There is no denying this is one hell of debut. From the Norse mythology inspired lyrics delivered in Erlends' unique growl to the phenomenal guitar work, this is an album that grows on you till the only way you like your metal is blackened and viking.
Formerly known as frontman, lyricist, and co-founder of the Norwegian party rockers Kvelertak, Erlend Hjelvik parted ways with his bandmates in 2018 and has spent the last two years biding his time and plotting a return to action. Today, he is a rejuvenated and newly inspired metal warrior, primed and ready to launch his own solo band, Hjelvik, and their thunderous and life-affirming debut album, Welcome to Hel.
“I guess it was always in the back of my mind that I would do something on my own at some point,” says Erlend. “I just didn’t quite know how! I started writing songs when I left my old band and then suddenly it really started rolling. The whole songwriting process went even better than I expected and I’m really excited about getting started again.”
Opening with anthemic riffing and a call to arms growl ‘Father War’ kicks off in one hell of a way. It charges straight into full on head banging. An interlude where the lead guitarist gets to shine before the rampaging freight train ends things. The band have made their stamp and this album has started in such a great upbeat joy of viking metal.
‘Thors Hammer’ is a short track that introduces a more of a glam metal feel to the music. The opening riff of ‘Thor’s Hammer’ and the superb guitar lines for Helgrinda showcase this more lighter music with the heavier black metal vocals.
The album continues in this vein with next track, ‘The Power Ballad of Freyr’. An addicitve opening lead lines before those vocals take over and sound great over the chugging rhythm. Something this album is full of track after track.
‘Glory Of Hel’ has a great heavy metal vibe with the vocals being less growly than previous tracks which really helps this track shine on this album. Theres a vibe of Lemmy and Motorhead with this track and the group vocals give it a great gang feeling
12th Spell goes full black metal with a haunting backing to the death vocals. With the crashing or cymbals and perfectly timed drum rolls this track sees a more lively participation from the rhythm section and is perhaps the heaviest sounding track on this album.
Next track is called ‘Ironwood’ and you can really get a sense of the ‘blackened Viking heavy metal’ that Hjelvik has described this band. The opening riff over the relentless pounding drums brings up the image of rolling seas and journeying through heavy storms. All finished off with some delicate melodic acoustic.
The riffs continue on ‘Kveldulv’ as the guitars shine through once again. Something this album is full of. What an opening riff this track has, it powers through and dominates the track. This album isn’t all about the Steinway though. ‘North Tsar’ welcomes some of the power metal back as the intro builds and builds. The vocals take the track here. Hjelvik is sounding urgent and deadly
An slightly atonal riff makes for a unnerving ending track with ‘Necromance’ with the track getting some cleaner vocals before it morphs into some superb thrash metal. Guitarist Rob Steinway gets to have a last chance of impressing as the track fades out with some fancy finger work high up the fretboard.
With lyrics inspired by Norse mythology and Norwegian history and with Hjelvik being inspired by early thrash and black metal you can really sense the joining of the two sub genres. Especially in tracks like ‘North Tsar’ and ‘Ironwood’ and the fabulous album closer ‘Necromance’. This album is built on the superior guitar work. It’s not over the top showy or long winded and widdly. Each note is required and not an inch of fretboard is wasted.
Check out the track ‘North Tsar’, below
Purchase the album here