Vanhelga – “Fredagsmys” (Osmose Productions)
Oh, the irony! Vanhelga play ‘…positive music for positive people..’ but are equally enthralled by ‘…the beauty of negativity, melancholy and misery..’. It’s perhaps unsurprising considering the number of times founder vocalist Jacob Otterson has been institutionalised and hospitalised for drug overdoses – not mention the band’s name which means ‘desecrate’!! Still, Otterson has been onto something since he founded the band in 2001, playing all the instruments for the best part of a decade, with Vanhelga being a true expression of his dark and depressive soul. Since recruiting a band around him, “Fredagsmys”, which is the band’s 5th release still retains elements of this insanity across its 11 powerful tracks defined vividly by the likes of ‘Keep The Window Closed’, whose dark melodies are accompanied by his tortured screams and even more depressive voices as the music creeps over you until final, overwhelming embrace. Elsewhere, the melancholy is captured in the impressive atmosphere of ‘RIP (Relationship in Pieces)’ with its wall of noise guitar, sombre voices and depressive keys all arranged to perfection, expressing the emotion of Otterson starkly in all its bleakness. Still, its not all a plod and on the more upbeat numbers like ‘You Are Temporary’ Otterson’s raw rasps and clanging riffola are brilliantly contrasted by beautiful single key(board) melodies before ending on a more tranquil tone. Personally, I think the real strength of Vanhelga is when they bring in the shoegaze to really add in the misery on numbers like ‘Psykotisk Självinsikt’ with its sad guitar tones and even some whistling while on ‘Ensam Mot Alla’ which reminded me a lot of the Pixies with its melancholic guitar and soulful vocals in both its quieter moments and as the power built to a final shoegaze blast. A truly commendable piece of art even though everyone’s shy to show their faces.