04 December 2012

Article: about the Faroese metal scene

Check the Italian version of this article here

Faroe Islands: 18 islands, halfway between Iceland and Norway. 49000 inhabitants, less than half of an average quarter of Rome. Hostile climate, strong people. Maybe some of you have already heard of Tórshavn while watching a football match. Surely a wider section of our readers knows something about the islands thanks to the viking metal band Týr (from the remake of the national anthem Tú Alfagra Mitt Land on), certainly the most famous and representative band of Faroese metal scene. But is Faroese metal just made up by this band? Or is there something more than just Týr? The answer to the latter question is yes, as the metal scene made in Faroes has much more to offer than you can imagine. 

In fact, despite being around twenty years old, the Faroese metal scene has already reached a high level of maturity and variety. Established in the early 90’s, as a result of the ideas coming from a group of young people without a specific musical training, but with a great passion for classic bands such as Kiss, Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister, this scene started with cover bands, which were very active also within the pop music scene. At that time one of the most representative ones was Betrayer, which focused on covering timeless popular songs from Iron Maiden, Pantera, Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth. During the following years, slowly but inexorably, more bands having their own music style were founded, such as Mold, a rock/grunge band with English lyrics, active for seven years between 1992 and 1999, during which it published two full-lengths, Oblivion, which evolved from hard rock to metal with early death metal influences or Wolfgang (formerly known as Cruiser), the first band created by Gunnar Thomsen and Heri Joensen, active until 1997.

Later in 1998, another group was formed, the one that, according to most metalheads around the world still is the Faroese band par excellence: Týr. Founded by Thomsen and JoensenTýr have gained more and more popularity over the years, especially among fans of viking metal who could appreciate, reasonably for the first time, lyrics and themes inspired by the traditions, history and mythology of this Nordic nation (the name Týr itself is inspired by a Scandinavian god of justice). Not to mention, a touch of national Faroese pride, which is pretty common among this population. Heri Joensen, which is also the founder of another progressive metal band, Heljareyga (formed in 2009 with four other young musicians), has become over the years a point reference within this music scene, a well-known music teacher as well as a supporter of the preservation of some local traditions of these Islands, which have recently ended up at the center of an international controversy.

In the last decade, Faroese metal has quickly developed itself and many bands with an high potential and fresh ideas were founded. Among the best known, at least to the Nordic and German audience, SIC (pronounced as sick) certainly needs to be mentioned: founded in 2002 this quintet had released so far two full-length and one live album, playing an aggressive death/thrash metal heavily influenced by hardcore, choosing a musical style that resembles to Danish Hatesphere, to which SIC has been the opening act in 2009. Another Faroese band that has managed to play throughout Europe is Synarchy, a band characterized by its energetic melodic death metal style. During the last few years, more recently founded bands have stood up, such as Incurse, a notable thrash metal combo with old school Metallica influences, Earth Divide, playing non-commercial and charismatic metalcore music, which sounds way more original than the most of newly founded bands I’ve ever heard, or The Apocryphal Order, a thrash/death metal quartet which, despite having recently moved to Denmark, can still be considered as Faroese. Not to mention the case of 200, a band founded in 1997 as an alternative rock band with Faroese lyrics, which over the years has developed as the only punk/rock group of these Islands, becoming thereby a genre of its own. A risky choice, which as for now seems to be worth it.

However, within this latest wave of new groups, the name that is mostly known among the Italian public is Hamferð. In fact, since last year,this doom metal sextet has recently achieved many important goals. Founded in 2008, they became known in Europe and in Italy in the fall of 2011 while touring with Moonsorrow and Týr, surprising the audience with great opening acts act characterized by their elegant stage presence, giving off the feeling of a funeral procession and their mysterious lyrics, all sung in Faroese. As stated by their frontman Jón Hansen, this linguistic choice was inevitable, as the term Hamferð (a word that is not directly translatable, but describes sort of a visual appearance of a person, who most likely faces the inevitability of death) being a concept closely linked to the tradition of Faroe. Not surprisingly, last spring the Hamferð were announced by an international jury as the winners of the first edition of the Wacken Metal Battle Føroyar, later winning also the international finals held at WOA 2012 , gaining the opportunity to sign a contract with the famous label Nuclear Blast. Contrary to what one might have expected, during competition, held for the first time in 2012 with the support of local sponsors as Tutl, the Norðurlandahúsið í Føroyum and Ljóð og Tøkni the sense of pride that this nation feels for his musician has impressed everyone. In fact, the atmosphere during that night was absolutely quiet and in a way familiar, with all the musicians appearing more like family members, rather than as artists engaged in a no holds barred close competition.

This "familiar" and very open minded approach has been appreciated during other events as well, such as, the most important Faroese summer open air event, the G! Festival. Established in 2002 from the idea of the musician Jón Tyril, this festival has seen its metal component increasingly expanding over the years -enriched with performances not only of local artists, but also of well-known international bands such as Arch Enemy and Meshuggah-, without losing the support of the population. How many Italian festivals with a 3-day program that ranges among the most different genres, such as the G! Festival’s one, go (almost) sold out? None. But in the Faroes, it happens often because the support to the music scene is constant and deep-rooted, and the genre is often considered just as a label, a fact that allows many musicians to be members of two or three different bands at the same time because, in the end, the only important thing is making music.

The effects of this attitude, so far from all those sterile polemics which recently become common among the Italian metalheads, culminated this summer with the first page of a popular national newspaper entirely dedicated to Hamferð and their victory in Germany. All this certainly does not mean that the among the Faroese population there aren’t any detractors of metal music, as still being an area where religion and traditions matter so much. Moreover, a few months ago great was the uproar surrounding large cuts in the national art funding, which are likely to have a very negative influence on the productivity of artists. However, these artists keep on doing their best with what they have and feeling as members of a single group, rather than a competition of bands who feel threatened by the others. This is how really passionate musicians should behave, and that’s something I'd like Italians to learn, instead of always arousing bitter controversy. Controversy which, along with economical problems, have prevented events such as Wacken Metal Battle Italy to be organized since 2011.

Moreover, it should be noted that all of these bands continue to rely on an important point of reference, the Tutl Plátufelagið, founded in 1977 by Danish musician Kristian Blak. It is better described as the Faroese Music Center, rather than as a regular record label, as it publishes and supports all Faroese artists who are interested in making albums. Over the years, it has become the most important reference of the Faroese national scene and, in the last five years, has managed to sign agreements with other European labels, in order to further the impact of Faroese music and allow more artists to perform during festivals held throughout Europe.

Also thanks to this important commitment, the attention of Europe has begun to turn to this scene as a source of inspiration and new interesting musical proposals. Through the modern technologies that allow foreigners to contact all the Faroese band through social networks and purchase their products from the site of Tutl, it is now easier to get to know something more about this small nation and its music. 
For next year a new challenge has already launched: the Wacken Metal Battle Føroyar
will be doubled, making it last two days instead of one and with at least 2-3 more groups playing. Awaiting 2013 edition of the Wacken Open Air, during which two Faroese groups will be playing, quite a record for this country, small but with a great potential.

Photo of G! Festival taken by Ólavur Frederiksen
Photo of Týr taken by Emma Costi,
check her deviantArt profile and Facebook page
Photos of Hamferð and of all other bands playing live taken by Eija Mäkivuoti
check her website and Facebook page


  1. L'hai anche tradotto, brava. comunque è una figata di articolo punto!

  2. our brothers in metal faroese musicians know how to do it!

  3. geniale come detto ma ora te la prendi una vacanza sì?

  4. amazing one, congrats akaah, great job!