There was a time in the late 90s early 00s that I was all fucking in on Viking metal, Enslaved were still sort of Viking based, Moonsorrow were releasing downright epic albums like Voimasta ja kunniasta and Kivenkantaja, Amon Amarth were blowing up and releasing albums every month. And at the forefront of my Viking love fest, were the first few albums by Thyrfing, especially Valda Galga ( “From Wilderness Came Death” is actually still one of my go to Viking songs) and Urkraft.

However, around  2002s Vansinnesvisor, and 2006s FarsotstiderThyrfing got a little darker, grittier and less bouncy beer hall-y, and some significant line up changes for 2008s Hels Vite, (notably adding Naglfar’s Jens Ryden) left the band a more cerebral, thoughtful and intricate band. I completely missed subsequent album, De ödeslösa, from 2013, and frankly I thought the band had called it quits. But 8 years later I start so see some activity on social media, a few songs  teasers here and there, and they band finally dropped album number 8. So I thought it might be time to revisit them, as there hasn’t been a pure Viking metal album that has kicked my ass in a while (Blodiga Skald‘s The Undrunken Curse from last year, I would consider more folk metal..) and see if I could get that Viking flame reignited as I haven’t been excited about the genre at all over the last few years, with stalwarts like Finsterforst and such kinda boring me to tears.

Well, the flame, while lit, thought its a mere wisp of its former self, as while Vanagandr  (another name for Fenrir) is a solid album, I’m not quite  ready to dust off my chain mail and charge into battle.

Like Vansinnesvisor, and 2006s Farsotstider, Vanagandr  has a more patient, gritty atmosphere that’s a far cry from the cheese of the first few efforts. So if you liked them, you will like this effort. To me though, it’s sometimes rousing, sometimes meandering and boring, the latter being cemted by 8 songs all lasting between 6 and 7 minutes. And the split seems to be about halfway, as it not until fourth song, “Fredlös”, where I’m start to feel my heart pump a little harder and grip my sword a little tighter…….and  yes, I listen t to this kind of metal holding a sword. Both “”Fredlös” and then following song, the standout  “Järnhand”, have stern, militant marches , the former has a rousing horns, a clean chorus and the latter has one of the albums rare blast beats and some more prevalent, ‘Viking’  keyboards and a very nice late song Viking stomp.

“Håg och minne” has a patient, deliberate march that could be a Finsterforst or Moonsorrow song, lulling into a possible boring track, but the track picks up excellently with some great synths and clean Viking choirs and a a solid blast beat. “Träldomsord” continues the mix of solid mid tempo slog and more rousing, elements while closed “Jordafärd” ends the album or a somber, almost doomy note, with dramatic keys and a melancholic main riff fitting the burial themes of the song, which ends with a very dramatic,female choral climax.

I’m glad Thyrfing is back, but hardly charging out the door to battle my neighbors, and I’m still waiting on something in the Viking metal realm to get me excited about the genre again. Vanagandr certainly has my loins stirring, but never quite gets me over  the hump.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 7th, 2021


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