REVIEW: Hjelvik – Welcome to Hel

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If you like us, were wondering what has become of Erlend Hjelvik, the previous lead singer of the unique metal outfit KVELERTAK, you have come to the right place! The legendary singer started his own solo project, HJELVIK, and has now released his debut album, “Welcome to Hel,” released on November 20th, 2020, via Nuclear Blast Records.

Compromised out of 10 tracks, “Welcome to Hel” is an interesting sample of how mixing in different subgenres can be a success. The musicians included in the lineup come from extreme metal genres and as such, it’s no surprise that “Welcome to Hel” sounds like a unique mix of blackened thrash and old-school heavy metal. While the themes are mostly focused on Nordic mythology, this album is often dubbed as blackened Viking heavy metal.

The opening track, “Father War” instantly reveals the type of music the listener is in for while mixing up more traditional melodic heavy metal riffs, with fast drumming and blackened growls. It’s the guitar melodies that drive this track forward and give it its intriguing and eclectic character. “Thor’s Hammer” continues the hard-hitting songwriting efforts, as the dissonant black metal patterns are once again combined with heavy metal melodies, which gives the tracks a more airy feel and allows them to even become catchy. An impressive guitar section shows just how much incredible musicianship has gone into this record, the solo work could easily come from a classic NWOBHM album.

One of the album’s strongest selling points is probably the fact that it’s incredibly diverse, and “The Power Ballad of Freyr” is proof of that. Make no mistake, I thought we would be in for a ballad-type of song, but instead, HJELVIK continues with a medium pace with incredibly powerful melodic hooks and, while the song does follow a similar recipe, there are enough refreshing elements to offer the listener a break from the intensity.

The melodramatic ultimate track, “Necro­mance,” has a little bit of an ’80s, campy feel to it, which makes it one of the absolute outstanding tracks on this record, including very rhythmic heavy metal riffs à la IRON MAIDEN – twin guitars, slightly reminiscent of “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” The track was one of my personal highlights on the album and definitely makes a great track with which to end the album on a dynamic, more positive, and fun note.

Altogether, due to Hjelvik‘s past with KVELERTAK, I had such ravenous expectations for his debut album and I’m happy to let you know that I was not left hungry. “Welcome to Hel” is an original, creative, and impressive debut effort with an edgy, raw, and underground feel to it. The most exciting part will be to hear Hjelvik play these tracks live when concerts are allowed again, because that raw energy is definitely something that screams to be played live and we can’t wait to witness it!

Tracklist

  1. Father War
  2. Thor’s Hammer
  3. Helgrinda
  4. The Power Ballad of Freyr
  5. Glory of Hel
  6. 12th Spell
  7. Ironwood
  8. Kveldulv
  9. North Tsar
  10. Necromance

Lineup

Erlend Hjelvik – Vocals
Rob Steinway – Gituar
Alexis Lieu – Bass
Kevin Foley – Drums

Label

Nuclear Blast Records

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