Early on, with their eponymous debut in 1998, Thyrfing practiced a strain of Viking metal that cobbled together an early-’90s Norse black attack with those rousing, pint- and sword-raising melodies Wotan’d be proud of • imminently enjoyable, but maybe a bit too enamoured with Blood Fire Death-era Bathory. Well, Thyrfing (pronounce “surfing” with a mouthful of coleslaw) still craft hymns to the olden ones, but on their latest Urkraft offering, the Swedish sextet up-ratchets their craft more than a few notches, lathering on a goodly deal of atmospherics, ornamentation, and variation to an already tightly wound sound. It’s not necessarily that they’ve written better songs • or, conversely, had worse ones to begin with • because, again, what Thyrfing do is will always be relatively marginalized. Rather, they’ve moved away from a mere two moves (blasting away and marching out), sounding infinitely more confident and able to move between the two (they do, and often), more confident and able to mix up their mead by many measures, the sum effect rendering this batch of icy journeys improved and inviting. And frontman Thomas Vaananen is similarly improved, his croak sounding less hoarse and more scathing, especially when knocking heads with his newfound clean tenor (via Quorthon, natch). At the end of the day, though, Thyrfing are still a record or two short of upping the ante on the absolutely unfuckwithable Enslaved, or at the very least, Mithotyn or Einherjer, but they’re sure to please hordes of berzerkers the world over, this writer included.

Hammerheart, PO Box 277, 6300 AG Valkenburg, The Netherlands,

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