When I first heard about FRIENDS OF HELL and their lineup, I felt like it was too good to be true: I have a soft spot for any band Taneli Jarva plays in, since that man’s personal touch, either as a singer or as a bassist, has something remarkable that I can hardly express with words. Tas Danazoglou (former bassist of ELECTRIC WIZARD) on drums, along with the singer whose vocals are a staple in Finnish doom metal: Sami Hynninen, also known as Albert Witchfinder (currently in OPIUM WARLORDS, ex REVEREND BIZARRE and SPIRITUS MORTIS, among the others) makes this lineup nothing short of a dream team. The presence of less-known guitarist Jondix triggered my curiosity, being that high quality riffing is absolutely crucial in doom metal, not mentioning that such high-caliber band mates would not choose anyone under their incredibly high standards for that pivotal role. The album came out on March 18th, 2022, which happens to be the frontman’s 46th birthday, via Rise Above Records, a label based in London owned by none other than Lee Dorrian, the former CATHEDRAL and NAPALM DEATH singer.
The band’s name is an explicit homage to WITCHFINDER GENERAL’s second album, but it also suggests that the whole thing felt like a reunion of old friends: they surely had fun recording this self-titled album, as a shared glimpse into the past paired with the will to bring the best to the table, and the precise intention to play slow.
There are nine songs on the album, whose average duration is around 4 minutes each: no frills, no dullness in sight, just traditional doom metal heavily inspired by big names such as SAINT VITUS, BLACK SABBATH, and PENTAGRAM, with a particular emphasis on what the ‘80s have brought to the style, being a decade too often marginalized in today’s approach to the genre.
There is a perfect balance between merciless rawness and undisputed elegance in the songs, which is most probably the outcome of the long experience the band members have, each one in his specific way. The drummer and guitarist are the main composers, while Albert Witchfinder took care of his vocal melodies. Tas covered the role of lyricist as well, and managed to successfully put into words what FRIENDS OF HELL aim to share with the world: the many faces of evil, in a mood that is infused with that particular aesthetic one can find in horror movies from the ‘70s, as much as in vampire stories.
Musically speaking, the album is a perfect blend of massive and truly memorable riffs, thick bass lines in the forthright yet classy signature Jarva style, and groovy drums, while the vocals, fairly versatile and colorful, do reflect the sinister and spine-chilling atmosphere in a majestic manner.
There is no chance for me to choose just one or two songs from FRIENDS OF HELL’s debut album as the most representative, since this opus needs to be experienced as a whole, but I can say that, for instance, “Evil They Call Us” has a prominent BLACK SABBATH vibe that could make anyone think the band is 100% from the UK, or “Into my Coffin,” whose catchy pace, obsessive bass sound, and reckless vocals do give a hint of what this nostalgic yet bubbly piece of art is about in terms of variety.
Listening to this album before going to sleep will most probably give you the worst nightmares ever, but I totally recommend that: the quality of the songwriting and the performance do make this scenario quite captivating and, in the end, an absolute benefit.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- Out with the Wolves
- Shadow of the Impaler
- Into my Coffin
- Friends of Hell
- Gateless Gate
- Evil They Call Us
- Orion’s Beast
- Belial’s Bell
Albert Witchfinder – vocals
Jondix – guitars
Taneli Jarva – bass
Tas Danazoglou – drums
Rise Above Records