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By the Light of the Northern Star

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  • I have a very expensive habit of buying music as soon as it is released in Europe. For one, sometimes the album doesn’t go on sale domestically for a month or more (incredibly stupid decision in this day and age of file sharing) and two, the Europeans often get much nicer, deluxe editions. Luckily the domestic release for Northern Star is just a week from the European date.

    Well this week I received the new TYR album “By the Light of the Nothern Star”. This is TYRs second concept album (the first being Ragnarok) and in my opinion one of the best in their library. Erik the Red has been my favorite TYR album, but Northern Star is giving it a run.

    For one, I love the concept behind the album. Ironically, By the Light of the Northern Star tells a story much like David vs. Goliath, where Goliath is the Crusades spreading a religion not through acts of kindness but through war. Singer Heri describes it best “The subject of the album will be the Viking age resistance against the christianization of the Faeroes.” For those that do not know, TYR hail from the Faeroes islands. The album poetically sings of the battle to hold onto legacy pagan beliefs, even though the crusades made this nigh impossible to do openly. Those who did fight were slaughtered as strength in numbers overwhelmed the small trading colonies of the Faeroes. In the end many held onto their pagan beliefs, though they did not practice openly for fear of being labeled a heretic and publicly executed.

    Highlights of the album:

    Hold the Heathen Hammer High – probably my favorite track
    “Heathen Heart, Pagan Pride
    Faring far, sword by side
    Hold the heathen hammer high!”

    Northern Gate – When I listen to this song, I think of the battle in the pass in the film 300.
    “Show your swords! Drive them down!
    Hold, my hoards! Give no ground!

    By the Light of the Northern Star
    Song is about how pagan beliefs/spirituality of Faeroe ancestors has all but disappeared in today’s culture, and
    questions if it is too late to revisit spiritual roots.

    By the Sword in My Hand
    Great revenge tune. Protagonist goes after those who killed to spread their beliefs.

    So this album is destined to be controversial and possibly labeled as anti-Christian. There is one line in the song By the Light of the Northern Star that is especially inflammatory. For me Northern Star is less about the spread of Christianity, and more about the yearning for a people to seek and know a spirituality that was taken from them unwillingly, by force and murder. History is filled with examples of religion used as a scapegoat to conquer. Your views may be different.

    If you like TYR, this album is a must have. If you prefer TYRs album Ragnarok because of it’s continuity as a concept album, personally I think this is a much stronger concept album, especially musically.

    Good stuff. Peace.

    Posted on January 18, 2010