Well firstly a belated congratulations to Vanhelga for finally getting a bit of a step up and signing to Osmose. It’s great that the Swedish band can spread their misery further afield and hopefully they may even get some better tour support, England is still waiting (well I am at any rate). I have been following their path for quite a few years now and always look forward to some new music from the group. This is their 5th album and they have also released a slew of EP’s and splits too, so there has been no shortage of it. First task here was decipher the album title and that is an interesting one as Fredagsmys is a Swedish thing whereby the family unit gather together on Fridays with the ingredients to make tacos, stuff their faces, drink beer and fall asleep in front of the telly. I am sure Vanhelga did everything they could to get out of this when they were young and probably escaped into ruined buildings, took drugs and cut themselves, a far more healthy practice for the young up and coming DSBM’ers.
This latest slab of positive music for positive people begins in sterling fashion with ‘Sömnparalys’ and although gloomy at introduction the number broaching the terrifying subject of sleep paralysis is actually quite upbeat once it gets going. Black and nasty at times it certainly is but there’s some jubilant metallic guitar licks flowing amidst the turmoil and 145188’s hateful vocals. I must admit this threw a bit of a curveball and I wondered if the rest of the album was going to follow suit. Well nope, not exactly is the answer. The Psychotic Self Awareness of ‘Psykotisk självinsikt’ brings more familiar tropes of depression to the fore with a deadbeat vibe of a dog licking its wounds after taking a beating. There’s a miserable air complete with some morose whistling adding to the textures but paradoxically there is also some hope projected via the backing vocals perhaps relating to the calmness and acceptance one has once coming to terms with their mental frailty and illness. As ever there are some gorgeous harmonies within the music and these flirt with the more virulent swarming passages of adroit blackness like a bi-polar episode. This is illustrated perfectly as the strumming rage and storm-clouds of ‘Varde mörker’ lighten and we get the complete contrast of ‘Ensam mot alla’ which is like a pure harmonious Swedish pop ballad, airy, fragile and soulful in its loneliness; a beautiful piece of music.
I have always found a bit of Lifelover within the sound of Vanhelga and sure it is still there at times but here they have come more into their own and seem to be maturing at a rate of knots. If you are approaching the band for the first time here there is a lot to take in with 11 tracks spanning not far off an hour’s worth of material. One second a song like ‘Två blir ett’ can be picking you up and barrelling you aloft on horns with fast flurrying riffs and near heavy metal panache and the next dropping you down a deep dark hole as per the howling disgust at the world that is English named and vocalised number ‘Keep the Window Closed.’ I would plump for ‘RIP (Relationship in Pieces)’ as quickly establishing itself in the head and sending a shiver down the spine on repeated plays. The subject title speaks for itself and there is a real sense of it here with a piece of music that leaves you feeling completely abandoned and hopeless. Despite this again, it is as beautiful as it is hideous. Everything finally leads to the aforementioned title track (a beautiful instrumental) and I wonder if anyone has died of the practice choking on vomit and with fragments of a taco stuck in their throat? If so I’m sure Vanhelga would totally approve!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)