Back around January 2014 Swedish reprobates Alfahanne really burst on the scene with debut album Alfapokalypse. It was a breath of rotten air bolstered by an urgent clamouring punked up backbone that took in various different ideas throughout its short, sharp running time. Driven by Pehr Skjoldhammer’s snappy vocals and an array of very special guests it led to a really compulsive album that had me spinning it on a near daily basis for a good couple of months. Enforcing upon its charge with a very memorable and volatile show during London’s Incineration Festival it looked like the world could well be theirs and I kind of expected the band to be back here playing a headlining show of their own with an audience going absolutely bonkers. With second album Blod Eld Alfa materialising a year and a half later I was still waiting for that to happen. With Spelgoth from Horna getting in on the action and Niklas Kvarforth making a return guest appearance I made the observation that this perhaps had been more of a stealth attack rather than busting me round the chops like the debut. Now we are still waiting for that show and album number three brings ‘the new black,’ the question is which way have things gone?
Things were not helped here with new label Indie sending over the download for this just 2 days before the release date. Most bands would have been deleted with extreme prejudice for this but Alfahanne are special so was keen to give this a shot. However after first play I have to admit the words “is that it” were rattling around my head and I was left feeling rather nonplussed by the whole situation. “Black By Association” or however that is written in Swedish would be a much truer representation of what we actually get here and that urgency and downright intense delivery of that 1st album is completely missing from this.
Luckily perseverance has paid off with repeated plays of these 9 tracks. The bounce and post punk groove of ‘Satan’s Verser’ is the first to get under the skin and it illustrates that stealth approach I mentioned earlier, wearing the listener down with entwining melody and rousing chorus complete with backing vocal chants. It’s quite poppy in essence and indeed as the album progresses there are many genres taken in over the ride, especially notable on the way most of the songs actually start. 1st single ‘Stigmata’ sees the band being worn down by their hometown as a theme and we all can identify with that and again it seems with the mid-pace delivery that it could really have sucked some of that energy that they started out with straight out from them. It’s kind of like the band have hit a groove and are complacent to coast along on it. Put simply there’s definitely a spark missing here. I am reminded a bit of early Cure at times and indeed the band sound a bit like they are jumping someone else’s train rather than their own. The gloom and doom within the dusky twilight delivery of ‘Avgrundsgravitation’ is where some magic comes in though and the gorgeous melody and moribund dismal depressiveness of this really touches my soul. A change of vocal style to clean crooning is just what is needed here too apparently these are provided by David Lindh from Yvonne and Broder Daniel who seems to be the only guest this time around and took some digging to even uncover. With a song like this I am pretty much spellbound and not even bothered about the missing adrenaline shot as it really is a rather special dose of Swedish depressiveness. The lush spiralling melodies of ‘Dödsmaskin’ also go no end of their way to helping me change original thoughts, the intricacies of the music (and an added death grunt) certainly help win me over and have led this album to be another that once it gets you, won’t stop clamouring for attention. The fact that most of the songs average the 4 minute mark and don’t overstay their welcome helps no end too.
I mentioned different genres and the hefty slow drum beat and guitar swagger of ‘Klubb 27’ has a bit of an Indie anthem vibe about it and even a Swedepop as opposed to Britpop sensibility (and nope it’s nothing like bloody Abba). A translate tool tells me that ‘Mitt Mörker Är Mörkare Än Ditt’ means ‘My Darkness Is Darker Than Yours,’ a perfect title and a song that takes a soulful near Country approach coming across as a downbeat drinking ballad. Glammy power pop is next with the much more upbeat and cheerful ‘Även En Hund Har Sin Dag’ and this dog does indeed have a bit of a bite in the tail. It’s only just now that I suddenly realised that perhaps there are more guests about due to some female backing vocals. Everything leads to the closing title track and the longest of the album, again I have to think that this is hardly any form of ‘new’ blackness as it broods in with a layered sound with the drums brooding in like a Joy Division classic and guitar lines which have a Western Gothic sound that I can practically put my fingers on but not quite; maybe reminiscent of Theatre Of Hate and totally deriving from that era.
So I have done a bit of an about turn on the album as a whole and have to say that perversely it’s the slower songs that I have enjoyed the most here. Alfahanne are definitely not a band to take for granted and it appears they are like to develop and change as they go on. Now about that gig…..
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)