nation”:
All that the nation had and enjoyed
All that it dreams of
All that it longed for an never had
Is kept in folklore.
So maybe Heri’s pagan sympathies are all about throwing off the shackles of the Christer oppressors, right? Heri takes on Odin the way Anton LaVey took on Satan — a scary mask for pissing off Christians. But wait:
KS – How do you reconcile an artistic statement like [desecrating the Christian cross] with the fact that you were married in the Lutheran church and had your son baptized in the Lutheran church? Here in America, you have the option of a non-religious civil ceremony.
HJ – Yeah.
KS – Why did you choose to participate in the church as an adult?
HJ – Well, my wife at the time – ex-wife now – wanted to be married in the church. I know my mother also wanted that to happen. I had no problem with it. I felt a bit of a hypocrite, but blasphemy is a victimless crime. Ha! There’s no problem for anyone but me maybe looking like a hypocrite. I can take that. I’ve been a hypocrite before and probably will be again. Ha!
Uh huh… well, that right there.
I know this guy that thinks fiction is stupid — it’s all a bunch of lies. He’s the kind of guy that would watch Star Wars with you and keep reminding you that the Force isn’t real, nobody ever learned to fight from a 2-foot tall green critter, and anyway faster-than-light travel is impossible. I think Heri is that kind of guy. You just want to slap guys like that and say, You’re missing all the points, man.
Anyway, after reading a few interviews like this, I listened to Valkyrja wanting to hate it. Unfortunately it’s got its moments, at least if you’ve gotten over your initial resistance to the weird Týr style. “Lady of the Slain” near the end of the album has got a very memorable riff. The second track, “Mare of My Night”, will have you singing along. Too bad it has totally retarded lyrics about getting a blowjob from some kind of ghost woman. I don’t know, whatever, I just can’t listen to these guys anymore without snarking at pretty much everything.
As a long-time metal fan, I’ve come to the realization that lots of bands are just in it for the pussy, and chicks dig edgy and evil guys. Whether you worship Satan or Odin or whatever, there’s always this cadre of people that will love you for being an iconoclast. But I gotta say, I hate the fucking sell-outs and ass-kissers. If you’re gonna play a theistic Satanist, you better go burn down a church. If you want to be an Asatruar, you better be able to sit at Sumbel and not laugh at the woman next to you who hopes her dead father is drinking with the gods in the halls of his ancestors. And last but certainly not least, if you’re going to be metal, you better be fucking serious about something, and not base your whole image on something you believe is bullshit.
So hey, in conclusion, fuck you, Heri Joensen. You’re filed with George Lucas under “Guys whose inability to keep their idiot mouths shut made me incapable of enjoying what they do”.