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21 Jan 2011

Review: Godsaga (Sig:Ar:Tyr)

Morbid Winter Records, 2010

In the last decade Sig:Ar:Tyr has proven to be one of the finest purveyors of Norse mythological themed music around. Presenting a captivating blend of metal, folk, and ambient influences that weave into a seamless whole, they (or he, since Sig:Ar:Tyr is a one man project) have carved a strong following, and rightly so.

Enter new album Godsaga, full length number three for this classy and evocative outfit. Once again we find ourselves immersed in a winning formula of driving mid-pace blackened heavy metal, bucolic acoustic guitar-driven diversions, and stirring singing.

As with previous releases the album delves into synth-led ambient passages as freely as it does stomping metal anthems. Godsaga does not exactly re-invent the Sig:Ar:Tyr oeuvre, but rather represents the perfecting of an already masterful musical formula.

The music is more fully rounded than previous releases, with superior drum production, and more creative rhythm section arrangements. Its simple, solid song structures provide a sturdy foundation for a range of atmospheres, often eerie and dark, always touching on the horizon of the imaginal unknown.

As in previous releases, one of Sig:Ar:Tyr’s hallmarks is exquisitely technical guitar solos, both electric and acoustic. Sig:Ar:Tyr has always been touched by a neoclassical influence and this surfaces in some stunning fretwork.

Integrated beautifully into the alternately driving and dreamy music, these excursions into guitar heroics never devolve into self-indulgence but rather truly serve to advance and develop the narrative and spirit of each composition, which is in itself a great achievement!

Yet the things that keep one returning to this album are the memorable riffs and the shadow-soaked atmospheres. Sig:Ar:Tyr conjures a world of inky hues, where a storm always lurks on the horizon and the pre-dawn light is buried in impending doom. There are moments of tranquil relief threaded through the album, but on the whole it summons the spirit of northern winter, and does so with a richly realised sonic palette.

The album explores some dark themes – the deathly challenges of Odinic initiation, as well as motifs inspired by the life of the historical berserker, rune magician, and poet Egil Skallagrimson. Skallagrimson’s life was studded with loss and suffering, and the music and concepts of Godsaga reflect one another perfectly.

Sig:Ar:Tyr’s combination of metal, folk, and ambient influences gives it an appeal that draws in the listener regardless of their usual music genre preferences: Godsaga is a solid continuation of a legacy of music which really transcends conventional genre boundaries.

This album ultimately represents a refinement of what has come before rather than a significant development of Sig:Ar:Tyr’s sound – but honestly, with such a winning formula, who can complain about that? In a world of endless disposable “Viking metal” themed bands, Sig:Ar:Tyr are a much needed voice, and Godsaga is highly recommended for anyone who likes inspiring, mythic, and stirring Heathen music.

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