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Heljareyga - "Heljareyga" (CD)

Heljareyga - "Heljareyga" CD cover image

"Heljareyga" track listing:

1. Regnio
2. Heljareyga
3. Lagnan
4. Feigdin
5. Vetrarbreytin

Reviewed by on March 8, 2011

"This is the new generation of classical-influenced heavy metal, and you’re going to want this in your collection."

The Faeroese language is not one that a lot of people are familiar with. Even less familiar is the music of the Faeroe Islands, where lead guitarist/vocalist Heri Joensen and his band Heljareyga hail from. Those familiar with the band Tyr, however, will recognize Joensen’s distinct writing style and overall vision of the music at work here in Heljareyga, although he’s using a different set of musicians to realize that vision.

Many call this genre of music "viking metal," and both Heljareyga and Tyr take significant inspiration from the melodies of Faeroese folk songs. While the rest of the world might not know exactly what the hell Faeroese folk songs sound like, we can be assured that they’re pretty epic if they are anything like the music Joensen pens. This self-titled debut album is sung completely in Faeroese, but listeners will be lucky to find that the music more than makes up for the language barrier. The band notes that the lyrics are very personal about struggle and hardships – conquering all obstacles like a true Viking.

Joensen spent three years writing all-original music and lyrics to this debut album, rather than taking melodies from existing folk songs. To get an idea of the sound of the tracks, think of what Tyr sounds like and add in even more guitar solos and lead lines. It’s really not that different from Tyr, given that Joensen is running the show, which is good. The first track, "Regnio," starts out with a giant sweeping instrumental bit that opens up after 45 seconds into a lively folk-influenced melody on the electric guitar, backed up by the band. The song gallops along as Joensen’s proud and multi-layered voice steers the song.

The title track of the album, "Heljareyga," comes rushing in with another few dizzying melody lines, extremely tight band coordination, and an impressive bass solo to bring in the first verse. This song is sure to get fists raised in the air and speaks to the inner warrior in everyone, with the song building into triumphant choruses and returning to the dual-guitar melodies. The song is battle-length, as well, clocking in at over ten minutes long. The start of "Lagnan" sounds as if it were some country’s national anthem, full of pride, majesty, and sing-along lead lines until the guitar solos around the two-minute mark.

Again, the coordination in all of these songs is top-tier, with stop-on-a-dime parts and very synchronized rhythms. "Lagnan" and "Feigdin" are the shortest songs at just under nine minutes each. "Feigdin" has a sensational amount of guitar theatrics. The most impressive part of the technicality on this record is that it’s not there to be showy – it’s there to drive the song rather than stand out. "Vetrarbreytin" caps the album as the longest song, with a great deal of neo-classical stylings and pummeling drumming.

Simply, this album will take many listens to be fully appreciated. With each song covering so much ground, you may want to take a rest after each one. This is the new generation of classical-influenced heavy metal, and you’re going to want this in your collection – especially if you plan on growing a beard and fighting battles anytime soon.

Highs: Tight coordination, larger-than-life melodic sections, understated but proud vocals, high degree of technicality.

Lows: Lyrics are all in obscure Faeroese language.

Bottom line: A two-ton heavy, bold, and melodic celebration of the struggles of man, taking from folk music and forged into metal.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)