AlfahanneThis rag-tag-bag of Swedes pretty much came out of nowhere delivering their storming first album ‘Alfapokalypse’ onto the scene and giving it a real kick up the arse in the process back in early 2014. It’s an album that still gets plenty of plays around here when I feel the need for something lively and was backed up by a storming performance from the band at a rammed Black Heart during this year’s Incineration Festival too. Needless to say expectation was high for the follow up and to hear what the ‘death cult’ were going to deliver this time around.

First we should mention the special guests as the album is littered with them, naturally Niklas Kvarforth is back on board and also this time around are the likes of Spellgoth of Horna, Erlend Hjelvik of the similarly boisterous Kvelertak and Nattfursth of Sorhin. I know what you might be thinking and that’s why does the band need so many special guests can’t they just get on with it themselves? Fair question but the simple fact is these spots are fairly subtle and you have to pretty much listen out for them unless you have the details of who, were and when right in front of you and Alfahanne are not the sort of band that go asking for help, they strike as having it queuing up with people wanting to contribute to things.

The nine tracks all in native Swedish don’t hang around in the slightest, everything is rapidly fired out with Pehr Skjoldhammer’s vocals literally rolling off the tongue after a sinister dictatorial intro speech warns of the forthcoming Alfapokalypse (there is no better word to use). We rot and roll away as ‘Alfa Kropp Alfa Blod’ infectiously gets straight under the skin and grooves away with a bouncy refrain and jaunty chorus that once heard is gonna be lodged in the noggin for quite some time. Forget the fact that unless you are a native speaker you won’t understand the words, you are still going to find yourself singing along double quick. Some gargled vocal spews and noises add to this and some tortured cries in the background, could that be one of the guests throwing up their vodka? A gloomier mid-paced number ‘Besatt’ adds a post punk sorta vibe to things and the wild backing vocals really add to things on this ‘obsessive’ number. Melody is thick and the vibe is somewhat dark and delicious again completely ensnaring you. ‘Skallerormsgift’ bites in and spreads its venom which is one of my normal bad puns when you are informed the title means ‘Rattlesnake Poison’. Vocally it slithers along in line with that on its belly and has you banging your head and slamming your fist along, wanting to get up and drunkenly boogie on down. Again it’s not hyper adrenalized or anything but the chorus is certainly lively with some added elements of gloom and doom added to give things a pause for breath.

There are many different stylistic shifts within the songs here and it borders lots of different sub-genres as the songs move along. They are all immediately identifiable as the band, even on the strength of just the one former disc and this is an album that despite everything does not find me name-checking lots of different bands, which means that as far as I am concerned Alfahanne must have a unique sound all of their own. There’s a lurking undertone of blackness about the riffs on Blodad Tand before it moves into a more gothic sounding section making it a really downbeat number. By comparison ‘Hora (Tills Du Dör) / Huora Kuolemaansa’ ‘Whore Till You Die’ is a much speedier affair with a punkier vibe as it goes off like the (clap)pers and injects a really pogo laden beat to things that will no doubt go down great live. But it’s ‘Berzerk’ which really lives up to its name and the shortest track on the album manages to be one of the catchiest and most immediate with a great melody running through it and some vitriolic backing vocal chants. Some great cackles and a grunt announce one of those other guests on last number ‘Slutdestination Eskilstuna’ and the dual vocals from the visitor here along with Pehr’s work brilliantly making this number one with plenty of appeal about it and no doubt the one that should be hitting the magazine cover-mounts as a taster to the whole album.

The one question I kept asking myself here is did this belt me round the chops like ‘Alfapokalypse’ did and despite listening to this loads over the last month or so the jury is still out on that. The tracks do grow on you and this is perhaps a bit more of a stealthy attack with a bit more subtlety behind it than its predecessor. Whatever way I look at it this is a solid, cracker of an album though and I can’t wait to catch the band live again soon; hopefully I won’t be waiting too long.

(8/10 Pete Woods)