Vanhelga – Fredagsmys (2018) REVIEW

Before the ever-pounding waves of depression fully struck Linköping, Sweden born black metal band Vanhelga their earliest output served as a conduit for blasphemy and inanimate darkness. 145188 (Jacob Ottosson) served as chief visionary for the project’s distinct decade long struggle towards the torpor-inducing tones of depressive black metal style and the seance provided by the resulting sour-puss rock music scene above it. With 2010’s ‘Mortem Illuminate Mea’ Vanhelga kicked off this career not with resignation, but with tangibly pure resentment provided by predominant black metal influences. A diabolical and venomous solo project up until late 2013, the earliest two full-lengths from Ottosson offer an aggression that would eventually give way to demented and extremist forms of depressive black metal to come. His fifth full-length ‘Fredagsmys’ offers a well polished post-metal dreariness and overbearing sense of resignation beyond anything previous.

That isn’t to say that ‘Höst’ was some kind of second-wave black metal or norsecore reaper, but Vanhelga were in a state of self-discovery. The project’s style would soon begin to show greater resemblance to compatriots Lifelover, and Apati with later albums ushering in some influence from Forgotten Tomb and Totalselfhatred. On ‘Längtan’ the project would finally record with a full line-up in 2014 and fostered great response for it’s uniquely atmospheric sound and troubled spirit. It turns out that troubled mind of Ottosson was genuine and soon contained by an extended stay in a psychiatric ward where he composed the affecting, destructive ‘LPT’ EP that same year.

Between themes of self-mutilation and heavy drug use a handful of collaborations and EPs made their way out until ‘Ode & Elegy’, the project’s fourth full-length, reigned in Ottosson‘s personal downward spiral and set it to tape. I have no certain love for this record for it’s irritating over-use of reverb, echo, and choppy rock guitar antics that offer Lifelover‘s depressive rock side more often than any semblance of black metal. Because I had no personal connection to Vanhelga‘s music outside of the unique delivery of ‘Längtan’ I had low expectations for ‘Fredagsmys’. I am at least surprised at the higher production value and accessibility of this fifth full-length’s sound.

Fredagsmys is a distinctly Swedish colloquialism used to describe a Friday night where a family or group of friends stays in, prepares casual food, and hangs out at home. Not a party but a quiet, cozy evening at rest. Surely some cruel irony was at hand in the title coming from a ruthlessly self-destructive and depressive black metal project. It is remarkably subtle as I look back to the cocaine line and self-mutilation filled artwork of ‘Happy’ and ‘LPT’. ‘Fredagsmys’ as an experience represents a righteous entrance with a fiery set of melodic black metal lead guitars that dissolve towards a slow burning defeat. By the halfway point a glossy-eyed acceptance of self-hatred and a loss of will to live become apparent. That odd euphoria often depicted in films when a protagonist is intent on suicide rests as a fake smile as the album ends.

Where is the value for me personally? Well, I think the return of black metal to their sound is occasionally brilliant with tracks like “Förpassad Till Misär”, “Sömnparalys” and “Varde Mörker” but none of it is life changing (or perhaps ‘new’) if you’re familiar with the more melodic side of depressive black metal. After the sixth track I was largely finished with the experience beyond the second listen and found myself ready to move on with the sharp-but-simple riffs of “Två Blir Ett” finishing off the listen nicely. The obvious trouble being the remaining half hour of music representing a depression following the mania of Side A. With no intention of overstating or suggesting an imbalanced composition or recording I simply liked the first half better. “You Are Temporary” is perhaps one of the most chilling suicide notes we’ve received from Vanhelga yet and it serves as a notable musical moment. I would most highly recommend this to long-time depressive black metal listeners who have some additional love for dark/melodic metal aspects, or anyone who felt alienated by the Lifelover styled grit of the previous handful of releases from this band.

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Artist Vanhelga
Type Album
Released June 29, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Osmose Productions’ Bandcamp! Follow Vanhelga on Facebook
Genres
Black Metal,
Depressive Black Metal,
Melodic Black Metal

Dead riders are passing by. 3.25/5.0

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